The head of the BBC is talking publicly about plans to introduce the UK media giant’s popular online viewer known as iPlayer to international audiences within the next year.
If approved by the BBC Trust, this development would allow viewers around the world to watch shows like Doctor Who and its spinoffs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures soon after their transmission in the UK. It would also allow citizens of that realm who live abroad to access BBC content that they pay for by compulsory tax.
What is unclear is the effect this would have on exclusivity agreements involving cable channels in countries like the United States, where Doctor Who was shown on The Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy) before moving to BBC America and Torchwood is set to move to Starz. The Sarah Jane Adventures’ first season aired on Sci Fi, but distribution agreements for the second and third seasons have yet to be announced.
Currently, U.S. viewers who attempt to use the iPlayer get a message saying the content is not available due to rights issues — a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “geoblocking.” There are, however, ways to get around it with proxy substitution using browser extensions. Or so I’ve been told.
Random thought: Will The Beeb change the name of the international iPlayer to avoid any potential disputes with Apple? Granted, iPhones and iPads and iTunes etc. are probably as ubiquitous in the UK as they are everywhere else, but …