ABC investigating international iView service, future local offerings

ABC says BBC iPlayer international launch is an 'interesting development', but not committing to anything

ABC iView

When the BBC announced an international iPlayer Web and iPad application, the possibility of an internationally available ABC iView video-on-demand service looked more promising. Arul Baskaran, multiplatform controller for the ABC, told PC World Australia that the BBC's moves were an "interesting development", but the ABC wouldn't be following suit immediately: "It's new, and it isn't exactly proven what model works — whether it's the subscription one, or whether it's advertising. It's something that all the commercial [networks] are trying to work out."

According to Baskaran, the iView service within Australia will always remain free and will evolve to continue to meet the demands of consumers. "Within the UK, iPlayer is free — it's a public service offering — and that's the proposition that iView presents in Australia. It's an important and effective way of reaching our audience as a public broadcaster.

"We're offering more choice in catch-up, largely for that fourteen-day window after transmission, and that maximises the public service value of the content… the free iView offering will remain free."

When discussing the possible sale of an iView-like service outside Australia, matters become more complicated. "With iPlayer [outside the UK], the commercial proposition is run by BBC Worldwide. The opportunity for iView [outside Australia] is more for ABC Commercial, and our colleagues in the commercial division continue to evaluate what those possibilities are."

ABC Commercial's general manager of digital business development, Robert Hutchinson, said that several major issues needed to be overcome for international iView access to become a possibility. The main issue is potential lost revenue and territorial restrictions: "We have looked at offering commercialised video services both domestically and internationally. Internationally, we represent a large portion of the ABC catalogue for broadcast sales.

"These deals are substantially larger than a direct-to-consumer international video service could earn in revenues. More importantly, many broadcasters require exclusivity for their territory, including digital platforms — we wouldn't be able to offer a commercialised video service in the territories where our content is most popular."

ABC iView's catalogue largely relies on internationally sourced content, which presents another impediment: "Much of the content on iView is acquired from international distributors who have other deals in other territories. That content would not be available to us. We would only be able to offer ABC produced/co-produced content, which would mean that there was substantially less content available in an international offering."

When the topic of possible payment methods for an international iView service was raised, Hutchinson said several options were theoretically available. "Our experience in licensing our content to other organisations' video platforms, is that the user-pays model delivers more revenue and the advertising-supported model delivers more viewers. Both models, however, can deliver substantial royalties back to content owners over time." The ABC distributes its locally produced content to platforms including Apple iTunes, Fairfax Digital,Yahoo!7, and UK-based BT Vision.

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Campbell Simpson

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