BBC, others scared as Apple preps launch of iTunes TV and movie sales in Europe?

“If it’s possible for a computer giant to tiptoe, Apple is trying gamely as it prepares for expansion into online video services in Europe,” Doreen Carvajal reports for The International Herald Tribune.

“Luxembourg’s economy minister, Jeannot Krecké, last month told a reporter Apple would locate its European iTunes video operations this spring in his country, a tiny, land-locked Grand Duchy that has attracted other e-commerce heavyweights with the magnet of low value-added taxes,” Carvajal reports.

Carvajal reports, “Then the minister sought to backtrack, while Apple’s spokesman insisted the company had not announced anything about a Luxembourg e-store and would not react to ‘rumors and speculation.'”

“But Apple’s every move is being watched by other players maneuvering furiously for any early advantage in the global online video market, which is expected to grow into an $11 billion annual business by 2011,” Carvajal reports. “In Britain, RTL’s Five is selling passes for £40, or $78, to download the season’s latest episodes of the American ‘CSI’ shows from CBS, before they appear on British television. Canal Plus in France just started offering video downloads that can be saved to a disc. And public broadcasters, including the BBC and Arte, an eclectic French-German channel, are positioning their offers for video downloads.”

“The early moves by public broadcasters — which are supported with licensing fees paid by viewers — is stirring some discontent among groups like the British Open Source Consortium, a trade group, which last week filed a complaint about the BBC to the government regulator, Ofcom. In the early start-up in Europe, the public broadcasters and most of the emerging commercial players are shunning Apple’s Macintosh operating system and the open-source Linux system by permitting access only with Microsoft’s Windows,” Carvajal reports.

Carvajal reports, “In the early start-up in Europe, the public broadcasters and most of the emerging commercial players are shunning Apple’s Macintosh operating system and the open-source Linux system by permitting access only with Microsoft’s Windows, which has more than 90 percent of the personal computer market. ‘The basis of the BBC is universal access to information with its long tradition of broadcasting news to the whole world,’ said Mark Taylor, president and founder of the consortium, which represents 70 companies that provide services based on open source software to the public sector. ‘To lock people into a system seems a little strange at a time when the age is to open up information.'”

Carvajal reports, “The BBC’s proposal includes an Internet service that allows viewers to download shows for a week after an episode airs on television. It also includes audio downloads of BBC radio programming and streaming of BBC television channels. The name of the service will make many think of Apple: iPlayer.”

Carvajal reports, “The BBC Trust, though, expressed some doubts in a January report evaluating the proposed iPlayer. ‘Our understanding is that the BBC aspires’ to offer an alternative system, ‘which would enable Apple and Linux users to access the service, but has yet to identify a satisfactory solution. In either case, we will expect this to have been addressed within 24 months.’ The two-year period comes at a sensitive time, critics argue, with Microsoft promoting its new Vista software to entice consumers to switch or upgrade. ‘If one was a cynic, it looks like an attempt to get people to upgrade,’ said Taylor, of the open source group, who said a two-year delay to open the iPlayer system to other alternatives gave a vast competitive advantage to Microsoft. ‘What we’re really objecting to is being locked into one technology choice.'”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “LinuxGuy and Mac Prodigal Son” for the heads up.]
What’s going on with the BBC? When it comes to covering Microsoft and Apple, should the BBC’s integrity be questioned? We recommend keeping a close eye on the BBC’s reporting; we certainly plan on doing so. Click to ask the BBC make upcoming iPlayer on-demand service Mac compatible.

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BBC integrity questioned, accused of promoting Microsoft and Windows Vista – February 09, 2007
BBC revises article, clarifies where music downloaded from the iTunes store can be played – February 08, 2007
BBC reporter blows it, says ‘music downloaded from the iTunes store can be played only on iPods’ – February 07, 2007
Ask the BBC make upcoming iPlayer on-demand service Mac compatible – February 01, 2007
Report: Europe gets iTunes TV and movie sales this spring – January 31, 2007
BBC: Hackers assault Windows PCs every 15 minutes, ignores obvious solution: Get a Mac – October 09, 2006
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20 Comments

  1. The BBC…

    The BBC is the original model of a ‘content-download’ pre-paid subscription service.

    As technology develops, the organisation is fiercely manoeuvring to protect and profit from the model it was the first to use.

    Perhaps what many people outside of the UK don’t know is that if a UK citizen hasn’t paid his or her ‘subscription’ (called a ‘licence fee’ in the UK), it is illegal to own a television set – regardless of if the TV set owner never views BBC channels. It is also technically illegal to own a radio set as the subscription fee also covers the BBC’s five terrestrial radio stations and numerous digital ones.

    Traditionally, the BBC justified and defended its subscription service model by claiming the revenues it generated enabled the corporation to broadcast content which would not be available on commercially-funded services – as the underlying goal of all commercial broadcasters is to attract as large an audience as possible to deliver to advertisers.

    However, with the advent of satellite and digital broadcasting, the BBC has increasingly (and surreptitiously) shifted its position. Internationally, the vast growth in TV channels has opened up a market for the BBC to sell its programming on to – creating a highly profitable new source of income. This has resulted in a commercialisation – or ‘dumbing-down’ – of the BBC’s programme content as it is increasing tailored to be an attractive ‘product’ to sell-on to markets where the population would not understand much of the idiosyncratic UK cultural content that is exactly the type of ‘in-depth’ quality the BBC has always pointed to as a justification of its subscription fee to UK citizens.

    In the UK, the host of new commercial channels has put intense pressure on the BBC to justify the continuation of its enforced subscription service placing the corporation in the untenable position where it now paradoxically undermines its ‘reason-to-exist’ in order to grab audience share and thereby prove its ‘reason-to exist’.

    Further to this, an increasing amount of the revenue the BBC generates from the subscription fee charged to UK citizens – exclusively for TV and radio programmes – is now syphoned off to build and maintain a vast web empire which is, of course, accessible to anyone anywhere… regardless of whether they have paid the subscription fee used to finance it and to obliterate any web-based commercial competition.

    The BBC is now getting into bed with Microsoft. Many people in the UK are curious about the pricing model the BBC develops for iPlayer as well as the restrictive DRM it will introduce to prevent access to its programming. Subscription fees payers (which, remember, includes everyone in the UK who owns a TV set) are questioning whether the BBC can charge them a second time for what they have already paid for – and if the corporation can use digital rights management to deny UK citizens access to what, in fact, they already own.

    As you can see – the BBC and Microsoft very much sing from the same hymn sheet.

  2. Easy to blame the BBC here, but the fact is Apple has blown it in the European market by not offering what the broadcasters and content providers wanted. Thanks to Cupertino’s blinkers, ALL UK broadcasters now require Windows for their content to be viewed or purchased via the Web.

    As such, Windows Media Player is going to dominate and QuickTime is dead in the water. Apple make stupid decisions at times. Their refusal to develop Fairplay into something outside of iTunes is a huge one. Microsoft are laughing all the way to another monopoly position, only this time they’ve not even had to fight for it.

  3. @Dave H

    The BBC can always make their content available via iTunes. And they probably will at some point. iTunes offers a huge audience after all…

    There is a big struggle going on here for market dominance. The content holders see that they can keep the whole sale price if they do their own thing – but in the end, Apple has such an effective distribution and marketing tool in iTunes, the Beeb and others will see themselves locked out of key markets if they continue to resist.

    Apple can afford to be patient. They are executing their strategies very well, so there are evidently many cool heads and clever people at Cupertino.

    We haven’t seen Apple stumble yet – Europe is always going to be a secondary market for Apple: the USA is first of course – The Apple Store juggernaut is about to roll out across Europe, iPod/iTunes is steaming along with a 37% increase year on year http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2006/tc20060612_414966.htm?chan=technology_technology+index+page_today's+top+stories
    and the Mac is experience huge gains in sales (was it 67% increase in France for notebooks?) so I dont think you can really say that Apple have “blown it” in the European market.

    Lets wait and see shall we? It seems to me that Apple have a few surprises in store for us. The timing of the DRM letter is important. I think it may well be the opening salvo in something entirely unexpected…

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