THE BBC is to launch a programme download service, similar to Apple's iTunes, to sell new and old programming.
The BBC says the new service will make its programmes available to download and keep. The corporation has not confirmed prices but reports last week suggested an average £1.89 per show.
The idea, which is codenamed ‘Project Barcelona’, was announced last night by Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, at the Royal Television Show in London.
However, ‘Barcelona’ has met with scepticism by some independent producers who are worried that the arrangement will harm their DVD sales and are unsure of what percentage revenue share they will receive.
It is not clear whether the service would affect the £145.50 annual licence fee – which is currently frozen for the next four years. But Project Barcelona could help the corporation make more money to support itself, as the Government advised when it capped the fee in 2010.
The BBC service is expected to give producers a greater share of the episode download price (around 40p from £1.89) than Apple currently does (28p on the same price).
Mr Thompson said: "'The idea behind Barcelona is simple. It is that, for as much of our content as possible, in addition to the existing iPlayer window, another download-to-own window would open soon after transmission - so that if you wanted to purchase a digital copy of a programme to own and keep, you could pay what would generally be a relatively modest charge for doing so."
Presently people can watch and listen to new BBC TV and radio shows via iPlayer for up to 30 days after transmission. After that cut off point, the commercial arm of the BBC (BBC Worldwide) or the original producers, can license the rights to iTunes or other download to own services.
However, at the moment, only seven per cent of the corporation’s content is being made available to buy through these channels – which is why certain executives are pushing for this new system.
Mr Thompson added: "'For decades the British public has understood the distinction between watching Dad's Army on BBC1 and then going out to buy a permanent copy of it. Barcelona is the digital equivalent of doing the second."