The BBC plans to charge for viewing some of its flagship programmes, according to a report by The Daily Mail, which claims that the corporation aims to compete with commercial streaming services such as Netflix and iTunes.
The new service will reportedly launch next year, and see the back catalogue of the BBC’s most popular programmes such as Doctor Who, Sherlock and Luther be made available to view, at a price.
A BBC source is quoted by the Daily Mail as describing the strategy as ‘a no-brainer’ and claiming that episodes will be charged at 99p each, while a full series could be downloaded for £5. The BBC has since informed The Drum that this is not correct (see below.)
Focus groups have already begun to test the idea, it had been claimed, featuring mock-up pages of Luther.
A spokesman for the BBC is also quoted as having said: “We know people want to keep older programmes so we hope to launch BBC Store. This commercial online service will give people the opportunity to own a digital copy – just like they can on DVD – to watch and keep.”
Speaking to The Drum, a BBC spokesperson confirmed plans were in place to sell content through the BBC Store, which has been proposed to regulators, but stated that iPlayer would continue to be free of charge. They also confirmed that catch-up viewing through iPlayer would be extended from seven days to 30 days.
"This online commercial service will offer digital copies of shows," they added.
As to the pricing mentioned within the Daily Mail piece, it was explained that those stemmed from "very early user testing" and were not representative of the actual pricing.
"There are absolutely no plans to charge for BBC iPlayer, in fact we will be improving the range of content available in 2014 and hope to extend the window for catch-up from 7 to 30 days. Separately we know people want to keep older programmes so we hope to launch BBC Store. This commercial online service will give people the opportunity to own a digital copy of a programme - just like they can on DVD - to watch and keep," was the statement released by the BBC.
The BBC has so far led the ratings war over Christmas, with Mrs Brown's Boys and Doctor Who proving the two most popular programmes on Christmas Day, while it's relaunch of Open All Hours was the most watched programme on Boxing Day.