BBC Worldwide will test a paid-for BBC subscription service in Singapore

BBC Worldwide is using Singapore as a place to test new business ideas due to its high level of connectivity, according to David Weiland, BBC Worldwide EVP of Asia.

Speaking at the Innovfest UnBound conference in Singapore today, the BBC Worldwide exec announced that the business was testing the launch of a BBC Player in Asia this year in Singapore, alongside Singaporean TV and Broadband business Starhub.

“We launched our on demand drama service BBC First with Starhub and it’s now available on StarGo and set top boxes because we’ve learnt that premium drama is consumed on demand. Later this year we are launching BBC Player with Starhub which will be authenticated services and content across all the genres. People will be able to subscribe and get four linear channels of content. We’re adding a download service as well,” he said.

The BBC had launched a global iPlayer service via a subscription model but closed it in 2015, with some suggesting that it faced friction from US TV networks that had bought rights to key BBC shows. The BBC Player is not the full iPlayer service but it paves the way for a more comprehensive BBC offering for APAC audiences.

The addition of a subscription service could be a significant revenue driver for the BBC, particularly in Asia, as estimates say that over 60m people mask their location using a VPN to access content, with almost 40m coming from China alone.

The topic of connectivity was a key theme of the event, which kicked off with Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan delivering a talk on the plans to create an operating system across Singapore for smart objects in the next five years.

He was speaking on a panel which included execs from Mashable, Playbuzz and Mediacorp. The panelists discussed the relationship between social media sites or aggregators and content owners.

Weiland said BBC Worldwide was using human editorial skill as a way of differentiating itself from third party algorithmic aggregators.

“Curation is really important and there’s been a growth of different services that you can get but it needs to be a quality product. There are places now where a massive bucket of content is driven with algorithms. We come from editorial sensibility and we can guide people and that will be our focus, we are going to experiment and see how that goes and adapt as it goes along,” he added.

Mashable COO Mike Kraik, said their relationships with the likes of Facebook and Snapchat were bringing in revenue but that no business should ever fully rely on third parties.

“Never leverage a business model to third parties exclusive. But you can’t ignore the fact that the audience is there,” he said, “Facebook allows branded content now and it’s an amazing distribution channel. That may likely change but being a part and being an alpha partner on Snapchat too is important. The reality is, as these social companies go on they realise they are media companies and then they need us as much as we need them. They want the diversity of voice, they want all the brands and they are smart enough to recognise that. It’s just about whether they will have significant pressure on their own business model.”

BBC Worldwide said the BBC Player was due to launch later this year on Starhub.

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