@ OPA: Interview: BBC’s Ageh on YouTube, iPlayer, Acknowledging Market Disruption

The BBC has attracted a quarter-million views from YouTube since launching its partnership with the video sharing site six days ago. Following a panel, the corporation’s internet controller Tony Ageh told me the tie-up was pulling in “maybe 80,000 a day, about 250,000 by now, something like that”, but it was too soon to identify the most popular of the site’s three new channels. The BBC Trust, which regulates the corporation, provisionally approved the BBC’s iPlayer on-demand TV plans in January – but ordered a number of modifications to ensure the player’s DRM would not be limited to Windows as planned and to safeguard against the publicly-funded broadcaster’s new service disrupted the commercial media space. Digital rights advocates have since launched a campaign to have the BBC open up the iPlayer DRM.

DRM: Ageh told me: “We’ve always said it would be platform-agnostic. There’s never been a moment when the BBC has not been platform-agnostic. The thing that is Microsoft-specific right at this second is the piece that [P2P software provider] Kontiki delivers and the way that we lock the DRM; it’s the way that Kontiki have delivered their first suite. In the contract with Kontiki was the obligation for them to give us a Mac version as well. Now they were supposed to deliver that in November; we’re more or less there, I reckon we could bring that online four months after we initially put the player up. I don’t think, actually, we can put the player up now because the Trust have held back until May before they even tell us exactly what we’re supposed to do. We’ve got to… not start from scratch but we’ve got till May before we really start to build the thing. From the moment we get it live, maybe four months for Macs.” Other platforms did not offer value for money, he said. “Live streaming and radio will still work, so it’s just the part that downloads the DRM-protected television programmes. By now, we probably stream 15% to 20% of programmes – in a year’s time, possibly we’ll be streaming this stuff anyway, and then the DRM issue goes away.” Earlier, he said: “The reasons we weren’t putting vast amounts of television up [previously] were simply because networks wouldn’t supoprt it and the costs were not [low enough] for us.”

Competition: Speaking on a panel, Ageh acknowledged iPlayer roll-out will have a knock-on effect on the UK commercial sector. “We’ve been slower to market because of the way the BBC is governed – we’ve got to think about the Public Value Test. Clearly putting a lot of programmes out for free will have a market impact, both positive and negative.” Later, he told me the BBC would work with rivals to minimise any negative impact from its new release.