BBC/Sony VOD Update; Highfield’s Wishlist: Better Web TV Boxes

An update to our Tuesday post on Sony (NYSE: SNE) Television Pictures International (SPTI) selling £1.89 episodes of its new BBC One show Damages on iTunes Store – clearly in conflict with Auntie’s aim to make its fare freely available on iPlayer… The BBC tells us it has since negotiated with SPTI the right to add episodes of the show to the web-based streaming version of iPlayer, though still not to the desktop version. It means viewers can watch the show on the web for free within a week of transmission but cannot download to the application for viewing within a 30-day timeframe of their choosing. A trial arrangement, this is the first time the BBC has made an iPlayer show available under separated rights.

SPTI had initially only given the BBC on-demand rights to the first episode and had planned to cash in down the iTunes route but the BBC removed the episode from iPlayer, concerned about the “great disappointment” viewers would feel at the absence of the remainder. SPTI will continue to sell the rest as iTunes downloads and the BBC is hoping to score similar compromises with producers not covered by its PACT terms-of-trade deal.

BBC tells us: “iPlayer’s core focus is about offering viewers the chance to catch up on BBC content for the last seven days but we are looking at ways to expand the slate where possible.” The moral of the story – the emerging rights landscape is becoming a patchwork as broadcasters and producers thrash out terms for the growing number of distribution platforms – and who gets dibs on what.

Highfield’s wishlist: Meanwhile, Ashley Highfield seems unusually grumpy for a Friday – but it’s just frustration. I commend to you the BBC future media and technology director’s thinkpiece bashing electronics makers for failing to develop gadgets to transfer internet video to the living room TV (you’d have to say this would be something of a holy grail, so why the wait?).

To those who bashed Ashley over the desktop iPlayer’s weddedness to Windows, check his appraisal of Bill Gates, particularly his CES keynote talking up home media connectivity: “This is hardly new news. He