Cable networks blocking BBC’s U.S. iPlayer aims

The BBC is extending the 12-month trial of its pay-for overseas iPlayer, having not yet cracked the big nut of U.S. roll-out.

paidContent understands U.S. cable networks are spooked that a U.S. iPlayer would hurt their TV service because it would carry shows aired by the BBC America linear channel, which they already carry to customers.

They have threatened to de-list BBC America from their TV services if iPlayer launches. That has forced BBC Worldwide to choose between the two big brands for its U.S. strategy. BBC America, which, unlike iPlayer, already exists in the States, has won out. In U.S. terms, it does not have a large audience footprint, but is nevertheless the BBC’s biggest U.S.-facing brand.

“Most of us operating in the U.S. are at the behest of Time Warner and Comcast,” BBC Worldwide advertising EVP Chris Dobson said about video advertising, though not specifically on the iPlayer issue, during a Beet TV panel discussion on Friday. “We shouldn’t believe they will not have a play in this space.”

A BBC Worldwide spokesperson told paidContent:

“Global iPlayer was set up as a 12-month trial to allow us to assess the product, consumer demand in different markets and the content mix. We have extended the trial, with the full support of the BBC Trust, until Autumn this year.

“Although western Europe launched in July last year, Australia and Canada came on board later in 2011, as did the move to other Apple platforms. And so, by extending the trial, it allows us to capture more data out of the iPlayer model.”

BBC Worldwide has long wanted to offer BBC and other programming like Doctor Who and Top Gear as paid VOD.

It is already selling shows through iTunes Store and other syndicated outlets, but last summer launched a BBC-branded, iPad-only subscription iPlayer in 18 European markets, followed by Canada and Australia.

Changes to the proposition are likely to be made following trial learnings.

Broadly, BBC Worldwide wants to continue offering paid VOD via both syndicated and own-brand channels.

Cable company power has also got in the way of BBC Worldwide making its BBC World News TV channel available for a la carte paid U.S. streaming. Now BBC Worldwide is using the cover of a Livestation bouquet to go to America, priced $4.99 per month alongside Sky News, France 24 and Al Jazeera English.