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BBC reportedly prepping 'Project Barcelona' video download service

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The BBC is said to be developing a new for-pay download service that would allow it to offer its full back catalog of content to viewers.

BBC Logo 640
BBC Logo 640

The BBC already offers UK viewers the ability to stream much of its current content through the multi-platform iPlayer application, but the broadcaster may be working on a for-pay download store as well. According to paidContent, the BBC has been negotiating with producers for such a service — dubbed Project Barcelona — which it sees as a way to monetize older content that isn't being brought to market for consumer consumption. Currently, new television and radio programs are available on the iPlayer service for up to 30 days after their initial broadcast, after which the rights either revert to BBC Worldwide or to the shows' original producers — but according to paidContent, only seven percent of the BBC's legacy programming is licensed out to online services for distribution. Project Barcelona would allow the BBC to bring the remainder of its content to market on a download-only basis. In an intriguing shift, the initiative would also allow viewers to purchase BBC programming immediately after it airs, even while the programs are still available for streaming via iPlayer.

In an effort to compete with Apple's iTunes, the BBC is reportedly offering producers an average commission of £0.40 per program, calculated from an average selling price of £1.89 per episode, in contrast to the £0.28 that iTunes offers. Despite the potential payout, the BBC is said to be having difficulty closing deals, with producers concerned about exclusivity — they still want to be able to license their content to other online services — as well as the possible impact the initiative could have on DVD sales. However, with the BBC reportedly telling producers that Project Barcelona could reap them up to £13 million in additional revenue over the next five years, we expect that talks will be ongoing.