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BBC opens digital store to buy and download shows

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The BBC has launched a new online service letting people purchase and download shows such as Sherlock, Doctor Who, and nature documentaries by David Attenborough. The BBC Store expands on the broadcaster's iPlayer service, which allows playback of shows for up to 30 days, and is intended to one day replace DVD and Blu-ray sales. "As more viewing shifts to digital, BBC Store allows audiences to choose from a selection of recently broadcast programs, television favorites, and lost gems from the BBC archive, making it the most comprehensive collection of BBC programs ever published," said the broadcaster in a press statement.

Digital downloads are in the right spirit, but the apps aren't all there

There are a lot of caveats though. For a start, programs can only be bought using UK-registered credit or debit cards — meaning the service isn't going to be useful for people outside of the UK. (Americans can purchase BBC shows from iTunes, but the broadcaster says it's also launching a new on-demand service in the US next year.) It's also, according to a report from Engadget, a bit tricky to actually watch what you've bought on the BBC Store. Purchased shows can be played through the iPlayer website or an offline program called the BBC Store Download Manager, but support for iPlayer's apps on TVs, iOS, and Android is still in development. (Although it is available on Windows 10 for mobiles and PCs.)

Despite these limitations, there are at least plenty of shows on offer. As well as contemporary television like Sherlock, Luther, and Doctor Who, classic comedies including Dad's Army, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, and Absolutely Fabulous will be available. Newly digitized archive footage, such as classic interviews from David Frost, will also be up for download, although The Guardian reports that some older shows now deemed to be racist or sexist will be quarantined in a special "of its time" category. The store is being operated by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, although it's thought that digital downloads won't do much to supplement the subsidiary's income, at least in the short term.