Feeds

back to article WTF... should I pay to download BBC shows?

The outgoing Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, recently announced plans for Project Barcelona, a download store for material from the BBC archives. At the moment, you can watch most BBC programmes for seven days after broadcast, free of charge using iPlayer. In a few cases, a whole series may be available for a little …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Silver badge
Headmaster

Bad example

Doctor Who is a bad example. What people don't realise is that the BBC don't own the restored versions produced for DVD. 2Entertain do because they paid for them to be restored. The last time I asked a few years back it was the case that the restored versions don't make their way back to the BBC archive and if the BBC want to show these versions on TV they must pay 2Entertain.

Seems like madness to me. You have a copy falling apart in the archive and your commercial arm (2Entertain is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of BBC Worldwide) is holding the pristine copy in their own archive.

So depending on which part of the BBC is selling the content online you may or may not get a restored copy for download. Certainly the copies I've seen online on various services have been the untouched versions.

Policy may have changed since I last asked but probably not.

5
0

Bullshit - all this stuff will be digitally archived anyway if it isn't already, and the server load will be tiny compared to that of people watching recent programmes on iplayer.

The future of TV is heading in the direction of something like YouView, which means that EVERYTHING will be streamed from servers.

1
21
Trollface

"future of TV is heading in the direction of something like YouView"

What, you mean it'll be delayed and delayed and delayed... and then vanish altogether for lack of interest?

6
0

The author never disputed that its not archived, especially the newer stuff..but rather the 'BBC' (the right bit of it) might not have the permission to allow acccess for 'free'.

4
0

Sure, he has a point about some of the material having rights issues, but personally I think that it would only actually affect a tiny proportion of the total archive.

0
9
Silver badge
FAIL

Equity et al

"Sure, he has a point about some of the material having rights issues, but personally I think that it would only actually affect a tiny proportion of the total archive."

Let me break this down for you as you clearly have no understanding of how it works and just think that anything can be broadcast or distributed for free.

Anything with actors in it means repeat fees as stipulated by Equity rules. As far as I am aware any actor worth his salt is a member of Equity who negotiate standard rates on behalf of all of it's members (which is pretty much everyone).

Anything with music it means repeat fees for the composers. Again this is enforced by the unions/trade bodies.

Anything that uses a writer then he also gets a repeat fee.

So what you left with?

Well I know of one type of show where the performers don't get repeat fees. You might still need to pay a few quid for any music used but pretty much all the cost are paid up front.......

Panel shows.

And frankly if I want endless repeats of QI then I have Dave for that (incidentally the low fees make it cheap to broadcast).

6
0
Silver badge

Why not leave it as it is now?

The "catch-up" Window is perfect and is very handy when a programme is missed or the PVR had a freak. I'd pay to watch older archives, but after a while I'd consider even them to be public domain (although I totally understand that infrastructure is not a free and a notional charge may be still needed). Of course, that leads us into the modern mess that is copyright and related muck (e.g. 113%).

Would I pay the BBC though? Probably not.

Because I have something against the BBC or the idea in general? No. Simply because in a digital economy it is much easier to by-pass the middle man and go straight to the source. And as what I prefer to watch is hard to get in the UK (due to the artificial barriers on free-trade) then that is the route I would probably follow.

1
2
Anonymous Coward

"[We must fleece customers...

and anyone who disagrees is a freetard]"

You sound like a Merkin political talking head. "[Here's one argument used by some of the opposition, and here's an edge case (Spooks) that I will use to conclusively prove I am correct.]"

At the end of the day, it's ultimately the BBC's problem to come up with a valid business model that keeps their customers happy. Customers feel - and rightly so IMHO - that there is some level of entightlement to said content due to the Beeb's funding model and license fees, so the BBC does have a problem if they think they can get market rates for online episodes from users that have already paid the license fees.

By implying that anyone who disagrees with your stance is obviously too stupid to understand the Spooks case, or costs associated with digital conversion, or (come on, this is El Reg FFS) that <gasp> infrastructure isn't free, you have really lost the plot.

8
14
Bronze badge

Re: "[We must fleece customers...

That's a curious reading of the piece, I think. I don't think Spooks is an edge case in any way at all; there's a pretty high proportion of programmes produced by independents - just look at the logos at the end of all those shows. And this explains the standard rights (which, of course, likely lag the technology by some way):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/tv/how-we-work/business-requirements/code-of-practice.shtml

And for older programmes, there are the issues like residuals; so, for a pretty large number of programmes - certainly not just an 'edge case' - the BBC does not have the unfettered ability to do whatever it wants, with no reference to anyone else.

8
1
Silver badge
Megaphone

Re: "[We must fleece customers...

Look at it this way - you can either pay a token sum to see something that's in the BBC archives, or you can not pay anything and leave the stuff to rot in there. The BBC license covers the commissioning and broadcasting, it never covered (or was intended to cover) digital remastering, storage, indexing and downloading, simply because a vast percentage of the BBC archives was created in an era when download distribution was not feasible, or not even thinkable, or indeed before digital.

I think it's fair enough to ask punters to pay for the material just as long as it's priced at cost. (Taking into account initial cost of the infrastructure, ongoing maintenance and updates etc) .

12
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "[We must fleece customers...

Channel 4 don't charge for access to alot of their old stuff, and they don't receive massive amounts of public money.

I would feel offended if they asked to pay for access to old material, they get enough as licence fee as it is. If they can't afford it why not kick off some of the overpaid presenters they keep knocking around.

I don't think many people would mind if they showed Chris Moyles the door.

1
4
Bronze badge
Meh

Re: "[We must fleece customers...

They do utilise advertising on 4OD however.

I imagine that would be problimatic for the BBC.

Also the BBC have considerably deeper archives being that Channel 4 is about half the age of the television portion of the BBC.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "[We must fleece customers...

his 7 million or so listeners would probably disagree

well they certainly don't listen to his show for the music anyway!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: James

"Look at it this way - you can either pay a token sum to see something that's in the BBC archives, or you can not pay anything and leave the stuff to rot in there."

I think you missed a few key nuances in what I wrote. I never said "fully" entitled, nor did I ever say that the BBC has to give it away for free. There is *A LOT* of potential middle ground between:

A.) "[we're going to charge everyone (in particular, people who are paying license fees) market rates for access to the archive]"

and

2.) "[the BBC must give away free access to everything they have ever aired to anyone who has ever payed a license fee]"

Those are both the extreme ends of the spectrum, and in case it wasn't clear... I disagree with both (not just the first option).

In fact, I have *no disagreement* with your statement that "I think it's fair enough to ask punters to pay for the material just as long as it's priced at cost" - I think that is one of many potential middle ground approaches that could work here.

My personal opinion on the matter is that they should have their Project Barcelona (as it is a download service) and keep it as a for-profit just like their DVD service, but they should also look at a streaming service (a la Lovefilm, Netflix or Hulu/Hulu+) of some flavor at little (like you propose, at cost) to no charge (advertiser funded?) for licensees... *and* consider making that streaming service available, for-profit, for people who are not licensees.

Regardless, I still feel the situation is not nearly as A.) or B.) as the author - IMHO - presents.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Nigel

I did not mean to imply that the BBC should be running around willy-nilly giving away other people's property for free, and my apologies if I was so unclear that I came across that way.

Also, I am not a freetard. or at least, I don't think I am... : )

1
0

Re: James

I do think the DVD argument is the best way to defend this. No licence payer gets the DVDs for free, so why should an alternative method of content delivery be any different?

Another example would be: We in the Republic of Ireland indirectly pay a fee for the UK channels. But this means that we don't even get the version of iPlayer that's available in the UK. We get the Worldwide version; some free content but the rest is €6.99 a month.

2
0
Bronze badge
Holmes

Suggested alternative business model in two stages:

As a constructive suggestion, here is a completely different economic model:

(1) Sell time-based subscriptions. This is not a new idea, and would allow for the usual unlimited Web access during the period of subscription.

(2) Let the subscribers use their subscription payments as credits to buy 'virtual shares' in various programs or projects. No loss to the BBC since they'd already be holding the money, but the subscribers would also vote with their wallets. For example, a subscriber could buy a share to become one of the virtual sponsors of a particular episode of Dr Who. Or the BBC could create a proposal for an investigative news story, but not actually commit their resources until enough subscribers had signed up for virtual shares to justify it.

(3) Use the force of technology. (Luke, use the force!) Most explicitly, by using a streaming P2P version of BitTorrent, they could reduce their Internet distribution costs almost to zero.

(4) Use creative marketing. For example, elective advertising for programs for non-subscribers. The person could select the file based on the advertiser, and this would provide valuable feedback to the advertisers, while not costing the BBC much of anything for distribution, per (3). In my own case, I would certainly select a version with 10 minutes of tolerable advertising over a version that included 1 minute of oil company propaganda. Shouldn't the oil companies know how much they are hated? (Or pick your least favorite advertiser...)

Here is a more detailed explanation of a couple of possible implementations:

http://eco-epistemology.blogspot.com/2009/11/economics-of-small-donors-reverse.html

(Yes, I should rewrite it with consolidation, but why bother? Certainly not because the BBC motivates me to do so.)

1
1
Silver badge

So...

...implement the store, have as much stuff as you can free (if rights allow) and have other stuff paid. Simples.

Then when the Public can't get Spooks for free, they can pressurise the production company or whoever is the copyright holdout directly to relax the restrictions.

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: So...

They may well be able to provide some stuff free, and I think it would be great if they could.

But, production companies are in it to make a living. So too are actors, most of whom aren't fabulously wealthy. I'm not honestly sure that pressure from the public is likely to make them decide that they'll give away access to their material for nothing, whether or not it's been broadcast on the BBC. How many companies do you think are going to do that? Or will they just say "Sod it, we'll take out shows to Sky"

Hopefully prices via Project Barcelona won't be very much; all the indications seem to be that they're talking of relatively small figures, and that may well be sufficient to ensure people do buy; price it equivalent to, say, a full price DVD, though, and things will be very different.

2
1

Re: So...

No. The BBC will supply the funding to the production companies on behalf of licence payers, then take a fee from overseas customers. Not one person here has made the idiotic argument you are straw-manning here. I seriously hope this isn't a sign the Reg is being used as a propaganda platform. All this only days after we brought Orlowski back to the light side. ;)

1
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: So...

indeed - and every time you hit a "pay me now" page on iplayer, the beeb could give a break down of who will be collecting what fraction of the payment. Then we'd know who to be annoyed at.

I don't mind paying some small sum, at least in principle. Whether or not I'd actually ever want to watch something enough to pay it is more debatable.

2
1
Bronze badge

Re: So...

A propaganda platform! Aha, so that's what those people in overcoats were up to when they sidled up to me on my way home the other night and said "Hey, why don't you write something about Project Barcelona; we need to get the right message out there, soften up the public"

Yep, that must be it...

7
1

Re: So...

The BBC claims Barcelona will be non-exclusive, so its material will be available to iTunes et al. So it's unlikely to cost much more than those services charge from simple competition logic.

Then again the BBC does rather believe its name is a label of quality - not so, not so... - so may well price more just for that...

0
0

propaganda platform

Well that 'argument' convinced me. From now on I'll forever discount the possibility of online 'opinion massage' where large profits are involved. That would be communist. No, sorry I meant terrorist. Partisan? Sorry, I'm a bit behind with the latest simian-shepherding trigger words.

1
1

5bn during 2011

Rather insulting tone to this article I think. A few token BBC expenses pulled out to illustrate the concept of "cost" to us, then a completely insubstantiated conclusion 'pay for this too or the money will come directly from new programme development'. Rubbish. The BBC brought in 5bn in total income during 2011 (http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showthread.php?t=1510172). They're seriously playing with fire if they think this won't reignite the 'why the hell is the law being used to jack me for £150 a year again?' kerfuffle. People would be much more charitable toward the BBC were legal coercion not used to extract funding. So don't expect joy & rainbows from this little proposal - especially when there are many programmes they will easily make a killing on from non-UK residents, like Top Gear, Masterchef and Doctor Who.

2
10
Silver badge

A new start

The BBC is not exactly known for it's efficiency: cost or otherwise. It also has very little incentive to be fiscally responsible, since it effectively gets it's annual billions without having to lift a finger. Consequently, they are probably not the best choice for providing a cost-effective service to restore, convert, catalog and host what must be petabytes of "stuff" that people may wish to download.

Maybe what needs to happen is that all the BBC archives are wrested from their control, they concentrate on broadcasting programmes and let a separate body - built with a sound commercial basis (i.e. not a quasi-governmental body) deal with the online stuff. Considering the BBCs history, and charter, it's questionable whether they could justify their existing online presence - let alone serving gigabytes to millions of households on a daily basis. If there was to be a different organisation created, they could be given a more contemporary remit - and without the baggage that the BBC currently has. You never know, if the new guys started to make a profit, they could even start commissioning programmes of their own.

4
10
Anonymous Coward

Re: A new start

You appear to have missed the reality that most of what used to be BBC Technology, BBC R+D, BBC Transmission, etc has already been Bangalored to the likes of Siemens, Arqiva, etc.

Efficiency and cost-effectiveness left the BBC when Blair's "special adviser" Birt moved in as DG. Cronyism and OTT expenses took over (as any Private Eye reader will know), and it will take a long time (if it's even going to be possible) for the BBC to recover the breadth and quality of programming which the Birt era replaced with overpriced formulaic "producer choice" dross.

9
0
Anonymous Coward

This service is already available

It's called LoveFilm

0
0
Silver badge
Holmes

Digitally archived

Not necessarily. It took the BBC something like 5 years to transfer all their 2" Quad tapes to D3 in the 90's. And that only covers surviving material until circa 1983 (remember just how much stuff was junked in the 60's and 70's). I must admit I am out of touch about any project to transfer tape based material to servers but it would take years and years. The sheer amount of tape they have is mind boggling and of course it needs to be transferred in real time. Just because all the Quads (and possibly C-format's) are now on digital tape doesn't remove all the tedious real time transfers from D3 to server.

And then you hit the tapes that have problems and faults. It's a huge huge project that I daresay is ongoing.

A quick search on Google reveals the BBC possess 340,000 D3 tapes alone of which they plan to ingest 100,000 to a server based system (the other 240,000 will stay in archive until required). And that's just the D3 collection!

7
0
Holmes

Optional

Nice tall horse you're sat on there el'Reg.

If the BBC make people pay for iplayer content piracy of said content will go through the roof! Where can I place this bet?

2
4

Re: Optional

...which is a fantastic boon for those that would profit from more draconian 'anti-piracy' laws. You're hardly going to get more laws passed without huge numbers illustrating the 'problem' to back you up. This is a very common tactic - impose unreasonable restrictions, watch piracy figures increase, moan to government that something needs to be done about piracy, get draconian measures installed that artificially create a business model for you by eliminating civil liberties in the area, profit.

0
1
Thumb Down

Re: Optional

Nice straw man you're arguing with there, Spotfist. This isn't about making people play for the current iPlayer content, it is about offering archive material online.

(I appreciate that you would have needed to actually read the article to grasp this terribly subtle point.)

9
1

Re: Optional

I did read the article, I didn't specify any kind of actual content, current or archived.

My real beef here is that the BBC have the time and money to come up with a better solution than making people pay for something twice, it may only be archived data now but where will it end? People would complain about the use of payed for advertising within iplayer but why are they not selling all of the iplayer content abroad?

Why is it that joe public becomes the first target?

0
0
Trollface

Re: Optional

Targetting Joe Public is called Capitalism.

If you don't like it then I hear there are some lovely re-education camps in North Korea.

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: Optional

WHAT, prey-tell does the beeb have to do with Capitalism?

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: What does the beeb have to do with Capitalism?

You mean, apart from being better at it than ITV?

1
0

Re: Optional

@oninoshiko

The article is about the BBC's commercial activities. Which bit of this are you struggling with?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

I suspect

the rational 99% of the population (that's those who actually buy stuff at the moment) will cough up for programs they want in the same way they are now prepared to buy BBC DVDs. As long as the price is reasonable and the selection good.

The mentioned poll only has 145 votes so far, and like this forum, I suspect those voting are far from typical of the average digital content consumer.

If the idea of the BBC selling archive content offends you that much...don't buy it.

10
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: I suspect

"If the idea of the BBC selling archive content offends you that much...don't buy it." True and easy enougn. However, there is a problem in that the BBC will still take out the money from the licence fee that we in the UK pay (with due detrimental effect on 'new' programming) in order to fund the infrastructure required to digitise (and DRM it) as well as store that content in a suitable form for iPlayer/streaming delivery - I note that there is nothing about the BBC having done any market research to establish if such licence fee expenditure could ever be recovered by the download fees that *might* be reciepted - Where's the business case?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: I suspect

" that the BBC will still take out the money from the licence fee that we in the UK pay"

That is an assumption based on no evidence. For all you (or I) know the BBC project P&L is offsetting income from sales for remastering etc.

2
1

Not free, just not expensive.

Where the Beeb don't exclusively own the rights or haven't negotiated streaming rights, then by all means charge, but don't expect me to pay £1.89 (as was quoted in the last related article) per episode.

Where the Beeb does own the exclusive rights. Free.

For future productions for the Beeb, it should negotiate better rights or make more stuff themselves.

The recurring payments argument is great and all, but spare a thought for the rest of us who just get badly paid once for the work we do and told to F off if we don't like it!

7
1
FAIL

Re: Not free, just not expensive.

If you produce IP and you only get paid for it once then you're doing it wrong. I'm not sure you can hold Auntie Beeb responsible for your lack of business acumen.

4
1

Re: Not free, just not expensive.

I produce IP, it is fleeting, usually bespoke and for a small audience. It takes the form of solutions to problems. Once the IP has been produced, it is acted out and the resulting actions are considered the final product. I believe most of us call it work...

3
4
WTF?

Re: Not free, just not expensive.

So you're growing apples and complaining about the price of oranges.

I'm still baffled.

5
0

Re: Not free, just not expensive.

"If you produce IP and you only get paid for it once then you're doing it wrong. I'm not sure you can hold Auntie Beeb responsible for your lack of business acumen."

Except in this case the user is paying for it to be produced in the first place.

If you (are forced to) pay to produce IP then pay *again* to watch it, then you're doing it wrong.

Either stop charging the licence fee (or reduce it significantly) or provide the IP created by the licence fee free to licence payers.

Obviously that doesn't apply to shows that are produced by other companies, but shown on the BBC.

1
1
Silver badge
Stop

Re: Not free, just not expensive.

"Except in this case the user is paying for it to be produced in the first place."

No. The License Fee covers a small proportion of the BBC's expenses and—here's the crucial bit everyone seems to have missed—the BBC are REQUIRED to use external production houses for a set proportion of their output. (I forget what the exact percentage is, but it's somewhere in the range of 40-60% bracket, I think.)

"Spooks" is therefore NOT "owned" by the BBC. They merely paid to license it. The BBC may have fronted up some, most, or even all, of the up-front costs—for which they got the rights to have first dibs on broadcasting the show. The BBC might even have finagled a distribution contract deal through their BBC Worldwide arm too, so they get a bit more money out of it.

But remember that for every success like "Spooks", there's at least one utter failure like "Bonekickers" which disappears without a trace after a single season. And usually rather more than one. The BBC needs to balance the books, so every hit ends up paying for a bunch of misses.

The BBC's former Director General, John Birt, is also responsible for the second greatest f*ck-up in privatisation history, (second only to the privatisation of British Rail). He literally forced every single department—every producer, every studio, etc.—to "compete" with each other for work! This farce is named "Producer Choice" and means every show's producer must choose whether to make a show in-house, or farm it out to a third-party service provider. As a result of Birt's blinkered stupidity, a shitload of BBC employees suddenly found themselves working as freelancers and consultants... for a hell of a lot more money than they'd have made if they'd stayed in-house. John Birt is truly the heir to the throne to the Kingdom of Idiot.

The upshot of all this is that, no, the BBC often does not "own" much of what the public think it does. Look at the closing credits of "Red Dwarf" and you'll see that the later series were produced by "Grant Naylor Productions". Every single episode of "Have I Got News For You" was made by "Hat Trick", and so on. (Ironically, there are even programmes in the BBC's archives produced by the remnants of Thames Television!) And the same is true for a lot of radio productions too now.

Take a good close look at the end titles of a lot of BBC programming and you'll be surprised at just how many hit shows are actually made outside of the BBC.

The BBC are also well aware that they may not be able to rely on the TV License fee for much longer. (Never mind that the same fee is also paying for the rollout of rural broadband and a bunch of other projects; the BBC doesn't get all of it anyway.)

5
1

Re: Not free, just not expensive.

Except the licence fee is paid to enable people to watch any broadcast televison, even satellite.

The government gives most of the dosh to the beeb, so arguably the government is paying, not people !

now, if people wanted to be real freetards, they could NOT purchase a television licence and then only watch TV iplayer, As long as the live video streaming was not viewed it would be perfectly legal.

And in any case, you can download and view, and store, iplayer programming on a linux-based device without time/storage constraints.

0
0
Gold badge
Mushroom

Eating your cake and having it there.

It's simple. Either:

1) Make it free.

2) End the license fee and move to an entirely commercial funding model.

There is no third option unless you are a weasel in smart suit.

5
11
Devil

Re: Eating your cake and having it there.

What's the weather like in Simplistic Black and White World?

6
4
Silver badge
Linux

Re: Eating your cake and having it there.

If you're British, you were already forced to pay for this stuff. Charging you again is just double dipping. The old stuff should be liberated to the public domain anyways.

If you want to charge the rest of us that have never paid a TV license, then that's another matter.

1
2

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.