back to article BBC commercial tentacle confirms iTunes store push

BBC shows including Life on Mars, Spooks and The Mighty Boosh have today been made available to buy on the iTunes video store, as first revealed by The Register on Friday last week. The move is part of a drive to increase the revenues brought in by the public broadcaster's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide. The BBC charter allows …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The format is good, the price is a little high, but heck, it's a new market the price presumably will come down as it becomes more competitive, no DRM so can play it on the TV, iPod, computer etc. whatever. You know that actually sounds damn good.

    Well done BBC. No cynicism, really well done.

  2. Alexander Hanff

    Another balls up

    Don't they ever learn? Last I checked iTunes is -not- available for Linux.

  3. Andy Pellew

    Best news in ages ...

    Life on Mars ... £14 for a complete season.

    Hope they put some classic series up there, like vintage Doctor Who, any of the wildlife documentaries, anything with Michael Palin going somewhere, etc etc etc.

    People will whine about the price for buying "as they come" episodes. But these are the same people who would whine if they were 50p each; the "something for nothing" crowd.

    No-one is forcing anyone to buy them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Well Done....

    A sensible way of getting programmes onto the Mac - yet another tick in box for the to distribute programmes.

    (Lets hope they can negotiate to put all BBC programs free for 7 days under the new iTunes rental model - so then the Apple TV will become a sought after device in the UK!)

  5. Ed
    Thumb Up


    I'd certainly buy an Apple TV if the iPlayer was available for it. I agree these prices are a bit high - frankly I'd probably only pay 50p maybe 75p for an episode... It's a good start though :)

  6. Ryan Morrison

    Sod linux - god bless the BBC

    These Linux arses are getting on my nerves. About five people use your pokey little operating system compared to several tens of millions using Mac OS or a flavour of Windows - get over yourself.

    It's like the five people complaining about a TV show because it uses a bad word. Sod off and go kick a penguin in the nuts.

    Anyway - this is great news and the thing that exites me the most is the concept that we might start to get TV shows available for download that aren't economically viable as DVDs.

  7. John Macintyre

    another reason

    to cancel my tv licence. man i need to call them up about that soon.

    I guess as they're charging for it they don't need to aim at the market who pays for their licences anyway so they don't have to cover the same range as the iplayer market

  8. Richard

    @ Another balls up

    In what way is it the BBC's fault that iTunes isn't available on Linux? Complain to Apple if you want iTunes on Linux, not the BBC.

    This is the BBC's commercial arm cutting a distribution deal. It doesn't mean that it's the only way of getting these shows - hell, you could even buy the DVD...

  9. Mike F

    @Ryan Morrison

    I aggree with you, I use linux all the time as my home OS but when people compaire linux, mac and windows and then bitch because they cannot get something for linux it really annoyies me. Linux is an obscure OS, ok so a little recognision would be nice but it's understanding that windows and mac get all the goodies first becasue they are mainstream!

    People that are on linux and that have the cheek to moan becasue something is not developed for linux really need to rethink why they are using it in the first place.

  10. cor

    Linux arses ?


    Well, I see the 'experts' are here again.

    The exclusion of Linux or *any* OS is an annoyance to us users who actually choose to not live in a spam-fed clickity-click world, where you are the slave of your system and it's hidden workings. Where you are not allowed know what your PC is doing...

    Some people have this crazy idea that media should be platform independent, or dare I say it, delivered in a non-proprietary, standard way. But they are wrong, after all, the ISO standards only get in the way. USB is a dumb concept and it's really 'A Good Idea' that just about every country uses a different wall socket. Duh.

    It's not about the Operating System, it's about The System.

    Oh, and anyone booting up their Linux/Unix bashing grey matter would do well to take note of how much stuff these days owes its very existence and continuation to these OSes...not something that needs to be considered in relation to MS Windows. Ask the BBC what servers they run to do graphic imaging and post-production, weather displays, web sites, mail handling....

    Ok, rant over. Bleh. Back to BOFHing my subordinates...


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I bought a Mac. I liked it and still do. Some things won't run on it. I knew that when I bought it. If I'd wanted something that everything would run on, I would have bought....wait for it... a Windows PC.

    Expecting that every piece of software is made available for every obscure operating system is like satanists whinging that their religion isn't properly respected.

    Here's an idea. If you want iTunes, get a computer or operating system that supports it.

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  13. Anonymous Coward

    @Sod linux - god bless the BBC

    I'm reasonably comfortable with the assertion that we Linux arses helped accelerate the delivery of a streaming iPlayer or all platforms. I didn't see any Mac arses taking the discussion to the BBC and/or the BBC Trust.

    We Linux arses will be continuing to push for platform neutrality by publicly funded institutions, reminding them of their obligation to avoid distorting the market.

    We Linux arses think that companies such as Elonex and ASUS will do much for the digital divide and reducing the price of computing genrally by using Linux.

    We Linux arses think it's all about freedom, even yours.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    You know what...

    ...if they put up HD content then it would allow those with freeview to view progs in HD. Now that may be worth forking out for.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    more about Linux arses

    And in case it's only we Linux arses who think its about distorting the market, why not review all the comments here indicting that putting BBC on iTunes will cause the writer to consider buying Apple products.

    Each to their own, but this sort of facilitation is not a a role for the BBC. (cf DAB)

  16. cor


    "Here's an idea. If you want iTunes, get a computer or operating system that supports it."

    Absolutely agree.

    But some of us *don't* want iTunes. We just want a standard that is not locked to a particular system just for the sake of it.

    Do you think the episodes were recorded in that format? Exactly.

    Speaking personally, I don't see the need to pander to *any* OS.

    If I call up someone on the phone I don't need to make sure my Nokia is compatible with their Alexander G. Bell tin-and-cord. No, it just works, because it is delivered according to brand/flavour/country agnostic standards.

    That's all we'd like to see. The rest we can hack around ;)

    People should have the choice and the freedom to exercise it.

  17. Ivan Headache

    @ Great news

    You sure that's "Hedley"?

  18. Colin Guthrie


    I agree with some posters here that the fact iTunes isn't available for Linux has nothing to do with this distribution deal.

    I use Linux as pretty much my sole OS (only ever use Windows for stupid IE testing). I do like Macs but wish Apple were a bit more supportive of the open source movement they've taken so much from (tho' they do seem to be getting a bit better in recent years).

    Anyway, to criticise this deal because you don't *buy* a Windows or Mac system would be like criticising the BBC for producing DVDs just because you chose not to *buy* a DVD player.

    Now the iPlayer is different. It's a tool produced by an organisation paid for by the licence fee. This has totally different protocols that have to be adhered to and social, economic and OS inclusion is one of them.

  19. Ryan Morrison

    Just downloaded Spooks

    I've just downloaded an episode of Spooks and I'm impressed with the quality - it looks great and if it really is DRM free like this article suggests - well worth the £1.89 - still cheaper than the DVDs.

    You can see a screengrab on my flickr feed ( and it starts playing straight away.

  20. Chad H.
    Thumb Up

    before we get any more tv license refusnicks...

    remember that this is content that the BBC cannot make available free.

    Remember that iplayer was supposed to be 30 day catchup... But there were far too many screams of "what about competition? It will kill aunty's commercial rivals"

    Its great they've found a way to make it available, here's hoping for some Douglas adams as script editor era dr who.

  21. Ryan Morrison
    Thumb Up

    P2P Next

    Open Source 'fans' might be interested in this post on the BBC Internet Blog then - about a new P2P network being developed in part by the BBC to deliver Television over the internet.

  22. Dave

    PVR Anyone?

    What exactly is wrong with a decent PVR? PC-Based or otherwise?

    I set series record on about 20 programmes, so that whenever they are on, even repeats the get recorded and i may or may not watch them (they get auto deleted after a couple of days)

    If theres a programme i've never seen, i hit search, find it, set series record and then i can see it next time its on - between BBC1-4 all of the progs are repeated quite often (although it seems at the moment not Dr Who or Dad's Army)

    As for the linux bashing folks - yes media should be platform independant, however, no *one* system is ever going to be sufficient - at work, at home and elsewhere i run a mixture of platforms to be sure i can use everything.

    I'm sure iTunes will run under wine or VMWare or Virtualbox anyway.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon + Linux

    To the Linux guys above, look don't get sidetracked here, the format they're using does not lock them in to iTunes, so we'll likely see the same stuff being offered from a Amazon and and the like.

    I don't like iTunes games (e.g. not converting DVDs to play on iPod, not letting unprotected AAC conversion to MP3 within the program etc.), but this is damn close to what I wanted. So in the not too distant future I'll be able to kiss goodbye to iTunes and you'll be able to order them for Linux, and hopefully I can write them to DVDRW's and play them on my DVD player, and the like.


  24. cor

    @ Ryan

    I sees you be having no problem with 'Teh Open Source' to run your site ;P

    Cheers for the P2P link, I liked the mention of Delft Uni, (10 miles from where I'm sitting) cos some of my Unix geeky workmates here are graduates and know some of those involved. It's a small world, I guess.

  25. Alexander Hanff

    My point

    My point wasn't that the BBC have to make this "service" platform independent, I am fully aware that it is not funded solely by the tv license on this matter. My point was they -should- have. After all the bad press they have received over the iPlayer not being, making this latest move is basically just a slap in the face to everything we have been complaining about for the last 12 months (yes I have actually campaigned against the iPlayer decision as opposed to just sitting on my arse whining).

    It was a bad choice on their part, the format is fine, the lack of drm is great, the delivery is taking the piss and if you can't see that then you are blind. This decision is as bad as their decision to go with Flash for the streaming iPlayer, sure many Linux users will sing it's praises because they can finally get -some- use out of the iPlayer but it was a terrible decision by the BBC because there is no 64bit Flash Plugin which leaves anyone with modern systems out in the cold. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the issues and their responsibility under their charter.

    BBC = Epic Fail (a failure -we- are all paying for).

  26. Anonymous Coward

    @P2P next from a Linux arse

    Thank you for the link. It is an interesting read, particularly in declaring an intention to deliver platform neutrality.

    However the blog also says "it's never going to replace to BBC's consumer offerings (e.g. iPlayer)"; which in its own way makes our Linux arsey point quite well:

    If the BBC is dabbling in consumer markets rather than public broadcasting then it shouldn't be distorting consumer markets.

    BTW while we're posting links what about this one:

    The associated pdf is 61 pages long, which might explain why perhaps not as many people have read it, as should have.

    BTW for any reader of this that sees red mist every time they see the word Linux, that guide has nothing to do with us arses.

  27. Andrew K
    Jobs Halo

    @Anonymous Coward

    I can assure you that there were many Mac users, myself included, who lobbied the BBC and the Trust to offer cross-platform support for the iPlayer. It was a campaign widely covered in Mac publications online and offline.

    I personally wouldn't buy tv shows through the iTunes Store because of the prices but I still think it's good that the choice is there.

    Can someone clarify the situation with DRM? If there is no DRM with these downloads then they aren't tied to iTunes, QuickTime and Apple approved devices as some to think. If they do contain DRM then at least in many ways it's more widely supported DRM than MS's.

  28. Law
    Paris Hilton


    I thought I already paid to watch BBC programs in the UK... it's called a TV license isnt it?? I don't mind them charging on other iTunes international sites, but for iTunes UK shouldn't it be free, and Apple just charge BBC Worldwide a hosting fee for UK content, then pay them for purchases outside the UK?

    To me, it looks like Apple is getting a bit of your money for the purchase, BBC are getting your money through the license fee, and BBC Worldwide are getting another bit of your money through Apple again. BBC paid twice??!?!?!?!?!

  29. Andrew K
    Jobs Halo


    Ideally of course it would all be free in the UK but if you look at the iPlayer they have to have restrictions on there because of contractual arrangements with the programme makers. It's quite possible that DRM could be used to offer free time-limited downloads through iTunes but you'd have to pay for copies that you can keep just like you do with DVDs. It could be argued that we shouldn't pay for BBC DVDs except for manufacturing and packaging costs but no-one seriously argues that.

    Personally I'd like to see the license fee reduced significantly and the number of channels reduced so there's less waste and repeats. Other revenue streams such as downloads can then be used.

  30. David Shaw
    Thumb Up


    I bought Ashes to Ashes ep 1 and the complete series 1 of Life on Mars,

    it is excellent quality, "near DVD" quality when viewed on a 20" iMac at work.

    The actual format of Ashes to Ashes is .m4v which is Raw MPEG-4 Visual bitstream. It is DRM'ed, with a fairplay wrapper around the video , before I could play I had to authorise my iTunes and I was advised that I am only allowed a total of 5 PC/Mac's with this authorisation. I can however watch on any number of synchronised VidiPods, iPhones (my count is currently zero)The raw video dimensions are 640 x 360 (widescreen) hence slightly lower than DVD quality, but certainly watchable on the iMac and I'll try at home on the bigger flatpanel TV with iTunes running on XP/Media edition (cheap good upscaling silent vid card)

    The BBC progs could be better and could be cheaper, it will need to be cheaper to get me to buy stuff other than the excellent stuff!

    the audio is only in stereo, and filesize is 675 megabytes for 1 hour of video.

    I think the AppleTV shows will be anamorphic hence better pixel fill, and rumour has it that apple is re-coding all their iTunes videos for anamorphism. (I have an AppleTV but haven't had the time to plug it in yet. on the whole I prefer to own rather than rent, but price could change that)

  31. Joey


    I have no beef with Linux, it has its place in the great scheme of things but I liken it to farm tractors - useful, but not something to pull birds with. For that you need something a bit flashier.

    As for iTunes on Linux, that's a bit like expecting your Massey Ferguson or John Deere to come with an iPod docking radio.

  32. Leslie Greenhalgh

    Surely not provided without DRM?

    "The video is encoded in standard definition H.264 (AKA MPEG-4 Part 10) ***without DRM,***"

    Is it really provided without DRM? I would be shocked if this was true.

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  34. cor

    @ Joey

    Methinks Joey knows Linux from using Putty...?

    "...not something to pull birds with. For that you need something a bit flashier."

    Ooooooo.... <sharp intake of air> who... has.... the.... flashiest... of... flash... eye... candy... 3D desktops....?

    Beryl/Compiz anyone?


  35. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Surely not provided without DRM?

    Hi all, I've removed that line for now. BBC Worldwide indicated to me this morning there was no DRM, but it seem those with better technical skills than me have reason to doubt this, so I've asked for a detailed clarification, and will update this story when they get back to me. Cheers,

    - Chris

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