The Guardian reports that the BBC is finally set to launch its popular iPlayer service on an international basis, rolling out a new iPad app to eleven countries in Western Europe today and to the United States, Canada, and Australia by the end of the year.
The service will offer a limited amount of content for free, supported by pre-roll ads and sponsorship, but its core business model is subscription, with users paying €6.99 (£6.14) a month or €49.99 a year. The 11 launch countries are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.
The global iPlayer app includes some features that are not in the UK version, including the ability to stream shows over 3G as well as Wi-Fi, and a downloading feature to store programmes on the iPad for offline viewing.
According to BBC.com managing director Luke Bradley-Jones, the service will include video-on-demand content from the last month, with other "best of" content stretching back decades also being made available. At least 1,500 hours of programming will be available at launch, with at least 100 additional hours being added every month.
The BBC reports that it worked closely with Apple on the new offline functions, working to override the standard automatic sleep settings for the iPad in order to allow content to download overnight in advance of going offline.
According to Smith, the development team worked closely with Apple on the offline feature. "When we were doing our user testing, the use case was picking six shows before going on a long journey, and leaving them to download to the iPad overnight," he said.
"The way the device works, though, is it hibernates and stops you from doing that: you wake up the next morning and only half a show has downloaded. We have managed to override that functionality, and Apple are comfortable with us doing that."
Smith stressed that users will be warned about the likely battery consumption of doing this, though: they would be best advised to leave their iPad plugged in overnight in these cases.
The global iPlayer project, which is separate from the UK-specific iPlayer program, is a one-year pilot project focused on the iPad, with an eye toward refining the offerings and expanding to more devices, platforms, and markets over time.