BBC's iPlayer could come to Middle East after pilot in US

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The BBC's popular iPlayer service - which offers hit TV shows like Top Gear and Doctor Who 'on demand' - is going global.

iPlayer was previously only available in the UK. But the BBC last month month launched an international version of the service via an application on the Apple iPad.

The subscription-based app is now available in 11 countries in Western Europe. Users are able to access a limited number of shows for free, supported by advertising and sponsorship; full access costs EUR6.99 a month, or EUR49.99 (Dh262) a year.

The iPlayer iPad app will launch in US, Canada and Australia later this year, as part of the BBC's 12-month pilot scheme.

Currently, users in the Middle East are unable to use the regular iPlayer service. (Although it is possible to use it via a VPN, which can fool the BBC's system into thinking a user is logging on from within the UK.)

But an 'official' launch of the iPlayer in the Middle East, also delivered though the iPad app, could follow the pilot in the US and Europe, according to the BBC.

"Although we don't have any plans in this pilot year to introduce the service in the Middle East, we would, in time, very much like to see this service become available all around the world," a BBC spokesman told me.

One would imagine that there would be rather patchy demand for such a service in the Middle East.

English-speaking expatriates - and especially British fans of shows such as Have I Got News For You (a personal favourite of mine) and EastEnders (less so) - would be an obvious target market, especially in countries like the UAE and Qatar.

But the question remains of how broad an appeal the BBC iPlayer, or similar on-demand services such as Hulu or Netflix, would have in the wider Middle East.

Arabic is the first language in almost all countries in the region, and - given the dominance of both free-to-air TV, and piracy - the public's acceptance of paying for TV content is low.

So - would you pay Dh262 for a year's subscription to iPlayer? Have your say by using the form below, or email us.

Published: August 9, 2011 04:00 AM

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