BBC launches online BBC Store
James R | On 05, Nov 2015
The BBC has launched BBC Store today, its new online shop for buying digital copies of shows to keep.
The portal, which is only available to UK users, is a sister site to BBC iPlayer, which has become the most popular VOD platform in the UK, according to Ofcom. Over the past six years, usage of iPlayer has soared by more than 342 per cent.
Titles are only available on iPlayer, though, for 30 days after their broadcast, which leaves digital users with two options to catch older BBC programming: purchase them from a pay-per-view site such as iTunes or blinkbox, or hope they turn up on a subscription service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. In the case of Doctor Who, the latter is an affordable solution, but only for seasons that are several years old.
Enter BBC Store, where you can buy and keep Season 9 for £21.99, with new episodes added to your collection the day following their premiere. Individual episodes cost £1.89 each (£2.49 in HD), the same price as blinkbox and iTunes, or £26.99 for the whole thing in HD – more expensive than the £24.99 charged on iTunes.
Other popular shows are present and correct, including Luther, Sherlock and Peaky Blinders. Even serial dramas EastEnders and Holby City will be available to purchase the day after transmission for the first time. Pricing varies, with Peter Kay’s Car Share costing £9.99, Season 1 of Luther costing £7.99 and Peaky Blinders Season 1 and 2 costing £16.99.
Things that are also available on BBC iPlayer for free are highlighted and linked to from BBC Store, while users can cancel a purchase within 14 days if they haven’t watched or downloaded the title.
The connection with iPlayer works both ways: audiences browsing titles available for free on BBC iPlayer will also see a “Places to buy” link, which will take them to the BBC Store to purchase a downloadable copy.
The move arrives as the BBC faces a decline in funding and an uncertain future. While the broadcaster renegotiates its charter with the government, BBC Store – operated by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the corporation, which also sells content internationally – offers the Beeb a way to maximise revenue and support itself financially as much as possible.
Marcus Arthur, MD, BBC Worldwide & ANZ, said, “We want BBC Store to do for digital ownership what BBC iPlayer did for catch up. BBC Store makes digital ownership really easy for audiences and means that we can begin opening up the incredible BBC television archive.”
In the coming weeks, BBC Store gift cards will be available to buy at branches of ASDA, Sainsbury’s, WH Smiths and Wilco, while talent connected to the corporation are starring in a new campaign promoting the site.
The Store is currently only compatible with computers, which puts it on the back foot against rivals such as Amazon Instant Video and blinkbox, but users can watch purchased content through BBC iPlayer’s “My Programmes” area.
The new store also has the advantage of the Beeb’s extensive back catalogue of shows. The recently restored Patrick Troughton Doctor Who outing, The Enemy of the World, for example, is available for £7.99. As well as the detectives and Time Lords, BBC Store is opening the digital doors to the broadcaster’s archive of classic titles, from David Frost to Dad’s Army. Even at launch, the site is positioning itself as a hub for previously unreleased and hard to obtain programmes, including Dennis Potter plays, some of which haven’t been seen since their original broadcast, and classic children’s show Muffin the Mule, with episodes dating back to 1952. Later this year, a Best of Morecambe and Wise compilation will also be available as a digital download for the first time.
Other new releases include Fear of Fanny, the comedy drama biopic about the life of TV cook Fanny Craddock, starring Julia Davis in the title role and Mark Gatiss as her husband Johnny, and the 1982 Hound of the Baskervilles with former Doctor Who star Tom Baker as Sherlock Holmes. One of the most controversial programmes in BBC history, The War Game, will also be available on BBC Store. Originally produced 50 years ago in 1965, Peter Watkins’ Oscar-winning drama documentary depicted Kent in the aftermath of a nuclear war and was initially banned for being too shocking. The 1984 drama Threads depicts a similar scenario, this time set in Sheffield. Written by Kes author Barry Hines, it won four BAFTAs, including the award for Best Single Drama.
Music fans will be able to buy some of BBC Four’s archive music compilation shows too, while episodes of respected factual strands Imagine, Omnibus and Arena will be featured, alongside episodes of Natural World, released online for the first time.
The BBC is even experimenting with new pricing models for some content, with an collection of “hit singles for under £4” offering one-off dramas, such as An Inspector Calls and The C Word, for £3.99 each, which is more affordable than the prices charged on services such as iTunes.
Other single dramas featured include Screen One offerings such as the 1991 drama Alive and Kicking, a dark comedy which takes an unflinching look at drug addiction starring Lenny Henry and Robbie Coltrane, and Meat (1994), a gritty drama about prostitution starring Jonny Lee Miller and John Simm and directed by Shakespeare in Love and Best Exotic Marigold hotel director, John Madden.
To mark the site’s launch, the BBC is offering all customers 25 per cent off for an unspecified amount of time.