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BBC to launch global subscription TV app for iPad

The BBC plans to launch its iPlayer app as a commercial subscription iPad offering outside the UK, initially targeting viewers in the US.

According to a report by the Financial Times, the BBC's plans are still being fleshed out.

Currently, the BBC offers a free iPlayer web app exclusively to UK residents, who already pay TV licensing fees to support the company's programming. Because it is not allowed to charge for content in the UK, the BBC is working to offer paid subscription access to its content in foreign markets, with the US being one of its first targets.

The report cited Luke Bradley-Jones, managing director of BBC.com, as saying the service would debut as a paid subscription product, "in part to get audiences used to using the service, but more importantly so we can generate additional value from the service in terms of the user data that it gives us."

Bradley-Jones also said the BBC was "planning for the Global iPlayer to initially launch just on the iPad platform, as it provides such potential to develop a truly interactive video-on-demand service, and also maps pretty nicely on to our core target audience for the service.”

Eventually, the BBC hopes to branch out to offer a combination of subscription access, digital downloads, and pay per view offerings, and is looking into opportunities to work with advertisers to sponsor free content.

Part of the BBC's motivation to reach markets outside of the UK stems from limitations it has agreed to make at the behest of competing commercial rivals in broadcasting and publishing. Among other restrictions, the BBC has agreed to not expand into magazine publishing, local journalism, and the online market, and has frozen the TV license fee for UK households.

The UK government charges its residents an annual "colour TV" license fee of £145.50 ($227 US), which is used to support television and radio broadcasts and production, and also covers the online delivery of its programming, including mobile delivery via its free iPlayer web app.