The BBC iPlayer service allows British residents to stream television programs to a computer or mobile device for free… or rather, for the price of the license fee everyone pays to use a television in the UK in the first place. And that’s why it’s taken so long for the BBC to offer the iPlayer service outside of the UK — the broadcaster has had to develop a system for offering a non-commercial service within the UK and a different, revenue-generating service in other countries.

Today the BBC begins rolling out iPlayer service beyond the UK. Apple iPad users in 11 European countries can download a new iPad app starting today.

They’ll be able to watch some ad-supported television programs for free, but to gain access to everything offered they’ll have to pay about 7 Euros ($10) per month or 50 Euros ($72) per year.

There’s another key difference between the international app and the service available to British television viewers. In the UK the iPlayer lets you see programs from the last 7 days so that if you miss an episode you can catch up quickly. The international app will be a video-on-demand service with TV shows from as far back as 60 years ago. The BBC will offer 1500 hours of programming at launch with more coming all the time.

The new app will allow users to stream video over WiFi or 3G connections, and users can cache videos for offline viewing.

Today the iPlayer iPad app will hit 11 countries in Europe including France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Later this year it will also be available in the US, Canada, and Australia.

The Guardian reports the BBC is running a one-year pilot project. That means eventually we may see apps for other platforms including Android or the web. It also means we may see the whole thing just go away if it the international iPlayer doesn’t make a profit.

I somehow suspect that there are enough fans of Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Top Gear alone to make sure that doesn’t happen though.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...