Unauthorised global iPlayer connections rocket

DetailsEditor | 22 July 2015

In a blow to the BBC that could not be more badly timed for the corporation as it struggles to formulate a new pricing structure, research has revealed a vast global network of unauthorised iPlayer users.

The on-demand and catch-up service is free in the UK, propped up by the licence fee, but is, theoretically anyway, unavailable on such a financial basis outside its domestic territory.

The very concept of charging for iPlayer use is a highly contentious issue in the forthcoming Charter Review that will set funding for a corporation which has taken another hit to its coffers from the UK Government. Moreover the BBC announced in June 2015 that it was to end offering the iPlayer officially on a non-UK basis and concentrate on services delivered from the main BBC website.

Yet the research from GlobalWebIndex has shown that the BBC is missing out on huge sums of money from non-UK users taking advantage of virtual private networks (VPN) to access the player in a similar way to users in the UK. The data shows that more than 60 million people are using the service in such way, 38.5 million of whom are located in China alone.

As reported by The Independent newspaper, the survey said: "International iPlayer users are 34% more likely than the average Internet user to be paying for this type of content. So, with the BBC looking for new revenue streams due to impending changes in the way the licence fee operates in the UK, there's clear potential to open up access to, and therefore monetise, these international users." GlobalWebIndex added that if even a relatively small proportion of users could be converted into paid-users, the additional revenue it could create for the BBC would be significant. Jason Mander, head of trends at GlobalWebIndex, said: "The implications for iPlayer are stark: globally, almost 65 million non-UK users are using VPNs in order to access the service, with a mighty 38.5 million of them being in China."

Commenting on what could well end up as being used as a cudgel on the corporation, a BBC spokesperson said: "BBC iPlayer, and the content on it, is paid for by UK licence fee payers to watch and download in the UK and the terms of use reflect that. We do not comment on individual cases regarding breaches of BBC iPlayer's terms of use, but we take steps where appropriate to protect the intellectual property belonging to rights holders."