BBC America Debuts Strongly On iTunes


A day after some BBC America shows became available for purchase on Apple’s iTunes service, three of the series vaulted into the iTunes Top 10 list of TV-series downloads.

BBC America timed the arrival of its shows on iTunes to just after the debut of season 2 of Robin Hood last Saturday on the cable channel. So thus far, only one episode of that action-adventure show is on iTunes, for $1.99 each, the standard per-episode rate.

For shows where full seasons are available, the first and second seasons of sci-fi drama Torchwood ($25.87 each) and the third series of comedy Little Britain ($11.94) cracked the Top 10 list of iTunes TV season sales Tuesday night, after such titles as Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Showtime’s Dexter and FX’s Nip/Tuck.

“I think there’s a huge untapped audience out there for our programming,” both among people who get the channel and among people who’ve only read about some of its shows, Beth Clearfield, VP of digital media and business development for BBC Worldwide Americas, said Wednesday.

BBC America shows had been available for on-demand rental on the Amazon Unbox service and via Netflix but iTunes is the network’s first major “sell-through” medium via digital download, she said.

For the run of the new season of Robin Hood, episodes will be available on iTunes 24 hours after they premiere on Saturdays at 9 p.m.

The next show to join the iTunes queue will be Robin Hood’s season 1, on Monday, May 5, at 4 p.m. PT, the network said.

Clearfield said “our plan is to keep rolling out new programs into that mix including new ones that are launching on BBC America” as well as selected titles from the network’s back catalog of shows.

After NBC Universal last August pulled its shows from sale on iTunes, the CEO, Jeff Zucker, said he was worried such sales were “replacing dollars with pennies” because of the $1.99 rate mandated by Apple. NBCU officials later made statements about piracy concerns.

Clearfield said the price point was “fine” and in line with what BBC America has charged on Amazon’s Unbox store, and said BBC America’s technical experts found Apple’s copyright protection solutions to be sufficient. “And also, unfortunately, these programs are out there on pirated sites already” to be found on illegal sites. If anything, I think if we give the consumer an opportunity to buy licensed programs legally, I’m hopeful they would prefer to do that ... especially at a price point that is reasonable.”