Friday, July 23, 2010

BBC Trust says Beeb can continue mobile app efforts

Stating that because much of its content is already available online, the BBC Trust gave the green light for the launch of mobile apps for BBC News, Sport and iPlayer to be launched in the U.K. This decision should mean that free apps from the BBC, currently available in the U.S., will soon be seen in the U.K. version of the iTunes app store.

Commercial media firms in the U.K. had voiced objections to plans by the BBC to launch mobile apps fearing the competition for the government backed broadcaster. The BBC Trust, which now must answer to a Tory led government, appeared to side with the commercial media firms, though this decision concerning mobile applications will loosen restrictions on the BBC in this area.

The BBC Trust had previously commissioned independent research into the app market by Mediatique. That report, which is referred to often in the BBC Trust's statement, can be found here.

Only the BBC's paid apps are currently available in
the U.K. version of the iTunes app store.

Based on that report, the trustees concluded that "BBC Apps were likely have a positive impact on users by providing easier access to online content, but would not provide any new content," a release stated. "In response to industry concerns, the Trust also considered that that there would be some overlap between the BBC Apps and free Apps, but that impacts may not necessarily be large; particularly as BBC content was currently available to mobile users through their phone's web browser, that a wide range of high-quality free Apps are already available and that users may choose to access a range of Apps and online content."

The plans that got the go-ahead today include apps for the iPhone, as well as "reversioned Apps would also be available for the Apple iPad device." The original plans only speak about apps available for the U.K. market through iTunes, as it is assumed this would be the extent of the BBC Trust's concerns.

Currently the BBC Worldwide has three iPad apps available in the iTunes app store, as well as eight iPhone apps. However, in the U.K. version of the iTunes store only the Good Food Healthy Recipes of iPad app is available -- it was released on June 19th. Missing are the two free apps for the iPad, plus free apps for the iPhone.

The BBC Trust estimates that development costs for the BBC's mobile apps would be "under £1 million – which is equivalent to 0.7% of the BBC Online annual budget."