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Technology

Google and BBC in Talks to Deepen Ties


Could an international version of iPlayer be on the cards? According to media reports, BBC director general Mark Thomson is in negotiations with Google ( (GOOG)) CEO Eric Schmidt about the possibility of hosting long-form BBC content on Google-owned video website, YouTube. While the two organisations have had a partnership since early 2007 when official BBC clips were first uploaded to Google's video-sharing site YouTube, both the BBC and Google refused to confirm or deny whether they are in talks over an international iPlayer. According to media reports, BBC director general Mark Thomson is in negotiations with Google CEO Eric Schmidt about the possibility of hosting long-form BBC content on Google-owned video website, YouTube. While the two organisations have had a partnership since early 2007 when official BBC clips were first uploaded to Google's video-sharing site YouTube, both the BBC and Google refused to confirm or deny whether they are in talks over an international iPlayer. BBC said in a statement that there are a "significant number of obstacles" to commercially extending iPlayer in other countries - such as international rights clearance. "These obstacles present significant difficulties and for this reason there are no firm plans for a specific international BBC iPlayer," it added. A statement from Google added: "The BBC is one of YouTube's oldest partners and for over two years we've worked with various parts of the BBC to support the distribution, promotion and monetisation of their content. However, we never comment on this kind of rumour and speculation." However, head of broadband at media analyst group Screen Digest, Dan Cryan, believes negotiations between the BBC and Google are likely to have already begun. "It would be highly surprising if BBC Worldwide and YouTube were not talking. YouTube has a fantastic audience reach and it just makes complete sense for them to do that," he told silicon.com. However, he added that BBC Worldwide would need to work out how such a deal would fit in with the existing agreements it has with TV distributors. If, for example, people could view BBC content in the US online and for free, cable providers that distribute BBC America are unlikely to approve. "Whether it makes financial sense for a deal to go ahead given the power of pay-TV operators and the role they play in distribution of traditional TV, which is much more financially important [than the revenues from an international iPlayer], is a different question," Cryan said.
Tim Ferguson reported for Silicon.com from London.

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