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BBCWW Hiring A Global iPlayer Launch Director

Last Updated: Sep 10, 2010 09:43AM EDT

BBC iPlayer

BBC Worldwide is plucking an iPlayer exec from the BBC itself to drive through its stuttering plan to launch an overseas version of the VOD service.

It’s giving the new post of Global iPlayer Launch Director to Mark Smith, who has been filling the role of general manager for programmes and on-demand at the BBC on an acting basis…

That was a post future media and technology director Erik Huggers created in a March restructure and filled with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) exec Daniel Danker this week.

It means BBC Worldwide, the commercial wing, will have an exec with direct experience of the popular UK catch-up service. Indeed, Smith will work not from New York, where many of BBCWW’s operations are, but from London, where the public-service iPlayer is managed.

The iPlayer is not available outside the UK because it depends on licenses from TV show producers which were signed on a UK-only basis, allowing the producers to commercialise their work following an initial window of BBC linear and VOD exclusivity.

But BBCWW is eager to launch a worldwide version that would allow it to charge payments for, or place ads against shows like Doctor Who, Torchwood and Top Gear, which are popular in the U.S. in particular.

BBC Worldwide already syndicates shows to aggregators like iTunes Store, which has over 1,000 BBCWW episodes, on a pay-for, download-to-own basis. But BBCWW would likely prefer to own the platform.

BBC Worldwide has been talking about this for more than a year now. BBC.com EVP Luke Bradley-Jones, to whom Smith will report, told paidContent:UK in October 2009: “Millions of people love Torchwood and would probably pay 10 bucks an episode rather than two bucks (as on iTunes).”

The project has appeared to stall, likely caught up in the complexities of negotiating international VOD rights and windows.

But BBC director-general Mark Thompson put a rocket up BBC Worldwide last month, when, in his MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival keynote, he said the service should be launched “within a year”.

The announcement that Smith is moving has come within a fortnight.

He had previously worked at BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), interactive TV enabler Open Interactive and on BT (NYSE: BT) Vision’s earliest incarnations.

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