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BBC looks to Net as pay-per-view cash cow

$5 to watch Blackadder in QuickTime, anyone?

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The BBC is investigating ways to use the Net to deliver pay-per-view services, part of the Corporation's drive to establish commercial services to buoy up the licence fee, according to a report in today's Observer.

The plan isn't so far off Sony's scheme to use the Internet to provide high-quality digital entertainment services to the home.

Like Sony, the BBC wants to establish a portal through which it can stream movies and TV programmes. The Observer piece is short on specifics, but it's not hard to imagine a mix of free, ad-sponsored shows and premium pay-per-view programmes, such as BBC-funded movies that have yet to air on the Corporation's TV channels.

The BBC has been working with a company called Yes Televesion to develop Net-based video-on-demand services - earlier this year, Yes obtained the right to offer 200 hours of BBC programming across the Net over the next two years - but Auntie apparently wants to create a site of its own.

Central to the Beeb's efforts will, of course, be the emergence of broadband network feeds - the same kind of wide, fast pipes that Sony wants to get in place before it rolls out its Net-based digital content services next March. It's certainly questionable whether viewers will be willing to pay for jerky, 320x240 streams in the meantime - unless the Corporation is planning a smut service, ahem.

Powerful anti-piracy measures will need to be put in place too. ®

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