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BBC commercial tentacle confirms iTunes store push

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BBC shows including Life on Mars, Spooks and The Mighty Boosh have today been made available to buy on the iTunes video store, as first revealed by The Register on Friday last week.

The move is part of a drive to increase the revenues brought in by the public broadcaster's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide. The BBC charter allows Worldwide to exploit rights over via DVDs, magazines and other sales, and now downloads at £1.89 per episode.

The video is encoded in standard definition H.264 (AKA MPEG-4 Part 10), in common with other content on iTunes UK and compatible with PC, Macs, iPod and iPhone, as well as other mobile devices.

A total of nine complete and currently-running series are available on a download-to-own basis. Downloads via the BBC's free seven-day catch-up application, iPlayer, are made unplayable by DRM software after being stored for 30 days. Flash streams are also available for seven days after broadcast.

The first episode of the current series Ashes to Ashes is already available to buy on iTunes, despite also being available for free on iPlayer because it was repeated five days ago. Shows will appear on iTunes seven days after the first broadcast.

The price of the shows, being the same as other series on iTunes produced by US companies, is likely to anger some licence fee payers. Apple is often heavily criticised for its UK pricing, which approximates $1 to £1 despite the US currency's weakness. Similarly, BBC Worldwide already has a US distribution deal with Amazon's Unbox download service, where episodes cost $1.99 each - about £1.

However, the pricing picture becomes more complex when compared to BBC Worldwide's DVD offerings. The first series of Robin Hood costs £29.98 on DVD from Amazon, while the 13 iTunes downloads would run to £20.79.

Amazon is yet to enter the UK film and TV download market, though its recent investment in LoveFilm is expected to accelerate its plans.

BBC Worldwide is set to open its own TV download shop alongside Channel 4 and ITV later this year under the codename Project Kangaroo. ®

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