BBC announces mobile deal

Satdude

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BBC announces mobile deal

BBC Worldwide has announced its latest mobile content deal, bringing Alan Partridge, Doctor Who and Little Britain to O2 customers in the UK.

The deal is the first by Peter Mercier, newly appointed head of mobile at the BBC's commercial wing, and is designed to cement the corporation's relationships with mobile operators, paving the way for more innovative mobile content.

The deal will shortly add highlights from the shows, along with branded wallpapers and ringtones, to the O2 Active portal, which already offers customers news services, games, chat tools and music downloads, charged by the cost of the data used.

Around 3,000 pieces of content will be included initially. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

Mr Mercier told MediaGuardian.co.uk that developing a successful business model for mobile content was a challenge for everyone in the industry.

"We're in a fortunate position with a large archive of material we can experiment with," he said.

"We may commission made-for-mobile content in the future, but part of the challenge is to distribute to an audience of sufficient size that we can earn a return."

BBC Worldwide has already commissioned Steve Coogan's production company Baby Cow for 30 minutes of content for digital platforms, in addition to distribution of existing material.

The corporation has already struck similar deals with Orange and 3. Mr Mercier said the corporation is in talks with those operators, as well as O2, T-Mobile and other international companies, over developing different products including streamed TV channels and also over mobile gaming - a traditionally lucrative sector for the mobile industry.

BBC Worldwide is also exploring at ad-funded content models, he said.

BBC Worldwide's sales last financial year topped £810m, but mobile services, grouped with web sales and video on demand, accounted for only £1.2m of that.

A previous outing of made-for-mobile Doctor Who content in the form of "tardisodes" was labelled a "flop" by the BBC's own head of audience research because of the cost to users.

The BBC service was free, but mobile operators charged between £1.50 and £2 per episode for the data used. Only around 3,000 people downloaded each episode, compared with 2.6m downloads on PCs.

In the past 12 months, BBC Worldwide announced a deal with Korean mobile TV firm TU Mobile to distribute Top Gear through the service. The broadcaster also signed similar deals with Telecom NZ, Vodafone New Zealand and 3 in Ireland.

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