BBC Worldwide inks deal with Blinkbox

Move boosts U.K.'s paid online video market

LONDON -- The BBC's commercial arm BBC Worldwide has struck a deal with U.K. online video operator Blinkbox, giving viewers paid access to hit TV shows such as "Doctor Who," "Spooks" and "Hotel Babylon," it was announced Thursday.

The move is the latest step in the burgeoning U.K. paid online video market, which already numbers operators like Microsoft's Xbox as well as on-demand services from platforms including BSkyB, Virgin Media and BT Vision. Download prices for TV shows on Blinkbox will start at £1.89 ($3.12) per episode, with series downloads costing more. Shows will be available to download 180 days after broadcast. The service has about 1 million downloads per month across film and television.

Venture capital-backed Blinkbox has deals with Warner Bros., Paramount, NBC Universal and Fox, and founder and CEO Michael Comish said the U.K.-based operator was more than a match for overseas operators seeking to launch here.

"There's been a lot of hype around foreign companies coming to the U.K. to fill the void left by Kangaroo," (the U.K.-broadcaster backed commercial online platform that was nixed by regulators), Comish said, stopping short of citing Hulu, the studio-backed service that reportedly intends launching here before the year end.

"The reality is the void has already been filled by a homegrown service: Blinkbox."