I’m a British expat. I left the UK in 2004 and I have to admit that I still miss UK television. I realise this is bordering on sad, but the state of German television is so bad, the only thing that we switch the tv on for is the news at 8pm and infrequently Tatort on a Sunday evening. In 2007 the BBC launched iPlayer. I was excited about the launch because I saw it as a way to watch UK television content overseas via the internet. I saw it as a legal avenue to watch UK tv. I was sadly disappointed.
The first time I tried to access iPlayer back then I was given the error:
This content is only available in the UK.
Fair enough. People lay a license fee. I emailed the BBC and told them I would pay to access iPlayer. I was willing to part with 10 GPB per month just to get access to good quality television. I wanted to give them money.. for media content… I heard nothing.
Then in September 2009 Mark Smith got appointed to the new role of Global iPlayer Launch Director. There were murmurs of iPlayer subscriptions for customers outside the UK. I was excited again. Then at the end of 2010 I heard that the subscription was going to be via an iPad app. Ok, accepted. I bought an iPad.
A few weeks ago after the final launch of the BBC iPlayer Global I logged on to iTunes and searched for BBC iPlayer. Up it came and I installed it. I loaded it up, nervously excited like a small child at Christmas opening their presents:
Sorry, this content is only available in the UK.
WTF? Ok, I calmed down. I must have done something wrong. I Googled… Ah, there are two versions of the iPad app. One is for the UK and the other for the Global version. Quickly back to the iTunes Store to search:
BBC iPlayer global
Sorry, no results.
Eh? The penny dropped. The BBC Worldwide have deployed the global version to 11 countries in Europe. They each have their own Apple iTunes store and haven’t included it in the UK iTunes store.
Hmmm. I guess that means I have to go and navigate the German iTunes store then. Hmm. Shit it is in German. This internet thing seems to be very “local” these days. Fuck Apple. Oh well. Let’s get it from the German Apple store then.
It took a while to figure that out, but the link to the app in each store is different and based on a 2 letter ISO country code:
Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland
I managed to create a new account in the German iTunes store. I wasn’t allowed use my existing email address, because that was already used in the UK iTunes store. I used Gmail plus addressing on the same email address and that worked. I tried to use my UK Mastercard, which has the billing address here in Germany. Apple politely decline my card because it is a UK credit card. Up yours Apple. Fuckers.
Since when were credit cards not allowed to be used abroad? I don’t have a German credit card. One card is enough, and credit cards are supposed to be used globally. Up yours Apple. Fuckers.
I choose “Keine” (None) as a payment option and create the account anyway. Not sure how I am going to pay the subscription yet, but I’ll come to that later.
My iPad is setup to use my UK iTunes account. I need to switch it (Settings – Store – Logout – Login). I load the app into iTunes via my laptop and then try to sync the app. It kicks up a stink, but I finally manage to authorise the account (in iTunes) and then sync the app on to the iPad. Hurrah.
Now to subscribe to iPlayer Global. Hmmm. Not many options here. I don’t think my wife has a German credit card either. I’m certainly not giving Apple access to my bank account. ClickAndBuy are the final option. Google them. Sounds dodgy. Oh well, no other option. Up yours Apple. Fuckers.
Finally sign up with ClickAndBuy after a good 30 minutes of faffing on their sign up form. I laugh at their idiotic CAPTCHA and the multiple attempts to get me to sign up for their thinly disguised spam service a.k.a. our selected partners. I use the same previously Apple rejected UK Mastercard. Up yours Apple. Fuckers.
The whole process has now taken 3 hours. I’ve gone round and round in circles, but in the end I now have BBC iPlayer Global on my iPad.
Those of you that know me know I’m quite computer literate. I’m an IT consultant. I build web applications. I’m working currently on a bunch of web services for an iPad app integration. I know web apps, how they work and how developers think. My first experience of the BBC iPlayer Global has been a disaster. It has taken my entire evening and a lot of frustration. If I, as an IT professional, have this much trouble, then the Average Expat Joe is screwed.
In conclusion, the easy solution would be for BBC Worldwide to add the iPlayer Global to the UK iTunes store. I understand that they don’t want to create confusion and since the app logos are exactly the same, you could get UK residents downloading the wrong app. However, I hazard a guess that a large number of the first subscribers to iPlayer Global will be expats. Many of those expats will have maintained their UK bank accounts and their UK iTunes store account. Many of them don’t want to use their local iTunes store, for the same reason that they don’t want to watch local television – it’s not in English. Apple could help by allowing users to choose their language and stop assuming that country == language. Up yours Apple. Fuckers.
I’m deeply disappointed. I’ve waited 4 years. I’ve bought an iPad and ordered an Apple TV unit. I’ve jumped through hoops. I’ve refrained from switching to downloading content illegally. However, as it stands it would appear that if I want to watch the content I want to watch, I need to go here, here and here. Or do I need to wait another 4 years?
I know the heart of this isn’t really Apple’s fault, nor the BBC. The bottom line rests with the media licensors who still believe they can cling on to their local (national) business models. If they allowed Apple (or anyone else) to sell their content to anyone, regardless of where they resided and collect a fee then this shit wouldn’t happen. Apple wouldn’t have to prevent me from buying stuff. Apple wouldn’t force me to read stuff in German. Apple wouldn’t stop me using my perfectly valid credit card.
I now have two iTunes accounts. I now have a ClickandBuy account that I didn’t want. I’ve wasted valuable time and energy. I want Mark Smith and Jana Bennett to read this. I want them to add iPlayer Global to the UK iTunes store so I can cancel my German iTunes account and my ClickAndDie account pronto.
For those expats that are also struggling, you’ll need the following if you want to install the BBC iPlayer Global and you have a UK iTunes account:
- Create a new iTunes account in your region. Navigate the foreign language. Scream at Apple’s ignorance.
- Use a credit card that is tied to that region, or use a UK credit card with ClickAndBuy.
- Change your iPad to match the account region.
- Install the app.
Over and out. Up yours Apple. Fuckers.
FAO: @bbcwpress, @BBCiPlayerGLBL, @juliantelly, @tessamatchett, @taraconlan, @charlesarthur, @jasondeansy
This post was ready to be published two weeks ago, the night before Steve Jobs died. I held it back, I guess out of respect. Anyway, the post will out….