BBC is poised to shutter its download store only a year and a half after it was opened, after it failed to hit commercial targets under pressure from US streaming rivals.
Sources said the BBC Store, which allows viewers to buy digital copies of new and classic programmes such as Doctor Who, is being prepared for closure due to the rapid rise of subscription streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which also offer BBC programming.
A BBC source said: “The download market isn’t what it once was.”
The BBC Store, operation by the commercial arm BBC Worldwide, struggled to make a dent in the download-to-own market despite promotion via the corporation’s popular free catch-up service iPlayer.
Plans to abandon the venture come as BBC management, led by director-general Lord Tony Hall, seek cost savings across the broadcaster. Its finances are being squeezed by a deal with the Government to shift the £600m annual bill for free TV licences for pensioners from the Treasury to the BBC.
The planned closure of the BBC Store is likely to disappoint some TV fans. It made swathes of the BBC’s archives available to buy for the first time, including Dennis Potter teleplays and landmark interviews by Sir David Frost.
The BBC is developing alternative plans to commercialise its archive, however. Lord Hall has been closely involved with the development of BritBox, a subscription streaming joint venture with ITV that was launched in the United States in March. It is part of a broader push by the BBC to increase its commercial income.
The US launch was seen as a prelude to a potential UK launch, but according to industry sources the plans are on hold following the resignation of ITV chief executive Adam Crozier.
The BBC declined to comment