BBC Worldwide is launching its global iPlayer service today, via an iPad app that will be made available in 11 countries in Western Europe. The US, Canada and Australia will follow later this year, as part of what is intended to be a one-year pilot.

The service will offer a limited amount of content for free, supported by pre-roll ads and sponsorship, but its core business model is subscription, with users paying €6.99 a month or €49.99 a year. The 11 launch countries are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

The global iPlayer app includes some features that are not in the UK version, including the ability to stream shows over 3G as well as Wi-Fi, and a downloading feature to store programmes on the iPad for offline viewing.

"We think we have a load of unmet demand for BBC and British content internationally," said managing director Luke Bradley-Jones in an interview with Apps Blog.

"This is not a catch-up service: this is a video-on-demand service. We will have content from the last month, but also the best from the catalogue stretching back 50 to 60 years."

Users will be able to search for specific shows or browse genres including comedy and drama, but BBC Worldwide has also hired a team of editors to curate the international iPlayer.

Their focus will be on pulling together themed collections around specific shows or special events. An example of the former is Doctor Who, which is getting separate collections of episodes based on individual Doctors - The Tennant Years, The Ecclestone Years and so on - as well as one focused purely on episodes featuring the Daleks.

"There is at least 1,500 hours of content there from day one, and it will be growing by at least 100 hours a month going forward," said Mark Smith, launch director, global iPlayer at BBC Worldwide.

"Most audiences know the big shows like Top Gear or Doctor Who, but maybe not so much about other shows, so we have been working hard on how we surface that content."

At launch, the 11 countries will be seeing the same iPlayer homepage and collections, but over time, there will be scope for the global iPlayer team to flag up different content based on local demand.

At launch, 60% of the global iPlayer content has been produced and commissioned by the BBC, while 30% has been commissioned by the BBC but produced by independents. The other 10% is entirely non-BBC content, including ITV's Primeval, and Channel 4's The Naked Chef and Misfits.

How will the global iPlayer's content fit in with windows for broadcast and DVD? BBC content will generally transmit first on terrestrial channels in the 11 countries, before appearing on the iPlayer.

Once shows are added, they will generally stay available for the long-term, although "a handful of top brands" will receive different treatment to take into account DVD releases or specific terrestrial scheduling initiatives.