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The ABC empire-builder - Ms Guthrie's global ambitions, funded by you.

Michelle Guthrie to take ABC iView global

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie.
ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie.

ABC iView is set to go global this year, under plans championed by ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie, who has ambitions for the service to be available as widely as Netflix, which has 109 million customers globally.

The national broadcaster’s plan to recreate a version of the catch-up service for viewers in other countries is well under way, but global copyright issues are yet to be entirely resolved.

Ms Guthrie has set a timetable for a launch this year.

The ABC has declined to comment on the plan to internationalise the service, which launched in 2008, but plans to keep it secret were thrown into disarray when Ms Guthrie talked about them at a media conference.

“The intention is not to have a separate international product, the intention is the internationalise all the products that we have,” Ms Guthrie said. “In the same way Netflix is global, why aren’t we global? That doesn’t mean it will be 100 per cent of the same content. We actually have a lot more rights than we currently exploit.”

Ms Guthrie told the Screen Forever conference in Melbourne at the end of last year that the plan was customer driven. ABC viewers often asked her why they could not access iView overseas.

But the idea fits with her ambitions to internationalise the ABC and push its content out all over the internet. She has been known to quote the statistic that 93 per cent of traffic to the ABC science site comes from overseas.

It is likely that viewers will need to register with the ABC and log in to access the global version of the streaming service. The question of advertising has not been addressed. An ABC spokesman declined to comment.

“I truly believe this is the ABC’s moment,” Ms Guthrie said in previously unreported remarks. “I want the ABC to be as relevant and valued to my children and their children throughout their lives, not just at a point in time, as it has been for me,” she said in a kind of mission statement, before sketching out her iView plans.

But the ABC needs to insure that such a concept is not behind the times. The BBC closed its global iPlayer service in 2015, in favour of making more content available on BBC.com.

The BBC ran into the problem that the digital subscription service in Australian, Canada and Europe threatened its content deals with local pay-TV channels, such as BBC America in the US, and BBC First in Australia.

But the ABC has no such channels after funding for Australian Plus TV service in the Asia-Pacific on a mix of cable, satellite and streaming channels, replaced the Australia Network in 2014.