Is the iPad the future of media and publishing? Media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson think it is. As a result, they’re making big bets on the iPad.

Another big name apparently has a lot of faith in Apple’s tablet device too: the BBC. According to reports, it is planning to launch a version of iPlayer in the United States, and has chosen to roll it out on the iPad.

While there’s good reason to be skeptical about iPad-only publications, an iPad-only launch for the U.S. version of the BBC iPlayer shouldn’t be an impediment to success at all. If anything, it might even help the BBC.

That’s because unlike the Murdoch and Branson publications, the BBC is only starting with the iPad; the iPlayer will eventually be accessible elsewhere. By launching on the iPad, however, the BBC can not only focus on creating a compelling experience for a single device, it can capitalize on the iPad buzz to create a bigger splash in the U.S.

More importantly, unlike the Murdoch and Branson publications, there’s a huge amount of pent-up demand for a global iPlayer. BBC isn’t going to have to try very hard to convince consumers of the iPlayer’s value, and it doesn’t have to create a new market. There’s a large number of individuals waiting to purchase access to the iPlayer. The BBC simply hasn’t been able to accomodate them primarily due to licensing issues.

At the end of the day, the BBC is essentially following the Financial Times’ iPad play book. It already has valuable content that people are willing to pay for, and that’s not going to change when the content becomes available on the iPad. So long as the experience is up to par and the price is right, the iPad iPlayer will fly off the shelves and could be the start of an important new chapter for the BBC. A chapter that may start with the iPad, but doesn’t end with it. Indeed, as’s Robert Andrews notes, “it could unlock a future for the BBC in the online age as a significant global
online operator.

Photo credit: adactio via Flickr.