A Glimpse Of The Year To Come
C21 was an important opportunity to share some of the exciting things that we are working on across PC, TV and Mobile services with the industry, and now I'd like to give you a glimpse of what the BBC will be doing in the next year. Let's start with our web activities, because 2008 will see nothing less than the complete reinvention of them...
The first glimpse of what the future holds has been available in beta since before Christmas in the form of our new homepage.
It's a major departure from the existing page and the design is new and fresh. The overall user experience can be best summed up as easy to use, yet functional and powerful. Over the next couple of months, we will be constantly refining and improving the new homepage. We want to make it simple for our users to find what they want and we want to help those users discover much more of the BBC's content that is relevant to their lives. Richard Titus has blogged about it here and here.
Our goal is to roll out the new look and feel across all services. One of the first areas where you will see this happen is with aggregation pages. It's an internal name for a project that aims to bring the best BBC content on any given topic together on one dynamically generated page. In the first quarter of '08, we will ship the first 500 of these pages and they will cover topics as countries and people. Let's say you are interested in a country like Italy. The plan is that the aggregation page on Italy pulls all the latest and greatest information from databases across our news, TV and radio divisions to provide one coherent view.
Another area of major innovation will be the broad availability of audio and video in a coherent way across the entire site. Right now we are still supporting more than one hundred different rich media experiences. I think it's confusing for consumers to have pop-up windows with all sorts of technology and bandwidth choices. Instead, we are moving ahead with one embedded media player for all of the BBC's content. The first fruits of our labour can be seen on BBC iPlayer which now also offers streaming. BBC News is also getting ready to ship an embedded media player with other parts of the BBC following.
Let's talk a bit about BBC iPlayer... Anthony Rose's podcast for Backstage gives you some of the detail. The BBC iPlayer marketing launch went into full swing on Christmas Day. Initial public response has been very positive with one million visitors to the BBC iPlayer site.
From my perspective, it shows that consumers love the ability to watch/listen to our content on their terms. The good news is that our product development efforts are in full swing for the next set of releases. Before the end of January, you will see some performance/usability tweaks. Before the end of March, we will have a complete overhaul with lots of exciting new features. More on that when we get closer...
2008 will become the breakthrough year for the BBC's interactive audience-facing services. The biggest ticket item we are working on is a complete refresh of our backend infrastructure. This is fairly boring stuff for the average consumer - but without it, we cannot move things forward. We are engineering a platform that will enable us to provide the license fee payer great, useful services across all IP-connected devices. Central themes we're embracing include dynamic content publishing, identity, social capabilities, widgetisation and proliferation of audio and video all the way up to HD quality. There are many more topics to cover for our online services; next time, however, I will take about the importance of BBCi and BBC Mobile and explain a bit more about our thinking for the evolution of these services.
Finally, I wanted to address some stories that have been spread by a handful of individuals in the open source community. It is true that I worked at Microsoft for a long time and frankly speaking, I am proud of that. Right now, my loyalties are to the BBC and the BBC alone. I will only make decisions that are in the best interest of the licence fee payer. My actions will speak louder than my words...
Erik Huggers is Group Controller, Future Media & Technology.