BBC iPlayer coming to more TV devices
With the new BBC iPlayer website launching on Monday after a four-month beta period, it was interesting to follow last week's debate on the future of the internet, sparked off by Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff's bold assertion that the web was dead. While this was more a reflection on the growth of apps, and how that's changing how we use the internet to deliver content online it certainly got people talking.
As Senior Business Development Manager for FM&T, my job is to develop technology partnerships that will get our products to as wide an audience as cost-effectively as possible. Whether you agree that the web is dead or not, there's no doubting the future of the internet as a platform to deliver content and services. Such partnerships help us make our BBC Online products available on multiple platforms and devices - through both browsers and apps.
The consumer electronics industry convenes at the IFA trade fair in Berlin today, and there will be a number of announcements (arising from my team's work these last few months) from some of our technology partners at the show.
Firstly, we've been working with laptop manufacturers to pre-install the BBC iPlayer desktop manager on their machines. For those of you who have not had a go during the beta period, it's a useful piece of software that makes offline viewing a lot easier through a client on your desktop. In addition, it gives you access to live TV, radio and pre-booking services. It helps us reach a bigger audience, and we can remotely update the service. Full functionality - such as social, subscriptions and favourites are expected to arrive next year. Sony have today announced that their next shipment of VAIO laptops, which arrive in the UK later this month, will have it. We hope to announce further partnerships very soon.
Secondly, there will be a few announcements from internet-connected TV manufacturers at IFA. Regular readers of this blog will recall a post from my colleague Morten Eidal announcing the arrival of the BBC iPlayer on the iPad. This was done by using the same technology that brought the product to the iCello, Samsung TVs, Sony Blu Ray, and a number of other internet-connected devices earlier this year.
Pretty much any modern internet-connected TV with a browser has the potential to view the big-screen BBC iPlayer site, so it's pretty straightforward to bring the product to these devices. It makes sense for us too, as it allows us to keep up with a fast-paced product innovation cycle (since the TV just points to the website) and to work with lots of manufacturers cost-effectively. We can also expect announcements at IFA from Toshiba, with others in the pipeline over the next few weeks.
To finish off, it's worth noting that the big-screen BBC iPlayer doesn't offer live streaming (and there's not much point, when all these TVs have DTT built in) and as such we can't yet converge live and on-demand viewing into one experience.
We are waiting to see what connected TV platforms like project canvas (in which the BBC is a shareholder), Apple TV, Sky, Virgin Media and others can offer in this regard. For a broadcaster, we have interesting times ahead in terms of how TV platforms will enable direct links from a live broadcast to web services, as we are offering today via the red button.
Converging broadcast and broadband-delivered content in one user-experience may be the next evolution in TV, but the market is still pretty exciting at the moment and it'll be interesting to see how consumers take to the increased choices they now have. It looks like in the next TV innovation cycle [12 months], the browser route might be best to scale web services in a TV environment, cost efficiently.
Charles Tigges is Senior Business Development Manager for FM&T.