New BBC iPlayer for TV
Gideon Summerfield demonstrates the new iPlayer on connected TVs in the BBC's Blue Room
Soon after we launched the BBC iPlayer website, we recognised an opportunity to bring the full richness of our on demand service directly to the TV, initially via the Web browsers that were being introduced on the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation3 games consoles. Believe it or not, it was nearly three years ago we first launched what we then called the “Big Screen” version of BBC iPlayer, adapting the website at the time to work on a TV screen.
Since then we have been working closely with the consumer electronics industry to get this product onto what is now a staggering 300 different models of TV device, including BluRay disc players; set-top boxes, media streamers and Smart TVs (what we used to call Connected TVs). With the popularity of connected TV devices soaring, the time is right to introduce a new version with a simpler, more TV-like experience.
You can tell, just by looking at it, that this is a TV product. We have returned to the BBC’s long TV design heritage to create a visually rich user interface that delivers a high impact from the sofa. Every piece of content and function can be easily reached using just the four direction and Enter keys found on any TV remote.
As well as eliminate the sort of complicated page navigation that often comes with services that originate on the Web, we have minimised other limitations of TV devices. One example is how we’re bundling up episodes of the same programme to cut down lists and avoid scrolling. We’ve also improved availability messaging. No longer will you waste time hunting for a programme which, for one reason or another, will not be coming to BBC iPlayer. We’ll flag up if content is expiring soon so you’ll never again have to miss a great BBC show.
Personalisation is a great tool to bring the most relevant nearer. If you’ve already started watching something, you’ll find it right there at the top level, under Last Played. We know searching is the preferred way to find content for many people and if you’ve successfully searched for something before you don’t need to type it in again: its there under Previous Searches. But even if you haven’t searched for a programme before, the process is now a lot more intuitive. Results start to pop up quickly, based on any part of the title, taking into account factors like popularity and typing errors.
We’ve also brought BBC iPlayer Favourites to the TV. Compiling a list of shows that you like best has proven popular on the PC and we think it will be appreciated even more on TV where getting around is that bit harder.
Wherever we can, we’ve tried to avoid the need to run the entire length of the browsing process, such as the ability to with just one click find related shows and access your Favourites while you’re watching something else. It’s the on-demand equivalent of channel flipping.
In addition to helping to make development easier we think building standard products on these two widely understood technologies will be able to address the majority of connected TV devices that we see our audience buying for their homes. This way we can bring this new more TV-like, easy and personal BBC iPlayer experience to the TVs of more and more of the UK’s living rooms.
Gideon Summerfield is the Executive Product Manager, BBC iPlayer TV.