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Where next for the BBC iPlayer?

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Kerstin Mogull | 14:10 UK time, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Many of you may have seen Micro Men on BBC 4 (or on the BBC iPlayer) last week. It was an interesting reminder of the UK home computer boom of the early 1980s. Much has changed since then but I think there are some parallels to be drawn between the emerging UK microcomputing market then and the connected devices market of today.

In the 80s rival manufacturers were unconcerned with developing systems that could be used or operated reciprocally. Each hoped to emerge from a fragmented but rapidly growing market as the winner. It happened in computing, it's still happening in mobile, and it could well happen in connected TVs. This post is about how we deliver our video-on-demand service to a variety of platforms so that audiences can enjoy BBC content on them.

When we launched the BBC iPlayer in 2007, it was initially in Windows, but we wanted to make the service available on as many platforms and devices as was technically possible and economically sensible. It remains important that the platform strategy complements our content syndication policy. This means that, as well as taking the BBC iPlayer itself onto multiple platforms, we will continue to license BBC content to a range of third parties. This policy has worked well for the industry and for audiences.

The BBC iPlayer has now been rebuilt for more than 20 different platforms and devices, enabling Licence Fee payers to access BBC content in a way that is convenient to them and delivers public value. We now average 100 million streams a month and although most viewing is still via the web, already more than a quarter of views are through the connected pay-TV platform Virgin Media and just under 10% through the PS3. Increasingly users are also accessing iPlayer on mobile devices.

We hope to add more platforms before the end of this year, but to deliver a high-quality user experience we sometimes need to adapt the product ourselves, and the huge variation of standards in the market makes this an expensive and complex process.

The number of connected devices entering the market over the next few years is likely to accelerate. We'd like them all to be able to access iPlayer, and we'd encourage them to use our standard technologies to do so. However, for some that may not be possible. An ever increasing number of companies want us to build them a bespoke iPlayer; more than we can reasonably afford.

Today we've published new guidelines that outline how potential partners can syndicate our standard iPlayer product. They also lay out the scope for our investment in customisation and bespoke development for larger platforms.NB Editor's note - the text in the previous paragraph was inaccurate and we have now corrected. Apologies.

Today we've published a clarification on where the BBC believes the balance currently lies between generating public value and value for money considerations.

We hope this move will make life clearer for the industry, and easier for people to access and enjoy our content, whatever device they use and wherever they are.

(Update 21.12.09) In light of the Trust ruling on IPVision we have taken down the clarification published in October. The clarification will now be considered as part of the Trust's review of the BBC's on-demand syndication policy, which begins in January 2010. In the meantime, we continue to rely on our pre-existing policy until the Trust complete their review.

Kerstin Mogull is COO BBC FM&T


Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I've been using an unofficial iPlayer application for the Google Android platform for some time now, and it works really well.

  • Comment number 2.

    Perhaps we could have an update on the status of the Iplayer on the Nintendo Wii?? Owners of this device with the latest firmware cannot access Iplayer at all and are feeling a bit left in the dark.

    TIA

  • Comment number 3.

    When will you make the iplayer available for people outside of the UK? At the end of the day just because people in the UK are using it doesnt mean they are paying for the license fee....I find this a very archaic approach. I would happily pay up to 40-50 quid a year to be able to use it, and you even do some mild advertising on the international version of the bbc anyway so why not do that? Either way please please sort this out, you're missing out on a massive market.

  • Comment number 4.

    How about a plugin for Windows (7) Media Centre, or even something on freesat

  • Comment number 5.

    I too have been using the Android app (BeebPlayer) but the picture quality is not as good as the YouTube app or the TED video player. I don't know if this is down to the app not being an official BBC app but I would like to know if Google Android is one of the "too many" that you will not be producing an iPlayer for?

  • Comment number 6.

    I've also been using beebPlayer (I assume that was what #1 referred to) although annoyingly non-live radio is the one thing it can't do. According to the developer that is due to lack of appropriate feeds from the BBC.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have been using the BBC iPlayer plugin on XBMC from early 2008 onwards. It is very useful way of catching up on BBC in the lounge on the television rather than on the computer. Although having just upgraded to Sky+ this weekend, I feel I will be using iPlayer less. A Beeb endorsed script / plugin for the XBMC would be a great additional gem to add to the iPlayer armoury!

  • Comment number 8.

    DRM free, or at least no expiry date on lower definition output, please.

  • Comment number 9.

    despite working earlier in the day iplayer has taken to demanding i switch on java. despite reloading up dating and rechecking javascript (all ok) still demands i switch on java.

    as i cant find anywhere else to post this problem. suggest you redirect this.

  • Comment number 10.

    I used to use the Nintendo Wii browser to watch iPlayer on my TV, bus as already said in a previous comment this no longer works. Is there any update on the iPlayer app for Wii?

    This was one of the earliest iPlayer platforms to be announced, and we have seen nothing of it, just loads of Apple lovin'.

  • Comment number 11.

    Please disable the time limits for viewing content for Iplayer and remove DRM. Maybe allow people to buy the content.

  • Comment number 12.

    Also, I would like to know, seeing as most people's PC's graphics cards and monitors won't be running at 50hz, and if people are using an LCD, chances are they're running at 60hz, what does this mean for playback quality of BBC programmes via the iplayer, seeing as 50 doesn't go evenly into 60(hz)?

  • Comment number 13.

    With the Launch of Windows 7, surely we are overdue support for Media Center!

    A dedicated Media Center PC will not normally have a keyboard/mouse connected, just a remote control and will be connected to a TV. How frustrating that the 'native' platform for BBC TV (the TV) is not accessible as a supported platform in such a configuration.

    Windows 7 Media Center provides native support for Freeview (with Red Button) and Freesat (hence non-subscription access to BBC HD), which when coupled with its integration of Music, Photos, Video and DVD, makes this a great platform for the digital age. Unfortunately if it looks like a PC (keyboard/mouse) its acceptability in the main room is called into question.

    I know that it is possible to download iPlayer content in Media Player format - but that implies a second PC and a networked connection - and removes the 'on demand' appeal of the iPlayer

    Before the iPlayer was launched, the BBC had a Plugin that worked with the XP 2005 version of Media Center. I am sure many of us thought that it was only a matter or time before an updated module was released. With the iPlayer's second birthday approaching, how about a combined Christmas/Birthday present to return it to its rightful place - playing on a main room TV via Media Center!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Loving the direction guys, but I'd like to echo what a few others have said above: would LOVE a Windows 7 Media Center plugin. The unofficial plugins are okay, but I know you guys can easily do better!

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

 

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