BBC iPlayer Standard Products on TV Platforms
BBC iPlayer has been a success on television. Since we went live with BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media in June 2008, there have been more than 200 million programmes viewed. This accounts for more than a quarter of all iPlayer viewing today.
My colleague Kerstin Mogull has recently clarified how we plan to make BBC iPlayer available to audiences on other platforms and devices.
The BBC intends to develop and make available standard iPlayer products.
The standard products on TV platforms are:
1. MHEG-IC (MHEG-5 Interaction Channel).
MHEG-5 is a standard that has been used for developing and presenting interactive television in the UK for nearly a decade. Recently, the Digital Television Group supported by BBC R&D, has extended the standard to use the interaction channel for handling Internet video. This standard has been adopted by Freesat and incorporated into the DBook 6.1 used in Freeview HD devices. We have been developing BBC iPlayer using this standard. I expect to start a Beta deployment by the end of November using capable Freesat devices.
Creating a product that would work with minimal alterations in devices using HTML browsers has been a challenge. While most devices claim to use HTML4 -compliant browsers, we often find proprietary tags, plug-ins etc. Although there is increasing support of HTML5 work and its standardisation of audio and video interfaces, most devices have their own proprietary media players and interfaces. To maximise the availability of the BBC iPlayer to connected television and television devices, we have chosen to take the route of accepted standards mixing it with pragmatic use of APIs where necessary.
Caption: iPlayer on TV image from dantaylor on flickr
I am expecting a Beta release of this product in November. The Beta period will be used to validate and improve the above approach.
In addition to this, BBC iPlayer can be accessed by pointing to our Big Screen implementation at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/bigscreen. This can be used without changes.
We are seeing Internet technologies that deliver richness in presentation, such as Flash, being adapted for embedded devices. This has gone hand in hand with an increase in processing power in television devices. Flash is getting traction within the television industry. To exploit the presentation possibilities, we are planning to make a standard product available in Adobe Flash Lite 3.1. I expect the Beta to be ready in April 2010.
Our success with BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media, has shown that there is an appetite among our audience for BBC iPlayer on the television. I'm very excited to be working with other partners to bring that success to our audience on other platforms and devices.
This is a fast changing and evolving industry. Many of our assumptions will be challenged with time. We will keep coming back to the products and update them where appropriate.
If you believe your product can carry any of the standard products, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rahul Chakkara is Controller, TV Platforms, BBC FM&T