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BBC iPlayer coming to more TV devices

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Charles Tigges | 16:10 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

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.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    What about returning BBC content to Windows Media Centre? It's an open platform, and would be a healthy compromise considering the absence from XBox 360. Sky Player does it both on Windows Media Centre and XBox 360, why can't you?

  • Comment number 2.

    "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."

    To clarify
    -- you're saying that each of those platforms used the HTML Big Screen web iPlayer?
    -- and all the planned future implementations on third-party technologies will also use Big Screen?

  • Comment number 3.

    I would also like to see the return of the Windows Media Centre iPlayer.

  • Comment number 4.

    Yeah force Apple to let you put iPlayer on Apple TV. It would be incredibly stupid of them to not let you, since iPlayer seems 95% of the reason to have an internet connected device in your TV room for any Licence Fee Payer.

    And anyway, paying £99 for it is pretty steep compared to the American price ($99), even taking into account VAT etc.

  • Comment number 5.

    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.

    Note that with this you actually mean:

    "Pretty much any modern internet-connected TV could watch BBC big-screen iPlayer, except we deliberately block access to it. Instead we require that each TV manufacturer individually contracts with us to add a layer of cryptographic authentication to the device, which may require extra development by the manufacturer and requires the manufacturer to send example devices to us for testing, before the big-screen iPlayer access will be enabled - for that manufacturer's device.

    Oh, and cause this process is far from cost-free for the BBC, we're only ever going to bother with large manufacturers, like Apple, Toshiba, etc."

    That's what you're calling straight-forward...

  • Comment number 6.

    With the recent announcement of the new AppleTV - are there any plans to get BBC iPlayer to stream to the little black hockey puck?

  • Comment number 7.

    > "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."

    An increased choice of products I do not own and cannot justify the cost of (already owing a TV, a console and a Blu-ray player) is no choice at all.

    I own an Xbox 360. This is perfectly capable of playing video media. I used to use it all the time until I got a dedicated video device (WDTV). It supports (and always has) overnight downloading for viewing later (essential when the internet goes choppy), DRM and timed expiry. So why would I want to spend money I don't have on a streaming-only solution?

    On a similar not, if I do save up for (for example) a PS3. Why, when it has a wopping great hard drive, would I want to stream and be at the whim of other network traffic when I can leave it downloading overnight or when I'm out at work?

    Needless to say, there are technically (and technologically) superior solutions out there. I'd just rather that the legitimate solution was the best method, and that the others paled in comparison.
    (After all, surely that's the way it ought to be...)

  • Comment number 8.

    > With the recent announcement of the new AppleTV - are there any plans to
    > get BBC iPlayer to stream to the little black hockey puck?

    There are Blu-ray players available for little more than the price of the AppleTV (if you shop around) which support iPlayer, Five, Lovefilm and other video services. There may also be products coming very soon with similar price and capability to AppleTV but with added iPlayer and other services in addition to having a movie store in the near future.

    Brand is not mentioned because I work for them so it may contravene the House Rules on advertising which is not my intent. I'm trying to provide useful on-topic information.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's a pity it doesn't seem to be coming to LG Freesat HD TVs though - after lots of missed deadlines LG are now sending customers Humax Freesat HD boxes instead. Which kind of defeats the point of buying a TV with an integrated tuner.
    Don't know how true what Paul Jakma wrote @5 above is, but it would be useful if the BBC was more transparent about how it works with manufacturers and what the requirements are.
    That way consumers could have more confidence about what they buy - and not be left with redundant kit after a few months.

  • Comment number 10.

    My Panasonic TV has an Internet connection and for a few hours Red Button had a option to show iPlayer. This worked wonderfully but now this facility appears to have dissappeared. Is this universal or a temporary hiccup before iPlayer is generally available on LAN connected tv's?

    I also watch downloaded content via media player and it is a shame that sometimes media player option is not available.

  • Comment number 11.

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

 

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