BBC iPlayer: New Mobile Website in beta
My new remit includes a lot of the products and services I worked on extensively in my old role running User Experience. One of the most exciting projects I collaborated on with Matthew Postgate (former Controller of Mobile, now Controller Research & Innovation) was the BBC iPlayer on mobile. We launched the 1st version of this on the iPhone back in June; the second version was on the Nokia N96 which launched on 1 October.
We have just launched a new portal for BBC iPlayer on mobile which includes live TV and radio alongside our catch up services. This work was done with design agency Fjord collaborating with our internal design and technology teams. The portal is initially available on the Samsung Omnia and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 with the Sony Ericsson C905 by the end of next week. We will be extending the portal out to other compatible devices in the coming weeks.
Jon Billings, Head of Technology for Mobile for the BBC and a member of my new management team has written the blog below.
Richard Titus is Future Media Controller, Audio and Music & Mobile, BBC Future Media & Technology
December Mobile BBC iPlayer update - our new browser service.
We have just released a new mobile BBC iPlayer website in Beta.
The existing iPhone site and Nokia application will continue and the new site will complement them by providing a platform to support a wider range of mobile phones. The URL is still going to be www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer and our system will figure out which device you are on and will redirect you accordingly.
The new site has a familiar look, but actually introduces a new navigation and a few new features. It is organised in three main tabs - 'Catchup', 'TV' and 'Radio'. Catchup is where all the on demand content from the last 7 days can be found with sections for: featured, most popular, by genre and by channel; which is similar to the existing offering. The TV and Radio tabs offer access to 'Live' BBC TV & Radio, with a simple 'now and next' view of all channels.
Initially the new site will only support a couple of additional handsets - the Samsung Omnia and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 but this will continue to grow with the Sony Ericsson C905 due next week and more in the coming months (stay tuned for details). The Samsung Omnia and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 are Windows Mobile based - but this is a coincidence!
These phones have been selected as they hit our requirements of Wi-Fi and 3G support with great browsing and media playback experience (i.e. the video and audio look and sound good), and its also great to broaden our platform support out to Windows Mobile smartphones as well as our first feature phone offering on the C905.
The new site is built on the BBC's new PHP based dynamic web publishing platform.
This gives us more flexibility with respect to customising content to specific devices and so should allow us to reach a broader range of phone platforms than we can with the system we use for the iPhone & Nokia N96 offerings.
Here are some more technical details.
The new site uses the existing simulcast audio and video encodings from the Live TV & Radio site launched in October, and will use the existing TV on-demand encodings produced for the Nokia N96 widget. This brings me to a temporary deficiency in the new offering - the existing radio on-demand encodings aren't compatible with the devices we're supporting in the new site. We're working on producing new Radio on-demand encodings and we'll be adding them in just as soon as we can.
This month we have also added a parental guidance and protection facility which works by setting a PIN code. This feature builds on the content labelling/tick box for over sixteen's capabilities which were already in place.
Lastly, a brief update on the Nokia application - we're adding support immediately for the Nokia N85 and we're looking at one or two more future Nokia devices too. Feature wise, it'll be largely as for the existing N96 offering, with a few minor additions. Of course we won't just be restricting ourselves to just one manufacturer's devices; we are very keen to roll out further BBC iPlayer applications and widgets with other partners and we will continue to keep you informed on our progress.
It's been a busy month already and we are only half way through!
Jon Billings is Head of Technology, Mobile, BBC Future Media & Technology.