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BBC iPlayer: find programmes from other on demand services

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Paul Clark Paul Clark | 14:30 UK time, Thursday, 17 February 2011

BBC iPlayer scheduling widget showing ITV programmes

Today we are launching a new feature in BBC iPlayer that helps you find programmes from other broadcasters and on demand content providers.

Through metadata-sharing partnerships, you can now find programmes from ITV, Channel 4, S4C, Five, SeeSaw.com and new partner MSN Video Player, directly from the BBC iPlayer website.

Either by using the 'schedule widget' (see left), or the 'search' function (see below), you will be able to find other video on demand content, and link directly into the playback page of your chosen programme from one of our partners websites.

To do this, feeds are taken from our partners periodically that contain all their programme information, both scheduled and on demand to make the programmes findable through the BBC iPlayer interface.

Image left shows a Five schedule displayed via BBC iPlayer 'schedule widget

Image below shows Channel 4' "Shameless" displayed via BBC iPlayer search function

BBC iPlayer interlinking widget

When the content isn't available the programme title is greyed out and the words (not available) appear beneath the program information:

BBC iPlayer interlinking greyed out

It's been a while in the making, but this has been an extremely ambitious and technically complicated project. We wanted to get to a user-experience that feels intuitive and not "bolted on", even though the experience is as much reliant on the data feeds from our partners as our own engineering.

We've worked hard with our partners to make sure that we're getting the right data and images for programmes when available, however you may find from time to time there's no images (see image below). We've also updated our FAQ section to include Partner Linking, click here for more information.

BBC iplayer interlinking welsh programme

The occasional lack of images is down to technical limitations and we're working with all partners to rectify this as soon as we can. We really pleased to have six partners for launch but inclusion into this programme is not limited. Any provider of UK on demand content that holds rights to video that has previously been broadcast on an OFCOM regulated channel can apply to become a BBC iPlayer partner and have their content added, so we hope to see more partners programmes appear in BBC iPlayer over time.

More broadly, we think BBC Online should serve as a hub to support other UK sites and want to double the traffic we send externally. Already the BBC News product is one of the top 5 sites driving referrals to UK newspapers, adding value to the UK online economy and our audiences: this partnership is a good example of how the BBC iPlayer can follow in those footsteps.

Given the popularity of BBC iPlayer, we hope this feature will support fellow broadcasters and boost the overall uptake of video on demand.

Most importantly, by helping audiences uncover great digital services that exist elsewhere on the web, we believe we're performing an important public service.

As always I'd welcome your feedback.

Paul Clark is Head of Audience-Facing Services, Programmes and On Demand, BBC Future Media and Technology

N.B. Clarification 3.50 p.m.: Channel 4 are currently not in the new BBC iPlayer schedule widget but will be soon (due to technical issues which are being addressed). However C4 are an On Demand Partner, and C4 programmes can be searched for in iPlayer. For example, here are search results for Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, and Hollyoaks.


  • Comment number 1.

    Sounds like a great new feature for iplayer, and useful for viewers.

    I'm intrigued by "through metadata-sharing partnerships"; would it be possible for the metadata-sharing partners to also publish their feeds in public somewhere, so that other aggregators and apps can drive viewers towards the advertised content?

    Are there technical or metadata rights problems with doing so? Is any of this metadata available for re-use elsewhere?

  • Comment number 2.

    Is this meta data be available to developers?

  • Comment number 3.

    Great idea! And well implemented.

  • Comment number 4.

    You include Channel 4 as one of the sources available. However Channel 4 programmes are not listed on iPlayer. Your own picture of the widget above does not include Channel 4!

    Why is this?

  • Comment number 5.

    Squirrel - see clarification at the bottom of the post.


  • Comment number 6.

    Hi, the new integration is great guys. My question: I use the Most Popular panel a lot. Will episodes from other broadcasters appear in here based on the clickthrough traffic? If not, I think they should, or at least as a toggle between BBC Content and All Content.

  • Comment number 7.

    when searching on BBC iPlayer for Misfits, it lists episodes from season 1 only, https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search?q=misfits, whereas on 4od itself, it offers episodes from both season 1 and season 2, https://www.channel4.com/programmes/misfits/4od

    why is this?

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm surprised you've got away with launching with Channel 5's out-of-date branding ;-) They're not "FIVE" any more, and their logo has changed!

  • Comment number 9.

    This is brilliant. It seems to work seamlessly, great work.

    +1 for opening data for developers

  • Comment number 10.

    dont think stv with be happy seeing content from itv on here

  • Comment number 11.

    Works well - this will be useful! I personally find ITV's website too difficult to navigate, so to find the programme in iPlayer and then click straight through to it on ITV's website will make things easier.

  • Comment number 12.

    I was thinking the other day how great an aggregation of on-demand video serices would be. Good job.

    Looking forward to these "metadata-sharing partnerships" being opened up to other developers. Services like www.tvcatchup.com are great for streaming live tv and it would be interesting to see what impartial developers like that can do for on-demand services.

  • Comment number 13.

    Is this available on the Freesat iPlayer? With so many versions of iPlayer and Red Button, it would be useful if it was always made clear which platforms a new development related to. Better still, it would be wonderful if there wasn't a difference.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sadly this doesn't solve the big problem with msn Video specifically, in that it does not highlight newly added content.

    Also will Sky Player content be supported in the future, despite the understandable rivalry there is between the BBC and Sky?

  • Comment number 15.

    I really like this idea, just gave it a try and found it works well... pity there seems to be no or next to no shows available on the ITV channels, more their problem than anyone else's. Good work BBC :)

  • Comment number 16.

    Will this be available on the iplayer app or is it only on the web version?

  • Comment number 17.

    Brilliant stuff! Very exciting to see this off the ground, and to be part of it. It's been our experience that there are strong benefits for everyone involved in content aggregation projects. I wrote more here: https://bit.ly/gGGfdN

  • Comment number 18.

    I would love to see STV player also linked to this service

  • Comment number 19.

    The beauty of the iplayer is that you can DOWNLOAD most BBC content for those of with poor streaming bandwith (especially now you can download using windows and other apps),BUT it doesn't appear that this great function will apply to the other providers as all you are really doing is linking in to their sites- why is creating a link special, technical (or any more useful than a bookmark?). Why can't we use the iplayers download functionality to include these programmes?. Please?

  • Comment number 20.

    Great to be able to search for programmes on all channels on one site! Was just wishing for such a site to exist when low and behold you have done it!

  • Comment number 21.

    Great step, One question however, the old IPLAYER was translated into Welsh and Gaelic this new version has however not been, with the inclusion of S4/C's programmes on this service furthermore it would make sense to create a Welsh version of the new Iplayer aptly, and clearly portraying the language option rather than hiding it at the bottom as before?. Any talks on this? Would be able to offer support and if anyone could get back to me on this I would be ever so greatful. Diolch

  • Comment number 22.

    This new thingy might be a good idea if the iPlayer worked properly. A few months ago it was freezing on every TV prog I opened. Now it's not SO bad, but today I had to shut down and restart the computer 4 times to listen to a half hour of "Ballylennon".
    10 minutes ago watching the film "Born romantic", the screen froze while the audio marched on. This time I got out of it with the Device Manager and didn't have to shut down the comp. Has no one else had these problems and is there a solution?

  • Comment number 23.

    Will we be able to watch programs from other providers on iPlayer? Or is it just there to show what's on...

  • Comment number 24.

    23. At 00:00am on 18th Feb 2011, ScholesyBoy wrote:

    Will we be able to watch programs from other providers on iPlayer? Or is it just there to show what's on...

    The iPlayer Desktop interface is so much better than those of channels 4 and 5, both of which I stream video from on a regular basis, my question is much the same as ScholesyBoy's, it would be great to be able to watch their programmes on the Desktop instead of their own fiddly players. I accept that we'd still have to suffer the advertisements, that is, after all, how they fund their work.

  • Comment number 25.

    19 KELJACKI - I would imagine that the other broadcasters don`t want BBC downloading their programmes or that downloading other broadcasters programmes would clog up iPlayer. Of course there`s also the possibility that they work on different systems. These are just possible ideas on my part. I haven`t used this yet as I`ve only just found it, its a bit late to start watching but if it works I welcome it. I very rarely watch other broadcasters apart from BBC & Ch4, 4oD`s system isn`t good because they don`t list their different channels separately so I`d welcome a system that shows them - if it`s possible.

  • Comment number 26.

    This is a brilliant idea. But - I don't seem to be able to access the new channels from my Panasonic tv. Is this just a web thing at the moment? What about the iphone and android apps?

  • Comment number 27.

    Future extensions please for BBC iPlayer.

    1. Can we have the Parliament TV video and audio live streaming and archive links included please. I cannot see BSykyB objecting.

    2. Would it be possible to include links for the public service broadcast oriented video streams and archives for the United States Congress, that are not easy to negotiate. In contrast to the UK Parliament TV web site, which is easy enough.
    During the banking crisis, hearings of the US Financial Services Committee was relevant to almost everything that was happening in UK financial institutions and banks.

  • Comment number 28.

    Why when I do a search on the Android iplayer app for a particular tv programme that I do not find it listed. But when I use the iplayer web site I find it.
    Why the difference BBC? Is some content being restricted from the Android platform?

  • Comment number 29.

    Will it enable us to access S4C (and other non-BBC channels) via BBC Iplayer on iphone and Wii? Diolch.

  • Comment number 30.

    This is great news for the BBC iPlayer and I will use it as it does exactly the same job of teev.co.uk which is also a great content aggregation service. However the developer for teev has now decided to close down his service as the BBC is basically duplicating the same thing, his website teev.co.uk was linking though to BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand Five and MSN Video Player content.

  • Comment number 31.

    What does Murdoch think?

  • Comment number 32.

    Just seen this. To be honest, it's about time!

    However, to avoid any possible trouble, you might want to check on the listings... paticularly 'Fiver' Friday 18th @ 11pm: Sex & The City.... must have slipped through...

    Due to it's nature,I can't type it here, or you'll ban be...

  • Comment number 33.

    Hi there, does this extension of content also filter onto the PS3 iPlayer?

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi, will the new ITV/channel 5 etc channels be available for the bbc iplayer app for the ipad?

  • Comment number 35.

    You seem to have left out one important partner in this project, at least as far as I am concerned and that is BT. Oh how we are dependant on this organisation to deliver all this wonderful extra content to our computers and TVs! Unfortunately the reality for many of us not in major cities and dependant on old local exchanges is that we are lucky to get a basic service let alone high quality steaming to our fireside. Lets admit it the basic quality of streaming to your TV via freesat is not worth the candle anyway but the higher quality option which requires at least 1.7mbps is excellent - when you can use it! Streaming from my local exchange delivers anywhere between 1.2 and 1.7mbps. Recently it's been as low as 900kbps. To use BBC iPlayer on this system is a bit of a lottery. Last night for instance I watched a programme for 50 minutes at the higher quality only to see the streaming speed drop to 1.2kbps and the picture and sound continue in 3 second bursts! Needless to say I gave up and never saw the ending.
    So, as well as developing other partners for content, can you please engage with BT to put some pressure on them to upgrade their rural networks. It's not as though I live in the Outer Hebrides; I'm just 6 miles from Bath. Come to think of it, they probabaly get a better service in Stornaway.

  • Comment number 36.

    I tried playing out Take Me Out from ITV via the iPlayer catalogue - ITV Player started, gave me the ITV Player ident - but then wouldn't play anything else. I can play anything by the Beeb cleanly though.

    I run Ubuntu 10.04 with all security updates, latest version of Flash in the repos, Firefox 3.6.13, Adblock Plus; Noscript is disabled on the BBC site - may not be in the ITV site.

    I remember having to whitelist certain settings in Noscript to use Seesaw cleanly - do I need to do the same for ITV content?

  • Comment number 37.

    There could be issues with MSN Video Player for us running Linux - is there any way the Beeb could talk with them and see if they could be permitted ot play out basic H264 streams via the iPlayer app? Thus enabling us to see their content?

    Would be easier with the others as well...

  • Comment number 38.

    Hi, is there any news about a BBC iPlayer for Australian fans?

  • Comment number 39.

    Thanks for the comments on this. Looking through there's a few recurring themes that I thought I'd try and answer:

    1. Can I get to partner metadata in an open way?

    The BBC has created a metadata specification based on ATOM/mRSS that we're using with our partners to share data, however for contractual reasons, we’re unable to publish these publicly as the data belongs to our partners and is not ours to publish.

    2. Will partner data appear in other parts of iPlayer/BBC online?

    First thing first, we need to wait and see how the new feature beds down on the web version of BBC iPlayer. It could be that it makes sense to roll it out to other areas of BBC Online, but at this point we’re just focusing on the web version first, before making any other decisions.

    3. What other platforms will this appear on (iPad, Freesat, PS3 etc)

    Currently Partner Linking is only available on the PC browser version of BBC iPlayer, as we said above, we want to wait and see how it performs before rolling it out further. We will consider adding Partner Linking for BBC iPlayer on mobile/connected devices as our partners make more of their content available on other platforms however, it will all depend on if it makes sense to from an audience perspective, as the experience on the web is very different to an experience on a mobile device.

    4. Will the BBC make other partner's video available via BBC player?

    No. The BBC will only provide sign posting to partner videos rather than the partner videos themselves.

    I hope that helps answer some of your questions.

    Regards, Paul

  • Comment number 40.

    Why can't I download anymore?

  • Comment number 41.

    Really good idea as much as I like some of the stuff on ITV - the video quality is nowhere near the iPlayer. As one other contributor said though pity not many progs available. Well done.

  • Comment number 42.

    Thanks for listening and ensuring that the new Iplayer is also avaialbe in Welsh and Gaelic. However with the language option being at the bottom of the screen this makes it rather hard for people to know wether they can receive the Iplayer in their respective language, I would suggest displaying the language option on the top left/right of the screen to make it far more visible :)

  • Comment number 43.

    Thank you BBC! This will make my viewing so much easier!
    Also, as ITV has been included, will STV and UTV be included in this (as regional ITV licensees, but not part of ITV itself?) - Local programming IS sometimes worth showing to the nation as a whole

  • Comment number 44.

    Also, Adam; Regional languages (Welsh/Gaelic) are important to the people in those regions, but I don't believe it would be in the general interest for those options to have pride-of-place as English is our National Language, which every citizen of the UK should be able to speak.

  • Comment number 45.

    Well done BBC iplayer and a big thank you to all the 'techno geeks' who have worked hard to made this happen..... no longer do I have to search through various sites as everything is on just one.... :) Thank you

  • Comment number 46.

    Great stuff, thanks. What about a button / link to suggest programs: "If you enjoyed that, why not try this ..." - I don't watch ITV or Ch4 or 5 so I don't know which programs to search for or what are dramas or comedies - this would help a lot!
    Thanks, Paul

  • Comment number 47.

    Being the most popular UK on demand television service, would there be a way for Iplayer to fully incorporate other services' content? For their programs to be played in Iplayer rather than linked to. A sort of collaboration of televisual content.

  • Comment number 48.

    I access iplayer through my Samsung TV.
    The iplayer GUI is diferent to that available via a computer.
    None of the above new content is available and also sadly no local radio is available via this medium (known as @internet)
    Hoping this will all be implemented soon??

  • Comment number 49.

    I can't see the point of all the content only being available just on the web. For instance, to 'catch-up' on the Tudors, I can only do this on-line, not via my Freesat box. I want to catch-up on my TV, not sit in front of the computer to watch TV! If content is restricted it makes a nonsense of the service. I can plug my laptop into my TV and watch that way, but that is a pain. I could spend more money on an internet enabled TV, but can't afford to. As I have paid my licence fee, why can't I get iPlayer in full through everything that can show it?

  • Comment number 50.

    Er, did I miss something, or is there really hardly any content available from the other channels?

  • Comment number 51.

    Wow this is great start...

    What would be great is to be able to add the programmes from the other channels into my favourites. So I get told when new programmes become available rather than keep having to search.

    Also whay not include content from other providers into the categories views, ITV player in particular has no categories feature which makes their site hard to use.

    Minor issue.. when searching "content from other providers" doesn't appear in search hints, which would be nice if it did (or at least if I had the option to include it)

    Iplayer by the way is far and above the best ondemand TV site, both in terms of content picture quality, usability and general experience.
    I think you're very close to having me never have to go any where else than iplayer.

    It would be nice to think there is a way long term to play the other stuff in iplayer interface too and.. ohhhh ... iplayer desktop!!! (i'm salivating!)
    Although this sounds like it's technically beyond the scope of your current work and the other stuff is more important anyway!

  • Comment number 52.

    well, if only itv player wasnt so useless it would be great

  • Comment number 53.

    ITV iplayer is utterly predictable. BBC across the channels is amazing. Absolutely every taste catered for from high class drama to nature and travel and loads in between. And yes I agree with Mike G, it would be great to 'add to' on our favourites facility from other channels, but who knows, that could happen any day.

    Well done BBC, at least when I've stuffed myself on BBC programmes and need another fix I can quickly take a peek at other channels.

    Thank you BBC.

    BBC iplayer has enhanced

  • Comment number 54.

    This is a brilliant facility but isn't yet available on iPlayer through Freesat. Will that come about in due course?

  • Comment number 55.

    When/How can other content creators get access to this?

  • Comment number 56.

    Would be really great if this was extended in to the sony Bravia internet TV feature. Looks tops! Well done.

  • Comment number 57.

    Perhaps before adding new features, you should sort out the delivery of your own content first.

    Shows are haphazardly made available for download - for example, HD versions of Top Gear.
    Some weeks you can download them on a Sunday evening, just after they're first broadcast, same as the standard definition copies. Some weeks you have to wait until after it's broadcast again later in the week, unlike the standard definition copies. And some weeks they never seem to appear.

    Whilst the prospect of being able to watch other channels' shows through the iPlayer framework is certainly much more appealing than having to use their own sub-par services, if actually being able to access the shows in question is going to be just as problematic (most likely more problematic due to additional leagl complications etc), I for one am almost tempted to say don't bother.


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