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Rolling out 30 Day programme availability on BBC iPlayer

Dan Taylor-Watt

Director, Product & Systems, BBC Design & Engineering

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Consistently the most common response from users to the question ‘How could we improve BBC iPlayer?’ is ‘make programmes available for longer than 7 days’.

I’m delighted to announce that on Saturday morning we started doing just that, increasing the standard availability period for programmes on BBC iPlayer (and BBC iPlayer Radio) from 7 days to 30 days.

More opportunity to enjoy BBC programmes

Before the advent of BBC iPlayer, programmes would be broadcast once, with the possibility of one or more subsequent repeats. Following groundbreaking deals with suppliers, contributors and underlying rights holders, BBC iPlayer launched in 2007 with a standard 7 day availability period in which to enjoy your favourite BBC programmes.

In 2008, we introduced a ‘series catch-up’ option but we weren’t able to apply it to all series and in recent years more and more of you have been getting in touch to express your frustration when a series’ availability ends 7 days after the broadcast of its final episode.

The BBC has put in place arrangements with its rights-holder partners to pave the way for the introduction of 30 Day availability and following a top-to-bottom rebuild of the various systems which power BBC iPlayer (and which were only designed to support 7 days-worth of programming) we are now in a position to enable 30 Days for all new versions of BBC iPlayer.

Roll out

That means all computers, tablets and mobile devices accessing BBC iPlayer will get 30 Day availability, as will all connected TV devices which have been updated with the new version of BBC iPlayer, including Sky. Virgin Media TiVo, YouView and BT Vision boxes will all receive 30 Day availability when they are upgraded to the new version of BBC iPlayer, which we are working with those partners to achieve. More information on the roll out of the new BBC iPlayer on connected TVs can be found in this blog post by Marcus Parnwell.

At launch, 30 Day availability only applies to streaming but we will soon be rolling out 30 Day availability to downloads, giving you an extra 23 days in which to download and a clearer, more consistent idea of when your downloads will expire (30 days after broadcast).

We’ve also updated how we display the time you have left to watch a programme (above) so it counts down the number of days of remaining availability from 30 to 7 days, before reverting to exact days and times (e.g. ‘Expires tomorrow 10.59pm’) for the final 6 days of availability.

Exceptions

Whilst 30 days is now the default availability period for catch-up content, there will be some exceptions. We are able to offer some current affairs programmes (e.g Panorama, Question Time, HARDtalk, Click, Prime Minister’s Questions) for a full year and many of the programmes in the BBC Four Collections are available for longer. There will also be a small minority of programmes that have less than 30 days availability for legal or contractual reasons (e.g. Crimewatch, Match of the Day, news bulletins etc.)

More programmes to enjoy

Number of TV episodes available on BBC iPlayer by month

In addition to increasing the standard availability period to 30 days, we’ve also been working behind the scenes over the past year to increase the number of programmes made available via BBC iPlayer each month. The above chart illustrates the 84% uplift in available TV episodes we achieved between August and June this year.

We’ve got lots more improvements planned for BBC iPlayer over the coming months but for now I hope you enjoy the move from 7 to 30 days.

Dan Taylor-Watt is Head of BBC iPlayer, BBC Future Media

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