Lest we forget that the TV on-demand revolution began with the Betamax.
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The BBC finally took the wraps off its iPlayer, which will beta launch on 27 July. It’s a retrospective ‘catch-up’ service allowing users to browse through the last 7 days’ TV shows, as broadcast on the BBC’s linear TV channels, download these and keep them for up to 30 days (after which the DRM’d files ‘auto-destruct’) .
It enters the UK market as a time when other major broadcasters such as Channel 4 (4oD), ITV (ITV.com), Five (Five Download) and Sky (Sky Anytime) have already rolled out similar products — not to mention the online pushes from major US networks and new-breed content aggregators Joost, Babelgum, Jalipo and Veoh.
Judging by the BBC’s launch announcement, the first phase PC-only iPlayer is but a foretaste of things to come: syndication deals are to be put in place YouTube, MSN, Yahoo!, AOL, telegraph.co.uk, Blinkx, Bebo and Tiscali. There’s also a TV version in development, to be available first on the Virgin cable platform in the UK.
Other future developments include ‘series stacking’, whereby users can download multiple episodes from the same series to ‘binge’ on when they please; integration of the currently standalone BBC Radio Player; a/v streaming; versions for Mac and Vista users, plus mobile and portable devices; as well as accessibility toolkits for the vision and hearing-impaired (the latter perhaps a first from a major broadcaster?)
The BBC’s new media head Ashley Highfield predicts it’ll attract 1 million users within a year and will become the default way of accessing the BBC’s programmes on-demand. Jana Bennett, head of the BBC’s TV division, believes its promise will be most powerful of all by introducing users to new programmes, as well as familiar hits.
The service offers a staggering choice of up to 400 hours of TV programmes every week – all, true to the BBC’s public service ethos, without advertising.
Round-up of press comment:
iPlayer let viewers watch when they want, The Times (UK), 28 June 2007
BBC to let you download your favourite shows for free, Daily Mirror (UK), 28 June 2007.
BBC’s iPlayer to launch next month, Daily Telegraph (UK), 28 June 2007.
BBC iPlayer launch accelerated to July, PaidContent.org (US), 27 June 07.
BBC web downloads set to launch, BBC News (UK), 27 June 2007.
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Categories : BBC, BBC iPlayer, catch-up TV, online TV, online video, timeshifting, TV downloads