@ FutureMedia: BBC 2008 – Sneak Previews, ‘Taking Video Seriously’, ‘Embracing Social Media’

The BBC is “actively pursuing” partnerships with more TV platform operators to carry its iPlayer service. Amongst a gamut of sneak previews and hints to the corporation’s 2008 online direction given at C21’s FutureMedia conference, BBC future media and technology controller Erik Huggers showed a demo of the Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) version of iPlayer, due to go live next year including “SMS-style” programme searching…

“The next step in the evolution is going to be iPlayer on television,” Huggers said. “2008 will be the year when we start to find out how programming is going to get in to the living room. We want to make sure that iPlayer becomes available on more platforms than just Virgin – we’re very interested in partnering with the industry.” Available programming will “dramatically increase” to 800 hours. Huggers also showed the advertising campaign the BBC will run for iPlayer on Christmas Day. This is another first preview…more after the jump…

Streaming: The BBC last night switched on the streaming channel of iPlayer. The service is primarily a downloadable application that allows viewers to download shows to their machines under certain DRM rules, but iPlayer is also publishing shows in web-embedded Flash version (here’s the delightful Nigella making Christmas food).

Radio: The online radio player, rebadged “iPlayer Radio” this week, is now streaming 16 million hours of programming per month, Huggers revealed. Seven million podcasts are being downloaded a month. “Those numbers are really really impressive”.

Mobile: Huggers admitted the corporation’s current mobile portal is “a fairly bland service, with just text” – but its traffic has grown 63 percent in the last six months to 2.5 million unique monthly users. Huggers: “One of the most exciting areas for us right now is mobile because, on mobile, we can reach audiences we’re not reaching.”

Redesign: The upcoming new-look bbc.co.uk (we’ve covered the leaks over the last week) should go live this week. “It puts a completely new face on the BBC – to drag and drop stuff around as you see fit – that may not be the newest thing on the block but, believe you me, for the BBC, this is a major step forward and this points to (our future direction).” Beyond just the homepage, deeper pages will be tagged with a variety of metadata that dynamically aggregate related pages to create, for example, “the defining Winston Churchill page on the web”.

Video:We’re going to take video and audio more seriously than we ever have (in 2008). When I arrived at the BBC six months ago, (the number of web video players) was higher than 180… they were all different in their look and feel – the buttons were in different places – it was all over the place.” So a brand new video player, first previewed inside iPlayer, will be gradually rolled out to bbc.co.uk pages over the next year.

Social future: The new player will include links to social bookmark sites and social networks like del.icio.us, Facebook and StumbleUpon. “One of the core principles we, as the BBC, are embracing is, ultimately, the user is going to become our number one distributor – users are going to find fantastic stuff, they’re going to play with it and share it. We think we will get a lot of traction in the marketplace because of syndication by the consumer. We’re starting to slowly embrace social media as a big phenomenon that we don’t think will go away any time soon.”