BBC Gets iPlayer Bundled On More TVs, Laptops

At the IFA home electronics event in Berlin, the BBC is announcing that it’s signed deals to widen platform carriage for its iPlayer VOD catch-up service.

— Sony (NYSE: SNE) will ship new computers in its VAIO range with the Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) AIR desktop iPlayer version already installed.

— And several manufacturers of internet-connectable TVs, including Toshiba, will announce they will also carry iPlayer on the sets.

BBC future media and technology’s senior business development exec Charles Tigges hinted at the announcements on the eve of IFA.

The BBC may be embracing connected-TVs, but it’s approaching many of them with a web-centric, one-sized-fits-all approach

On most such TVs – including on the iCello box, Samsung Internet@TV and Sony Internet TV – the iPlayer implementation is merely the same Big-Screen iPlayer accessible on the Wii, PS3 or any web browser.

“Pretty much any modern internet-connected TV with a browser has the potential to view the big-screen BBC iPlayer site, so it’s pretty straightforward to bring the product to these devices,” Tigges writes. “It makes sense for us too, as it allows us to keep up with a fast-paced product innovation cycle (since the TV just points to the website) and to work with lots of manufacturers cost-effectively.”

But this method means electronics makers won’t get to integrate iPlayer programme data in to their TVs’ own electronic programme guides (EPG).

That’s something FetchTV owner IP Vision had fought unsuccessfully for – the BBC Trust has backed new BBC syndication guidelines in which it refuses to syndicate individual programmes and in which it places stringent conditions on exactly when it will build non-web-dependent versions of iPlayer for TV companies.

A rare exception, Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) already has an iPlayer custom build and no web browser on its box. “Some legacy platforms or proprietary systems may require bespoke builds,” a BBC spokesperson tells us.

But god help anyone considering how iPlayer might get carried on the next generation of bigger-name pay-TV boxes. Tigges writes: “We are waiting to see what connected TV platforms like project canvas (in which the BBC is a shareholder), Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) TV, Sky, Virgin Media and others can offer in this regard” (emphasis mine)…

Sky will launch its VOD service Sky Anytime+ over internet this autumn but will focus on TV experience rather than web connections, and Virgin Media is planning a new box system using TiVo (NSDQ: TIVO) technology…

What’s fairly clear is that even the new Apple TV does not have a web browser; so, while the BBC sticks to HTML standards to keep costs down, this is yet another occasion when shows from Britain’s top broadcaster will likely not get to feature on Steve Jobs’ “hobby” box.

We would expect that BBC-led Canvas, however, would list iPlayer shows in its own EPG.