BBC Embraces Booming IPTV Use Of iPlayer

The BBC is tweaking its iPlayer to cater to booming IPTV consumption, whilst offering concessions to TV platforms left disappointed by its refusal to syndicate VOD.

The corporation is redesigning the HTML Big Screen iPlayer (a one-size-fits-all version that is deployed on nearly 300 web-enabled devices, notably Playstation and internet-enabled TVs) to add favourites, personsalisation and predictive search typing.

In the last six months, there has been a fivefold jump in the number of requests of iPlayer on TV, as consumers began buying internet-enabled TVs, BBC on-demand GM Daniel Danker tells paidContent.

“If we sustain this pace, by 2015, half of iPlayer consumption could be on TV; which isn’t where we traditionally think of iPlayer, but is its most natural habitat.”

But, as iPlayer moves from PC to TV as a branded service, platforms like BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) and FetchTV would rather carry individual BBC programmes in their own EPGs, just as they do with live programming – something BBC syndication guidelines forbids.

Virgin Media’s new TiVo (NSDQ: TIVO) box is amongst those now forced to carry the badged Big Screen iPlayer in an “apps” section, separate from all Virgin’s other VOD, even though its previous V+ box had closely integrated BBC catch-up shows. All broadcasters are doing the same. Connected TVs are increasingly shipping with iPlayer, ITV (LSE: ITV) Player, 4oD, Demand Five and, perhaps soon, Sky Player, resulting in VOD becoming siloed.

“This is a strange moment in time that I hope will be very, very short-lived,” Danker tells paidContent. “We are offering any provider our full metadata for everything we have in iPlayer.” That means the likes of Virgin, Fetch and BT (NYSE: BT) Vision will be free to include BBC catch-up prompts in their own EPG, but clicks will deep-link out to the individual programme on Big Screen iPlayer.

It means box operators can own the initial discovery experience but the BBC will retain the subsequent viewing experience. Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) is currently working with this metadata to improve its TiVo, Danker says.

Separately, iPlayer’s iPad app has been downloaded one million times since launch six months ago. That’s from nearly all the estimated 1.5 million iPads in the UK. It generated three million programme requests

“Clearly, it’s taken hold,” Danker said, noting how tablet consumption differs: “Peak time on iPlayer is normally 11pm – on iPad, it’s closer to what we have on linear; people are using it closer to linear television.”

Priorities are to make iPlayer as easy to use as TV, to go beyond catch-up and to introduce more archive programme, Danker says.