BBC has announced the launch of iPlayer in the UK market. The iPlayer is an on-demand TV service that allows users to download BBC television programmes for free. The programmes, to be chosen for download within seven days of its broadcast, can be stored in the BBC iPlayer’s Library on the user’s computer for up to 30 days, after which the file will be automatically deleted. The player has been created and developed by BBC’s Future Media and Technology division in partnership with Siemens and Red Bee Media.
The BBC iPlayer will also feature television-style access services like subtitles, audio description and British sign language. Each solution has been designed to maintain the standards of BBC’s linear television services and is expected to match BBC’s TV access services commitments by 2008.
Ashley Highfield, Director, Future Media and Technology, noted, “BBC iPlayer is a free catch-up service for UK licence fee payers. Your favourite programmes from all the BBC’s network TV channels will be available for download over the Internet, and watch on your PC for up to a week after transmission."
Later this year, the service is expected to be more widely accessible across bbc.co.uk, as well as via links from YouTube, and a number of other potential distribution partners. Users will be able to watch promotional clips of programmes, and link back to BBC iPlayer. Moreover, BBC is in discussion with a wide range of potential distribution partners, including MSN, telegraph.co.uk, AOL, Tiscali, Yahoo!, MySpace, Blinkx and Bebo.
Presently, the BBC iPlayer is available only for Windows XP system users. “We are committed to making it as easy as possible to use BBC iPlayer. Developing a version for Apple Macs and Microsoft Vista is absolutely on our critical path. We’re also committed to making it available on the television screen, which is why we are delighted to be working with Virgin Media towards a launch on cable later this year. We are hopeful that other TV platforms will follow soon after,” added Highfield.
“Our vision is for BBC iPlayer to become a universal service available not just over the Internet, but also on cable and other TV platforms, and eventually on mobiles and smart handheld devices," observed Highfield.
Red Bee Media is responsible for content ingest, transcoding and quality control. It will also produce rich metadata tagged to each programme, enabling audiences to search for their favourite shows as well as discover new content. On the other hand, Siemens is responsible for the delivery technical infrastructure, for applying the digital rights licence, and for distributing media to end users via the peer-to-peer network.