The BBC’s Director of Future Media & Technology Ashley Highfield discusses this month’s launch of the BBC iPlayer – a free catch-up service for UK licence-fee payer.
The platform has developed by the BBC’s Future Media & Technology division in partnership with Siemens and Red Bee Media.
“Your favourite programmes from all the BBC’s network TV channels will be available to download over the internet, and watch on your PC without advertising for up to a week after transmission” explains Highfield.
Responding to criticism that the service will at launch be limited to users of Windows XP he says his team “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.”
He adds: “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. It underpins our Creative Future strategy, to maintain the BBC’s relevance among all audiences in the digital age.”
The service has been in closed environment testing among some 15,000 people. It goes live to the general public in open Beta on 27 July, allowing the number of users to increase over the summer in a controlled manner, before a full marketing launch in the autumn.
Extra features are being planned including streaming on-demand (allowing users to watch a programme straight away), series stacking (which allows users to download episodes from selected series retrospectively) and the highly successful BBC Radio Player.
At launch, BBC iPlayer will include a display settings toolkit for the hard-of-vision and sign language for the hard-of-hearing; subtitles and audio description will be rolled out in the coming months.
BBC iPlayer, launches on Friday 27 July.