“Currently, BBC iPlayer serves video streams at 500Kbps using the VP6 compression codec, a proprietary system developed by On2 which was selected in 2005 as Macromedia’s preferred codec for video playback by Flash because of its ability to perform well at low bitrates and on older computers.
The BBC’s iPlayer service is setting the bar for an online television destination, with US broadcasters now looking to take a leaf from the BBC’s book. In Europe, Italy’s RAI and Germany’s RTL are looking to replicate the BBC’s service in their own home markets, Business Week reports.
iPlayer lets UK users access full-length streaming footage of BBC shows from the last seven days on demand. Windows users can also download shows for offline viewing, though these are protected by technology which means the downloads stop working after a set period. The BBC offer is so tempting – and, given recent updates to the service, so increasingly slick, the broadcaster now attracts in the region of 2.2 million pairs of eyeballs to its iPlayer service every month. The BBC says more than 60% of its viewers are 35 or older—and they stay online for almost 30 minutes per session.
Bobby Tulsiani, a JupiterResearch analyst said: “From day one, the BBC’s iPlayer started with the right experience,” he says. There’s increasing tension between the BBC and the ISP’s, who complain the service is impacting their networks because it uses up so much bandwidth. ISPs want content providers to contribute to ramping-up infrastructure, content providers, naturally, argue that content is what convinces people to sign-up an ISP in the first place. While analysts predict that partnerships will be forged between content providers and ISPs, we at Distorted Loop believe that ownership of the network will emerge as the next great battle ground for the content industries. We anticipate some movements in which some content providers will buy ISPs, Virgin Media in the UK could be considered an early example of the content/infrastructure combo. We’ll see.
The BBC will introduce an all-new version of its iPlayer catch-up TV service online tomorrow, calling this iPlayer beta 2.0. The new service will offer all the existing features of the increasingly popular catch-up television service, but adds a variety of useful widgets, including RSS feeds, and a new More Like This widget at the bottom of the page.
iPlayer also offers much-improved video performance – 640 pixels wide, up from the previous 512 pixels – a 25% size increase. BBC has also combined radio and television within the service, and also introduced a range of personalisation features for users. For example, iPlayer will remember which shows a user has recently played, so when new episodes of those programmes become available they’ll automatically show up in the Last Played widget.
“One of our most common feature requests is for an indication of whether a given programme is scheduled to appear in iPlayer or not,” the BBC reveals. iPlayer 2.0 will offer a full schedule view showing all programmes that were on TV and radio, with an indication of which are available for viewing in iPlayer now, which are coming soon, and which (usually for content licensing reasons) are not scheduled for iPlayer.
For users hoping to use iPlayer to catch up on last night’s TV the BBC has introduced a dedicated widget for that purpose on its homepage.
Anthony Rose, Head of Digital Media Technology, BBC Future Media and Technology, added: “iPlayer gets five million page views per day now, which the BBC thinks will double when it adds radio, and then double again over the next few months.”
There have been over 100 million requests to view programmes since BBC iPlayer launched. In May alone, there were 21.8 million requests to view, some 700,000 per day on average.
The new-look service, which launches in beta tomorrow, will ‘dual run’ alongside the existing iPlayer for the next few weeks.
The new-look BBC iPlayer will be available on other platforms for TV catch-up, including the Apple iPhone & iPod touch, and the Nintendo Wii. Audio on demand and live streaming will become available in due course.