The Future Of The BBC iPlayer | True Multi-Platform Downloads and International Viewing

1 min read

The BBC iPlayer is my favorite online TV service but that’s because I’m in the UK and use Windows. Thankfully there are plans afoot to solve both the international restriction and OS limitations soon.

The BBC has done a fantastic job of entering the world of online video with its television catch-up service, the BBC iPlayer, but the service is not without its problems, with two very large ones still to solve.

International Restrictions

The fact UK citizens have to pay a license fee to own a TV, all of which goes to the BBC, has helped the corporation enter the video on demand world more quickly and easily than rival media companies.

But that license fee also means the iPlayer is only available to British viewers, with those outside the UK effectively banned from using the service in the same way that those outside of the States are banned from watching any content on Hulu.

Huge Issue

I’ve written a couple of heartfelt pleas on this issue in the past and it seems that the message is finally getting through to the people in charge.

Erik Huggers, the director of future media and technology at the BBC recently spoke to The Guardian about his plans for the future of the iPlayer, and his main concern is about the artificially blocking international access.

“The internet is, by definition, a global medium, yet today we are artificially blocking international access to the iPlayer. That’s a problem, in my mind, and a big challenge for the industry.”

Multi-Platform Downloads

Huggers also wants to see the iPlayer’s long-running problem of only fully catering to Windows users solved by the end of the year, with a download manager compatible with every OS, an important move as 10 percent of iPlayer users are already Mac owners.

But Mac owners aren’t the only minority users, with iPhone, iPod Touch, and Wii owners also contributing the the numbers which make up the diverse range of viewers. Huggers said:

“The situations we’re seeing are interesting – mum and dad are watching linear TV in the living room but kids are watching in a different way … on the iPhone, iPod Touch or laptop.”

The Future Looks Rosy

Huggers also wants more social media elements, rapidly becoming a staple of Web video sites, added to the BBC iPlayer website in an attempt to connect the members of the audience.

The iPlayer is already very successful and showing how a video on demand television catch-up service should be implemented and run, but these ideas could take it to another level altogether.