The BBC’s on-demand TV service, BBC iPlayer, is to launch on 27 July, it was announced today by Ashley Highfield, Director of Future Media & Technology.
“BBC iPlayer is a free catch-up service for UK licence fee payers,” said Highfield. “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.”
Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision, said: “This is a significant moment, as it heralds a new era when viewers will have the freedom to watch programmes from the BBC’s linear TV channels when they want.
“It’s a revolutionary service which offers audiences more value, because from now on they never have to miss out on their favourite programmes – or those that they didn’t previously have the opportunity to try.”
At launch, once viewers have accessed BBC iPlayer at bbc.co.uk/iplayer and have downloaded a programme, they will have up to 30 days in which to watch it. Once watched, the programme file clears itself up by deleting itself.
BBC iPlayer is far more than a standalone application. Later this year, it will become widely accessible across bbc.co.uk, as well as via links from YouTube and a number of other potential distribution partners (subject to the BBC Trust’s new syndication policy and management’s guidelines).
Users will be able to watch promotional clips of programmes, and link back to BBC iPlayer on bbc.co.uk, enabling them to download the full programme.
The BBC is in discussion with a wide range of potential distribution partners, including MSN, telegraph.co.uk, AOL, Tiscali, Yahoo!, MySpace, Blinkx and Bebo.
“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.
“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,” said Highfield. “It underpins our Creative Future strategy, to maintain the BBC’s relevance among all audiences in the digital age.”
BBC iPlayer is currently in closed environment testing amongst some 15,000 people. It will go 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.
In time, extra features will be added to BBC iPlayer, such as 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.