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BBC: TV On Demand

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The BBC is ahead of the curve with “rich” Internet content. They have begun a pilot project that could lead to all of their TV content being available on the Internet on demand:

    The future of television is almost upon us: the day when we spend our train or bus journey to work catching up on the shows we missed the night, or even several days, before.

    ….Viewers will be able to scan an online guide and download any show. Programmes would be viewed on a computer screen or could be burned to a DVD and watched on a television set. Alternatively, programmes could be downloaded to a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), a hand-held computer that is becoming increasingly popular in Britain

    ….The three-week pilot, called iMP (Internet Media Player), will allow 500 of the corporation’s staff to step into this new world of viewing. They will be given PDAs and access to a range of BBC programmes, which will include the soap EastEnders and the hospital drama Holby City. Also available will be the series One Life, the dramas Cutting It and Grease Monkeys, the motoring show Top Gear and news bulletins.

    Sneak previews of parts of programmes will also be offered, but no full shows will be viewable until after they have been broadcast. The programmes will then be available online for a week.

    “We might get an over-positive response because I think a lot of BBC staff would love to be able to catch up on the programmes they missed last night on the bus or on the train,” Mr Highfield said. “The quality is staggeringly good. It’s slightly better than you get on the seat-backs if you are in a plane, although PDAs have a slightly smaller screen.”

    After the BBC pilot, an external trial will be launched with 1,000 people selected from subscribers with the broadband service providers AOL, BT and Tiscali.

    The trial will examine whether people watch more television with iMP and if they change their viewing patterns, such as “starting to watch EastEnders in the morning”, Mr Highfield said.

    “If it seems that for a substantial part of the audience this is a very valuable way to consume media, then this is something we are going to have to take seriously,” he said.

    ….The plan is to make all television programmes from the previous week available on the internet, using a programme guide similar to that already used on digital television.

    The inspiration for the idea is the BBC Radio Player scheme, which has made the corporation’s radio content available online for listeners unable to catch programmes at their scheduled times. The service was expected to be popular with fans of late-night shows, such as Radio 1’s dance music programme Essential Selection, but has also been embraced by fans of Radio 4. “We knew it was going to appeal to the downloading generation. The surprise was that we serve several hundred thousand fans of The Archers every week,” Mr Highfield said.

    The iMP project is driven by research showing that people increasingly find it difficult to align their highly valued free time with fixed television schedules. Homes with personal video recorders (PVRs), like Sky Plus, already “time-shift” 70 per cent of the programmes they watch to more convenient viewing times.

    “Amongst younger audiences television is having to compete against other media as well, not just different channels but trying to get eyeballs away from PlayStations and the internet,” Mr Highfield said. “The fundamental shift in the music industry and the audio-radio industry to people consuming what they want, how they want, when they want, has given us a pretty clear idea that this is something that’s going to happen to video.” [The Independent]

Super cool – if the BBC does it, it will put pressure on the American networks to make something like it available, although with PVRs you can do it yourself.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Keith

    I’m completely behind this idea. It would seem that we’ve heard so many times the promise of any-media, any-where, any-time, and now that video compression is so mainstream and storage prices are so low, why couldn’t your local cable provider, provide such a service?

    I’ve asked this same question in a post of my own (see link).

  • Eric Olsen

    Good post Keith, thanks! I don’t think the producers and networks want to make it that easy and commonplace to equate shows with “files” – they’re trying to wrap up the content any way they can with DRM and “broadcast flag” and all this other crap, but they may as well give up and make the most of it.