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BBC brings forward iPlayer launch date

by David Mercer | Jun 27, 2007

The BBC has announced the launch of its iPlayer for July 27th, several months earlier than expected. The iPlayer will be free to use (for UK licence fee payers) and will allow broadband Internet users to watch TV or radio programmes broadcast on the BBC's TV and radio channels in the previous seven days. Programmes will be available for streaming or download up to seven days since first broadcast. Downloaded programmes can be used up to 30 days after broadcast. The iPlayer is only Windows-compatible at launch but a Mac version is in preparation. The BBC says it is in discussions with distribution partners such as MSN, Telegraph.co.uk, AOL, Tiscali, Yahoo, Myspace, Bebo and Blinkx. There will doubtless be plenty of hype around this news for the next few weeks, not least from the BBC news service itself. The real news story is the availability of TV programmes rather than radio, which have been available online for many years. The iPlayer should be a slick application, and it is another step forward for the UK market in the global drive towards web TV. But as I have often pointed out to Strategy Analytics clients, broadcasters in other countries have offered this sort of service for some years. I usually cite NRK, the Norwegian public broadcaster, which offers vast archives of TV programmes available for online streaming (eg here). So while the BBC has been lagging behind other players in recent years, it could now leapfrog competitors with a powerful application and a wide range of valuable content. The concept of "always available" is gradually changing the TV industry as broadcasters wake up to the threat and potential of broadband, but business models still reflect the era of scheduled broadcasting. That will surely begin to change as we learn more about the demand for "catch-up TV" and other emerging digital services.
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