The BBC have launched a new iPlayer, especially designed “for a multiscreen world”, with the aim of making the service more accessible to all devices and users.
The responsive design of the new web version – which is rolling out from today – is part of a complete face lift that will make the BBC’s video on-demand platform able to be shared between desktop computers and mobile devices, but also make it easier to browse and find programmes to watch.
iPlayer has already come a long way from its early days, when it received 92,000 requests following its launch back in 2007. Now, it receives 10 million requests a day and offers live streaming of channels as well as catch-up content, mobile downloads for watching content offline and even enjoys premieres of some programmes before they have arrived on terrestrial channels.
With a growing audience comes a growing range of viewing behaviour. Indeed, Dan Taylor, Head of BBC iPlayer, notes that 42 per cent of visitors now arrive at the site without a particular show in mind. The iPlayer home page, therefore, has been turned into a visual-driven menu, with similar menus created for every BBC Channel. Hovering over shows now provides information that you previously had to click to find out – saving you a precious few seconds you could spend streaming EastEnders.
The categories have also been tweaked, with Factual programmes divided into Documentaries, Food, Arts, History and Science & Nature, with separate collections for Audio Described and Signed content, as well as geographical regions, such as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
As a result, BBC Four Collections, which have apparently been published for several years without anyone noticing, will now be easier to find. BBC-produced “iWonder guides” will also be included to provide more information on certain topics – an impressive World War One iWonder guide can be found here.
The search tool has also been improved to feature recent searches and auto-complete suggestions, while the A-Z and schedule listings will remain in place.
“The new web version of iPlayer makes use of the BBC’s new Standard Media Player”, adds Taylor, which now supports users with different set ups “including keyboard-only users, screen reader users and voice input users”. It was also soon add support for Audio Described and subtitled programmes on mobile and tablet browsers.
While the web version of the site will be updated from today, mobile and tablet apps will be updated in the coming months.
New original content will also be created for BBC iPlayer, including comedies from Bob Mortimer, Meera Syal, Frankie Boyle and Stewart Lee.
The list of improvements may seem minor, but it’s a sign that the Beeb are not resting on their streaming laurels. Indeed, Taylor says they have “ambitious plans” for 2014, including extending the standard availability licence from 7 days to 30 days and introducing new IP-only channels, such as a Radio 1 video channel. (As with many major decisions by the broadcaster, these features will be subject to approval from the BBC Trust.)
With the BBC Trust recently approving plans to introduce a paid BBC VOD store, not to mention the controversial decision to turn BBC Three into an online-only channel in 2015, the new BBC iPlayer is proof that the broadcaster is consistently pushing its digital presence forward to remain at the front of the on-demand pack.
If that means we can watch Eastenders more easily too, that’s a bonus.