After years of technical development and months of regulatory hurdles, the BBC iPlayer was launched to the public at midnight.
The iPlayer offers an online, on-demand catch-up service for the bulk of the BBC’s TV output.
Initially, it will only be available to users of computers that run Windows XP, but versions for other platforms – including Apple Macs and Windows Vista – will follow.
[Submitted by Imran Asad]
Users can register online at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer and will need to download and install the bespoke iPlayer software. After that, they will be able to download about 70 per cent of programmes that have been broadcast on the BBC over the last seven days, excluding content whose copyright is difficult to clear – such as American acquisitions and sport.
While today marks the moment when anybody in the UK can use the iPlayer, it is still officially in a “beta test” phase.
In order to try to ensure that the service is not swamped from its launch, the BBC is holding back from promoting the iPlayer at this stage.
If the service is successful, a full-scale launch and marketing campaign will follow in the autumn.
The BBC’s main commercial rivals – ITV, Channel 4, Five and Sky – have already launched online, on-demand services.
But the launch of the iPlayer, with the BBC’s huge library of content at its disposal, is likely to see the market really take off.
Channel 4’s on-demand service, 4oD, launched online last October. During its first five months, 4oD attracted 2.5million unique users, who between them watched over 20 million programmes. In the near future, it is likely to exceed 500,000 PC installations.
In May, ITV held a press launch for its revamped website itv.com, which executive chairman Michael Grade said would be a “service unrivalled by any other commercial broadcaster, anywhere in the world”.
The site has been rolling out on-demand content genre by genre, starting with soaps and channel simulcasts.
BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, is finalising proposals to launch a commercial version of the iPlayer early next year.
Initially, it will be available only in the UK and will offer both ad-funded and pay-to-view content from the BBC’s archive.
Services for other English-speaking countries, starting with the USA and Australia, are likely to follow later next year.