The update also paves the way for the BBC to roll out a set top box with iPlayer features. Earlier this year the BBC announced plans to roll out the iPlayer software for existing set top boxes including the Nintendo Wii video game console. Now it looks like the BBC might also be planning to build its own box.
The device would work like a Windows Media Extender or an Apple TV, in that you'd plug the box into your television and connect it to your home network so it could access the internet. It's possible that the BBC isn't really planning to put out a box with its own name on it, so much as work with hardware makers to add iPlayer software to future devices that may also be able to access content from other networks, play DVDs, or perform other services. You can think of the box as sort of the BBC version of the Netflix player by Roku.
The BBC may be porting its iPlayer internet television service to the Nintendo Wii and other video game consoles and set top boxes, but for some reason the BBC has ignored the mos obvious way to get web content onto a TV: Windows Media Center.
Most computers sold today come with Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate, which means that they already have Windows Media Center software designed for displaying video and web content on a TV screen. Taking an application like the iPlayer, which is designed for keyboard and mouse navigation, and integrating it with Windows Media Center for remote control navigation should be a breeze. And it turns out, it kind of is. Since the BBC hasn't designed a MCE plugin, developer Martin Millmore made his own.
The plugin isn't perfect yet. While you can navigate iPlayer content with a remote control, Millmore hasn't been able to get programs to play or switch to full screen mode without using a mouse. And of course, the iPlayer service won't work if you don't live in the UK. But that's a feature, not a bug.
[via Ian Dixon]
The BBC iPlayer service lets UK residents catch any TV show they missed in the last seven days, provided they're willing to watch on a computer or other supported device. Earlier this month the BBC discussed plans to create an iPlayer channel for the Nintendo Wii that would let video game console owners use a Wii to watch TV shows on an actual TV. But now it looks like the BBC is expanding its support for devices and partnering with Virgin Media to give cable customers access to the same programming.
Virgin Media has 3.5 million customes, and while I don't happen to have the number of UK households with a Nintendo Wii handy, I think it's safe to say that more people are going to wind up with access to the iPlayer service through Virgin than Nintendo.
It's likely that the BBC is working on deals with other cable, satellite, mobile phone, and device companies as well.
Now the BBC is explaining why it decided to go with the Nintendo Wii. The Wii supports branded channels. In other words, if the BBC wanted to make video content available on the other platforms, the software interface would have to look pretty much like all the other Xbox 360 or PS3 channels. Nintendo, on the other hand, is offering the BBC a dedicated channel which will mimic the iPlayer interface already available through a web browser.
The iPlayer channel should go live for British Wii owners tomorrow, although the BBC is still working on the software and a more advanced version should be released later.
Apparently the BBC also plans to add iPlayer functionality to television sets/set top boxes soon. The service lets Brits watch any program that's aired on the BBC over the past week for free. The service is not likely to become available outside of the UK anytime soon, since it's funded by the television license fee paid by British residents.
BBC Future Media and Technology Director Ashley Highfield writes on his blog that the BBC is encouraged by this week's announcement that Apple TV users will be able to download content directly to their set top boxes, no computer required. It's probably safe to say the BBC will be in touch with Apple soon.
But Highfield says the BBC is also looking into other ways to get content onto the TV, such as the Xbox 360 or the Neuros OSD. So far, the iPlayer service has only been available to UK viewers. But as the BBC expands the service, I'm holding out hope that they'll offer up a subscription or pay-per-download version for viewers in the rest of the world.
The broadcasters will reportedly be making 10,000 hours of programming available. You'll be able to watch some content for free online, while others you'll be able to pay to download. Like most competing services, it looks like you'll either be able to "rent" a video for a limited period of time or buy it so you can save it and cherish it forever.
While Project Kangaroo will be online-only at first, there are apparently plans to eventually let users watch content directly on their television boxes.
The BBC does not plan to kill off its iPlayer service, but will be offering much of the same content via iPlayer and Project Kangaroo.
But the service drew a few groans for its inclusion of digital rights management technology, and for the fact that Linux and Mac users were left out in the cold. Well, while the BBC isn't lifting the DRM restrictions on downloaded episodes, it looks like Mac and Linux users will soon have a way to watch iPlayer content.
The BBC has partnered with Adobe to create a browser-based version of the iPlayer which will stream video using Adobe's Flash player. Adobe plans to add H.264 support to its Flash player soon. So while we don't know what video quality the BBC videos will stream at, the interface could theoretically support HD video.
The service also only works on Windows machines right now, since it uses Microsoft's digital rights management software to prevent users from sharing files with friends or uploading them to the internet.
The iPlayer is still in beta, but users can sign up for an invitation, and a wider release is expected this fall. Meanwhile, here's a roundup of iPlayer related news:
At launch, the service will be PC-only, due to the fact that the BBC has licensed Microsoft DRM technology in order to enforce the 7 day time limit. The BBC plans to offer a Mac version in the future.
Another upcoming features is integration with YouTube, Facebook, and Bebo. You won't be able to watch full episodes through these services, but you'll be able to access clips. And if you live in the UK, you can click through to the BBC's site for full length episodes. It looks like US Doctor Who fans will not be able to use the iPlayer, and will have to wait until episodes are available will still have to wait until the program hits the Sci-Fi channel.
The BBC is taking advantage of this customer demand, forging ahead with plans to offer every program aired by the British network online with a new iPlayer service. At the same time, Internet TV platform Joost is moving closer to an official launch.
The survey of 2500 broadband customers was conducted by Motorola and shows that 35% of respondents want the ability to pause, rewind, or fast forward live television broadcasts.
So what the heck is an iPlayer? Basically it's a service that offers BBC viewers online access to every television episode that has run on the state-regulated network over the past week, commercial-free.
10,500 viewers and organizations offered comments during the test period. I'm guessing most of the comments were positive.
No word yet on when the service will roll out. The BBC press release says it "will be announced in due course," which sounds so much nicer than "it'll be ready when it's ready."
In order to fulfill the BBC's public service goals, UK customers will be able to download BBC programs from the service for up to 7 days after they air without paying a fee. But overall the iPlayer venture is meant to raise revenue. Content distributed outside of the UK will be available either for a fee or supported by advertising.
The announcement follows news last week that the BBC would be making some content available via YouTube.
[via The Inquirer]
The BBC Trust is moving forward with a new plan to allow viewers to download and save BBC programs from the last seven days for up to thirty days on their computers.
The BBC is funded by a fee paid by television owners in the UK. Certain revisions have been made to the new plan to make sure BBC's entry into the world of on-demand TV doesn't negatively affect the market or provide unfair competition for other broadcasters such as ITV, Channel 4 and BSkyB which have also begun to dabble in on-demand services.
Some changes to the initial proposal have already been made, such as reducing the amount of time allowed to keep a program from thirteen weeks to thirty days, and to disallow downloading long-running and continuing shows such as Top Gear and EastEnders. A final decision for the new iPlayer service will be made sometime before May 2, 2007.
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