It has been a tumultuous twelve months at the BBC, with scandal after scandal finally leading to a new Director General in the form of Lord Tony Hall who took over at the helm in April, replacing George Entwistle who had held fort for just fifty days.
And at a gathering at New Broadcasting House in Central London this morning, Lord Hall laid out his visions for the future of the BBC, and as part of this he revealed some significant upcoming developments for iPlayer in 2014.
BBC Store: Commercial downloads
‘BBC Store’ will be a commercial, online service, letting UK users buy TV shows to keep forever. So we’re talking permanent downloads here.
Hall didn’t reveal how much this will cost, whether it will be per-download or a monthly subscription, but details will be revealed on this in due course.
“We’re moving from being catch-up TV, to online TV,” said Hall. “Next year, we’re going to reinvent iPlayer.”
This has been rumored previously, and will likely cause more than a little controversy, with license-fee payers arguing that their annual fee already covers the cost of the programmes, therefore why should they have to pay again to keep them permanently?
It’s worth noting here that BBC Store will be a separate service to iPlayer, which will remain free. Indeed, Hall also announced that iPlayer will be moving to a 30-day catch-up window (from 7-days) as standard, something that’s currently only enabled if you make shows available offline. Many of the shows will be available on iPlayer first, before hitting broadcast TV. So essentially, iPlayer is being moved front-and-center here, rather than being a secondary service.
“This is going to be a bold era of BBC innovation,” said Hall, adding that users will also be able to create their own TV schedules, fitted to their own schedules. Linear TV is being given a good run for its money here, it seems.
A new service called BBC Playlister will also let users tag and listen to any music they hear on the BBC, with Hall mentioning partnerships with YouTube and Deezer and more, letting people save and listen to all their music across devices. The first stage of this rollout will hit PCs and mobile browsers within the next few days, letting you save tracks, export to third-party services to listen to later.
Finally, Hall also mentioned plans for a BBC1+1 channel, essentially letting people watch what was on BBC 1 one-hour behind the linear broadcast, though given iPlayer’s big push to front-and-center, it’s not entirely clear how much of a need there will be for this.