During a gathering at New Broadcasting House in central London this morning, the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall was in attendance to present the all-new iPlayer. While there had been some anticipation that today’s news would be about its pay-to-keep download service, as it received regulatory approval from the BBC Trust just a couple of weeks ago, today was all about ‘new iPlayer’.
Indeed, Hall said this was all about moving iPlayer away from being a static ‘Jukebox’-style service, and says it has been re-engineered from the ground up, designed to serve up more of what you ‘might’ want to watch.
Dan Taylor, head of BBC iPlayer, was on hand too to give the lowdown on the new iPlayer, and it’s clear its been built for multiple screens – the browser-based version is responsive and will adapt to suit the device you’re viewing on. Previously, differently applications were used depending on the platform, which meant that the experience was different on each device. With this move, consistency is the name of the game.
From a features perspective, the new iPlayer also sports ‘Collections’, which groups programmes by series, season, event or theme. For example, BBC Four has been releasing themed archive collections for a while already, but it’s been difficult to navigate across them – today’s update should hopefully fix that.
When an episode ends, iPlayer can automatically line up the next in the series too, while also surfacing other shows it thinks may be relevant to you.
You’ll also now see a new home screen that – in theory – is easier to browse. And when you hover over a programme image you’ll see a description of the episode and its duration.
Categories have also been changed, with ‘factual’ becoming things like documentaries, food, art, history, science & nature.
You’ll also see a new playback page, with key programme data displayed before you click to watch, while making it simpler to navigate to other shows in the same series.
Additionally, the ‘Find a Programme’ search box will remember recent searches, with predictive typing ‘guessing’ what you’re likely looking for as soon as your fingers start tapping on the keys. The A-Z search feature also lets you peruse the library, while the ‘recently watched’ section lets you pick up on shows you recently watched.
It was announced last year 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. But the timing of this big shift wasn’t part of today’s announcement, though it was noted that it will happen soon. And, as we knew already, more and more new content will be exclusive to iPlayer, as the BBC is looking to push iPlayer front-and-center, rather than serving as a secondary service.
Indeed, just last week the BBC also confirmed its plans to shutter BBC Three as a broadcast TV channel, with the autumn 2015 D-Day meaning it will be available on iPlayer only, subject to approval from the BBC Trust.
Before that, however, there will be some original drama shorts hitting iPlayer from today, while seven original comedies from Frankie Boyle, Bob Mortimer, Stewart Lee and others will be available on iPlayer from May.
The new iPlayer will be rolling out throughout today, with the native apps following in the coming months.