BBC launches new iPlayer beta

May 27, 2010 // 11:35 a.m.

Tags: #adobe-air #adobe-flash #bbc #bbc-iplayer #bskyb #htpc #iplayer #video-on-demand #video-streaming #vod

The BBC has gone live with a public beta of the next generation of its iPlayer video on demand service - and it's already causing stirs in the marketplace.

The new iPlayer - announced in a blog posting by the BBC's Erik Huggers - introduces some neat new features into the platform, including a tighter integration with social networking sites, which Huggers describes as allowing "audiences to interact with each other around our content."

The social integration takes the form of a new BBC iD, which iPlayer users register for and which then identifies them uniquely when using the service. This ID can then be tied to social networking accounts, including support for Facebook and Twitter - and with the promise of other social network sites and microblogging services to follow.

The integration works in both directions: a 'Recommend' button allows viewers to instantly alert their social network friends that there's something worth watching, while clicking on the included link in the tweet or Facebook posting will give UK-based viewers immediate access to the same show.

Chat integration also makes an appearance in the beta, with a Windows Live Messenger widget being made available which provides chat users with information on what programme their contact is watching and even how far along they've got - and, again, the BBC has promised that other chat services will be added soon.

The use of a uniquely identifying login for iPlayer access has also allowed the BBC to bring some customisation features to the platform, including the ability to add favourites so you don't miss new episodes and a personalised homepage should you choose to sign up.

A full list of the shiny new features - including details of the new adaptive bitrate system which the BBC hopes will improve picture quality for those on good connections without sacrificing smoothness for those with slower access - can be found on the BBC Internet Blog - but not everyone is happy with the new iPlayer.

The Guardian is reporting that rival broadcaster BSkyB is claiming that the BBC's plans to add links to content from other channels' video on demand services - including Channel 4, ITV, and Channel 5 - to iPlayer represents an attempt to create "an online aggregator [...] without appropriate regulatory review." Accordingly, the broadcaster will be asking communications watchdog Ofcom to investigate the BBC's plans.

The as-yet unlaunched third-party aggregation mode aside, all the new features of iPlayer are available to try over on the official iPlayer Beta site - so long as you're located in the UK, that is.

Are you impressed with the new-look iPlayer, or does the BBC need to look at ditching Flash before you'll consider it worth a look-in? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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