BBC’s new iPlayer syncs with Twitter and Facebook

26 May 2010

The latest version of the BBC iPlayer is built with social media in mind plus users who tend to switch from different computers but want to pick up exactly where they left off in terms of TV programming.

The BBC’s new iPlayer – which contains as much, if not more, functionality than a digital set-top box – has been repurposed to work on a range of different devices and platforms, from phones to games consoles and internet TV.

The iPlayer, which delivered a record 123 million streams of TV and radio in April 2010, has established itself as a leading digital brand and a pioneer in the on-demand content world.

The new features on the iPlayer include the ability to see TV and radio grouped separately, channel hop whilst watching live TV, line up favourites, roam with a BBC iD so you can pick up what you were last watching, connect with Facebook and post content and share with friends, and sync with Twitter and auto-tweet, and pass links to friends.

Instant messaging on BBC iPlayer

A Windows Live Messenger plug-in allows you to log in through the iPlayer, forward links to others online, watch on-demand at the same time and comment live on programmes as they air.

“The launch of this version of the BBC iPlayer is part of our strategy to do fewer things even better and make it more simple, personal and connected. We must no longer try to do everything online, but focus on delivering genuinely world-class products like BBC iPlayer – which audiences love and which really embodies the BBC’s core mission in a digital age,” explained the BBC’s director of Future Media and Technology, Erik Huggers.

“Bringing the benefits of emerging technologies to the public is in the BBC’s DNA as its sixth public purpose. BBC iPlayer gives audiences greater control over the programmes they enjoy, guarantees subscription-free access to BBC content in an on-demand world, and provides better value for the content they have already paid for.

“In two and half years, BBC iPlayer has evolved to become one of our most popular websites, integral to BBC Online, and available on a wide range of internet-connected devices.”

The BBC has also announced a range of new non-exclusive partnerships which enable audiences to connect with each other around BBC programmes and make BBC content more discoverable.

Metadata partnerships

Collaborations with social networking and micro-blogging websites, initially Facebook and Twitter, will enable audiences to recommend content to friends on their own networks. The BBC is working with others with a view to establishing further similar partnerships. This is the first major part of a wider initiative to introduce more social features to BBC Online.

Joanna Shields, vice-president for EMEA, Facebook, said: “The BBC’s use of Facebook’s social plug-ins transforms BBC iPlayer into a customised social experience for each of our 23 million UK users. By integrating Facebook within BBC iPlayer, the BBC is enabling people to share their favourite content and discover the content their friends are recommending and watching.”

A partnership with Microsoft allows Windows Live Messenger users to log into their messaging service through BBC iPlayer, enabling them to invite other contacts to watch programmes at the same time and chat live. This is an experimental feature, which will be available in beta later in the summer; if it proves successful, the BBC plans to extend it to other instant-messaging services.

Later in the summer, audiences will also be able to find links to programmes from ITV Player, 4oD, Clic, Demand Five and SeeSaw – as a result of partnership deals with public service broadcasters ITV, Channel 4, S4C and Five, and communications infrastructure and media services company Arqiva.

These ‘metadata partnerships’ mean that audiences looking for long-form programmes from other TV services will be directed to their websites: BBC iPlayer will link and drive traffic to them, without any sharing of technology or syndication of content.

Huggers said: “As we focus on what public service means in a digital age, we are working to set clear boundaries for BBC Online. We don’t want to build a social network, microblogging or instant-messaging service.

“But through a greater emphasis on strategic partnerships, we can harness the benefits of the web to enrich the audience’s interaction with our content and support other content providers. The new BBC iPlayer reflects public service broadcasting in the digital era,” Huggers said.

By John Kennedy

Photo: The BBC’s iPlayer

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years