[qi:032] If there were any lingering doubts about people’s desire to get television anywhere, anytime, and on any device, then the recent success of the BBC’s iPlayer service has put them to rest. As our team at NewTeeVee has repeatedly pointed out, in the British Isles, the iPlayer is a phenomenon. How big a phenom?
Last week when I met with Richard Titus, who oversees user experience and design at the BBC, he told me that during the Olympics, the iPlayer accounted for nearly 20 percent of the total broadband traffic in the UK, and at present has garnered about 10 percent of the total UK broadband audience. That number is likely to rise with the release of the iPlayer for the Mac, which is due out this month.
On any given day about 300,000 people use the service to get their old TV fix. In fact, the popularity of the iPlayer has pitted the BBC against other British broadband providers, who are up in arms about traffic killing their networks.
For nearly three years, the guys at the BBC worked on developing a peer-to-peer TV distribution client that behaved somewhat like Joost. Let’s just say it didn’t exactly live up to the hype. Last year, the BBC scratched that effort, got rid of the Microsoft DRM, and instead went with a simpler client that uses the traditional CDN-based distribution technologies and ubiquitous Flash-based playback technology.
The result is the iPlayer, essentially a piece of software that, once downloaded to your computer, allows you to access a vast library of BBC TV programs and watch to them whenever you want (ditto for listening to radio programs). The BBC transmits videos in many formats, including higher-quality H.264 videos. The British broadcaster continues to use Akamai and Level 3 for its video distribution needs.
In our conversation, Titus, who in his past life started Schematic (and sold it to LPP), said that one in 10 people download stuff via the iPlayer while the rest prefer to stream their videos. He also said he’s pretty optimistic about the popularity of the iPlayer on mobile devices, especially the one designed by Fjord, a London-based design consultancy, for the Nokia N96 that’s being promoted by T-Mobile.
The BBC has similarly high hopes for the much-rumored Mac version of the iPlayer that is going to be released later this month, he said.