Blog Post

iPlayer for Mac Coming This Month

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

[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 (s msft) 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 (s akam) and Level 3 (s lvlt) 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 (s nok) 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.

Related Posts:

Beeb’s Next-Gen iPlayer Tests New Features
BBC iPlayer: An American Perspective
iPlayer Goes for Higher Bitrates, Olympic Gold and Home Theaters

19 Responses to “iPlayer for Mac Coming This Month”

  1. It seems that many using a flash player and streaming H.264 are not using any DRM on the actual videos but they are doing things like expiring URLs ,Digital Fingerprinting the files and limiting the Bittrate so the video has to be downloaded in real time but in many cases the source URL can be found using debug tools like Firebug the firefox Extentsion .

    In the BBCs case where they are making the video available to anyone in the UK on almost any device no one really needs to try and download the content without permission because they can access it easily on many devices.

  2. @geraldz

    “Customers” don’t pay anything extra for iPlayer as it is funded by the UK television ‘license fee’, a kind of yearly tax for owning a television (or radio) that is used to fund the BBC, our public broadcaster. So the bandwidth costs at their end come out of the license fee, though ISPs are complaining that the BBC should also give them some cash for their part in delivering iPlayer content into people’s houses. Which seems stupid. They could easily make the same argument regarding YouTube or any bandwidth intensive video or other web service.

  3. Hi Om –

    Any idea what DRM they are using, if any? If these guys have a winning product, perhaps they could license it to distribute premium content in the US. But maybe not – many of the content owners here are also the distributors. Its a big monopoly.

    Secondly, streaming is expensive. Are customers actually paying extra for this service or is it like Netflix where it’s part of the package? Please shed some light on the economics of this “success.”

  4. garlicsmack

    Actually, the scrapped BBC Play was very good. I don’t know what the problems were and why it was replaced, but it was a shame that all those years in development were wasted.

    Also, pedantic coot corner to an otherwise great article: you don’t have to download iPlayer software to watch shows, which is a great incentive to watching it. I can listen to Radio 1 shows at work without downloading software that the IT department probably wouldn’t be too happy about. (And iPlayer is only available in the UK, not the British Isles.)

  5. The iPlayer also has a Wii version that is optimized for the Wii remote I always thought the Joost Client UI would be perfect with the Wii and HULU should also make a Wii compatible version .

    Game consoles especialy the Wii with its large install base are going to be the next step in online video while we are all waiting for IP ready TVs to be ubiquitous .