BBC to open iPlayer to third parties

huggersIBC 2009 – Amsterdam. The BBC has announced plans to create an Open iPlayer following requests from international broadcasters who wanted to share in the technology. Announcing the plan at IBC 2009 in Amsterdam, Erik Huggers, the BBC’s director of future media and technology, said the corporation was allowing third parties to run their own version of the iPlayer.

“It is not a concept of aggregation, but federation,” said Huggers. “It is about making sure each of the broadcasters around the world can continue to have a direct relationship with their users.”

Huggers explained that the proposals, which still need the backing of the BBC Trust, came out of the BBC’s wider partnership agenda to allow its technologies to be used by third parties. He told delegates that one of the most searched for terms on the iPlayer was that of Coronation Street, the popular soap that runs on ITV. He explained that if ITV were to come on board for the project then it would be possible to send viewers to its commercial rival.

In opening up the iPlayer the BBC may also help share the burden of one of the ongoing issues it has in making the catch-up TV service available over a variety of devices. “We have this demand on us that we must make our content available universally,” said Huggers. “As a result with now have to port the iPlayer into 23 different flavours. They all using different codecs, different file formats, because they are think their codec is going to make a difference.

Asked how the new innovation would sit with comments by James Murdoch at the Edinburgh Television Festival, that the BBC’s involvement makes it difficult for commercial interests to compete, Huggers said he believed the opposite was true. “What we are seeing is that the BBC’s investment for it to deliver against its public performance requirements to inform, educate and entertain. The investments are going to be made available to public and private companies so that they don’t have to invent the iPlayer or look at how to deliver free-to-air.”