One of the best things about my wardrobe, or to be precise its contents, is that if I wait for long enough most of it will come back into fashion. The problem to date has been that it is unlikely that this feat will take place simultaneously.
Television seems to be better placed to pull this off, particularly the BBC iPlayer, the subject of a major announcement this week by the BBC’s director-general Tony Hall.
If we go back just a few years it was the BBC’s new digital channel, BBC Three, that served as an incubator for new comedy. The hit series Gavin & Stacy started off there before being promoted to BBC One. In the past few months shows have received their debut on the BBC iPlayer; the combination of Great British talent and maybe a bit of luck will sooner or later produce a hit that moves from on demand to the linear schedule.
BBC Three, you will recall, was instructed to become more of a sister channel to its main network BBC One.
Take another of the innovations announced this week. Radio 1 TV will also be a part of the iPlayer, but in the past we have seen, and still do, concerts backed by the BBC’s radio brands appear on the Red Button service.
The Red Button has been reducing its linear streams, arguably as more people get superfast broadband the idea of a side channel where you have to wait for the loop to return to the start passes, but like so many things these days it depends on a wider deployment.
But the new and improved iPlayer is more than about reinventing the wheel. It is moving with the times and the kind of features being developed that even if the consumer isn’t really asking for now, then they will be once they start to appear on wider platforms. As ever, the BBC is ahead of the game.
The ability to pause and resume on separate devices and new user playlists are to me the standout features.
But maybe the highlight is actually the extension of the initial viewing window to 28 days, in line with many commercial providers, and avoiding viewer confusion as they hop from service to service.
After all the fuss about series stacking, and only selected shows being available for more than one week, this one needs the approval of the BBC Trust.