BBC to launch 30-day iPlayer, download to own, personalised channels

BBC director general Tony Hall

BBC director general Tony Hall

The BBC is to launch an enhanced iPlayer catch-up service including a 30-day viewing window and personalised on-demand features across multiple screens and a download-to-own store allowing viewers to purchase BBC programmes, according to director general Tony Hall.

Unveiling his plans for the BBC’s digital future at the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House, Hall said that licence fee payers should have access to TV and radio programmes before they are broadcast on the corporation’s channels.

“I want the BBC of the future to have a much closer relationship with audiences. We should be treating them like owners not just as licence fee payers. People should not be saying ‘the BBC’, but ‘my BBC’, ‘our BBC’,” said Hall. “Our audiences demand to be involved and expect to participate. In the future they will talk to us and we will listen.”

Plans for the iPlayer include a 30-day catch-up window, subject to approval by the BBC Trust, iPlayer-only curated content and channels, and “the chance for users to be the scheduler by accessing content before broadcast at times that suit them,” said Hall.

“The iPlayer is the best in the world – but we want to make it even better. We want it to transform it from being catch-up TV – to online TV. So, starting next year, we will reinvent the iPlayer,” said Hall. “So, we’re going to give you more content, more opportunities to watch our shows, making them available for free not just for seven days – but for thirty. We will give you the chance to see programmes before they’ve even been broadcast and ‘first on iPlayer’. Imagine if you had the evening’s recorded schedule at your disposal – so you could sit at home and be your own scheduler, picking what you like, when you like, from our channels.”

Hall said a new BBC Store would allow viewers to buy, watch and keep a selection of BBC programmes.

“Because we know people often want to go back and see older programmes – sometimes classics, sometimes more recent – we plan to launch something called BBC Store, a new commercial online service which will offer people in the UK the chance to buy a whole range of programmes to watch and keep forever,” he said.

Other initiatives include making coverage of live events available with video, audio, text and statistics across TV, computers, mobiles and tablets.

“From next year, this multi-layered service will power the Winter Olympics, the World Cup, the FA Cup and Commonwealth Games, alongside major festivals like the Proms, the Edinburgh Festival and Glastonbury. It will also support big television events and major news events such as Election Night,” said Hall.

The BBC will invest an extra 20% in arts programming and will fully digitise its Shakespeare archive in time for the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death, said Hall.

The BBC will also launch a new digital music service, BBC Playlister, that will allow radio listeners to bookmark music to listen to at the time of their choice.

Another project called Open Minds that will see highlights from Radio 3, Radio 4 and the World Service packaged to offer personalised collections of content.

Hall said he would also open up BBC commissioning to include online content from a new generation of content makers.

“We want to harness the energy of the YouTube generation. We’ll invite them in to the BBC and fund them to make brilliant programmes. We’ll free them from the conventional commissioning process and encourage them to experiment and make original online content so they can inform, educate and entertain – each other,” he said.