The BBC has revealed plans for the next-generation of its online video service, the iPlayer, which include increased functionality and recommendation possibilities.
The BBC's Director of Future Media and Technology, Eric Huggers, told members of the Broadcasting Press Guild that the new service would be as much a "you player as an iPlayer." Among the planned enhancements are a recommendation engine that would learn from previous user experience; a new playlist functionality, which enables a programme of interest to be stored for later viewing; the ability to follow items of interest, be they programme, actor or topic related, as well as the ability to trawl for TV content.
There would also be some 'cosmetic' changes to the iPlayer's appearance "more of a scrub than a face-lift," said Huggers. "There will be new features and functionality, but we aim to keep things simple." He suggested that the changes would help the BBC to grow even further the use of the services. The enhancements are set for Beta testing in the summer of 2009.
Huggers also revealed that earlier approaches to satellite operator BSkyB to enable its services to be carried on the iPlayer had been rebuffed. Sky had heavily criticised the BBC Trust’s decision not to conduct a full market impact review of Project Canvas, the broadband TV joint venture with ITV and BT (see below). Huggers confirmed that, should the BBC Trust gives its 'non-service' authorisation for the Project to progress, BSkyB would be welcome to make its services available via the planned, open-standards set-top box. "It would be wonderful for Sky Player to serve homes they don't currently reach," he said. If the Trust authorises Canvas, Huggers suggested that the first devices could be launched in the first half of 2010.