Tag Archives: BBC iPlayer

Project Canvas kicks off advertising pitch

Project Canvas, the proposed on-demand web TV venture, is looking for an agency to handle its UK advertising account.  The service, which is backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT and TalkTalk, is planning to approach agencies with a view to holding a pitch for the business.

The successful agency will be responsible for handling all of Project Canvas’ ad campaigns, with the venture due to spend almost £50 million on marketing and brand development in its first four years. Project Canvas is due to launch its set-top boxes later this year, which will allow consumers to access each of the participating broadcasters’ video-on-demand offerings, as well as giving people access to internet content on their TV screens. Research conducted last year predicts that, by 2014, Project Canvas could reach up to 3.5 million homes.

However, the venture still faces problems, such as keeping set-top box costs down and finding a way around bandwidth bottlenecks.
News of the advertising pitch comes a month after the BBC Trust, the governing body of the BBC, gave its provisional approval to the organisation’s involvement in the project


iPlayer zooms past 100 million monthly streams – bumper December for BBC

The BBC iPlayer enjoyed its best-ever month in December, with the online video player cruising past the 100 million monthly streams mark for the first time.

The popularity of the iPlayer was because of a number of factors, namely the finale of David Tennant as Doctor Who (1.3 million streams) and Top Gear‘s special set in Bolivia which ended up as being the most-watched programme over the December period.

But it’s not just TV shows which have made the iPlayer such a success, radio is contributing its part too.

The biggest thing radio-wise in December was Terry Wogan’s heart-wrenching farewell to his TOGs on the final Wake Up To Wogan.

Easy to catch up

“Breaking the 100 million barrier is a great way to kick off 2010 and these figures show that by offering simple and varied access to BBC iPlayer people are really finding it easy to catch up with their favourite programmes at a time that suits them,” said Erik Huggers, Director of Future Media and Technology, about the news.

“I expect more people to start using the service as we continue to make it more widely available and I’m looking forward to some of the new innovations we have coming to the service later on in the year.”


Fragile model of video on demand

When the BBC Trust last week provisionally approved Project Canvas, the BBC’s internet-TV joint venture, the prospects of video-on-demand technology received a substantial boost.

The coming year is expected to see an increase in the number of ways that consumers can access VOD services – such as the BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer and Channel 4’s 4oD – through a regular television set.

But as free-to-air broadcasters face higher charges for internet delivery, the TV industry is pondering how profitable free catch-up services will be as they move into the living room.

Serving up more programmes to larger audiences on bigger screens will come at a cost to the broadcasters – an outlay for internet delivery that analysts predict will rise along with the popularity of VOD services. By some estimates, the main terrestrial broadcasters are paying tens of millions of pounds a year to ensure the quality of PC-based catch-up TV services.

But technical advances – and consumers’ expectations, set by YouTube and the iPlayer – are forging ahead before the economics of delivering these services are clear.

“In the past six months, it’s all leapt ahead,” says Nigel Walley, managing director of Decipher, a media consultancy. “Some of the internet capabilities are coming to TV faster than we thought.”

Futuresource Consulting forecasts that one in five flat-panel TVs shipped in Europe next year will be ready to connect to the internet straight out of the box. By Christmas 2010, the first TV equipment based on Project Canvas should be available.

With iPlayer already available on several set-top boxes and games consoles, soon millions more households will be watching VOD on the screen for which it was originally intended – but delivered over the internet, not an aerial.

“Once people discover [iPlayer] on TV they use it frequently and regularly,” says Rahul Chakkara, controller of TV platforms in the BBC’s Future Media and Technology unit. “We know most people will use [iPlayer] on TV – the question is when rather than if.”

The speed of technological change could catch some broadcasters out, says Michael Cormish, chief executive of Blinkbox, an independent VOD service.

“Broadcasters have never had to manage distribution [themselves] before,” he says. “VOD is an attempt by the broadcasters to self- distribute and that’s the reason why they’ll find it tough. It’s not a skillset they have required . . . Most will end up spending a multiple of their initial budgets to try to compete, or simply exit.”

Jon Gisby, Channel 4’s director of new media and technology, says VOD “means a different set of economics than we have in linear and broadcast, particularly in distribution costs.

“We need to think through carefully how our video quality evolves based on bandwidth costs, and the money we can bring in off the back of it,” he says.

The BBC is also looking at its distribution costs as part of the current review into the scale and scope of its operations.

Some analysts question whether VOD can be as profitable as broadcast TV. The dual costs of piping internet video into the home and licensing content from producers – both paid out on a per-view basis – “may call into question the level of profits that can be made in the long term” from VOD, says David Cockram of Oliver & Ohlbaum, a media consultancy. “More people are taking more of the pie.”

Broadcasters already have to pay companies providing “content delivery networks” to ensure their on-demand programming reaches viewers in good quality and without loading-time delays mid-video. Every time a programme is viewed online through their VOD services, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and other broadcasters pay a CDN provider such as Akamai, Level 3 or, soon, BT.

“It’s different to traditional broadcast because as you get more users, the costs go up,” says Darren Waterman, a director at PwC’s media strategy unit.

Today, a half-hour programme costs between 2p and 5p to stream through a CDN every time it is viewed. That may not sound much, but with the iPlayer serving up almost 60m TV shows in November, a broadcaster’s CDN costs could already exceed £1m a month.

“The costs scale horribly,” says Mr Cockram. “The big open question is whether individual content aggregators such as the broadcasters will be able to cap those total [delivery] costs in future. That is completely uncertain.”

But Ben McOwen Wilson, director of online and interactive at ITV, says costs are already on the way down. “The market is beginning to deliver and costs are dropping,” he says.

Broadcasters and network owners are working more closely together, he says, with the most popular content to be stored close to major cities, rather than sent out nationally from a single London data centre.

The advertising recession has not hit internet video as hard as broadcast, with each online spot costing several times as much as a TV ad. But there are fewer ads in each online show, because broadcasters believe audiences will not put up with as many interruptions as on regular TV.

So the broadcasters may soon have to start charging for video services, says Mr Waterman. “The difficulty is that the BBC is giving catch-up away for free. That makes it harder for everyone to charge,” he says.

Although the economics of VOD are tricky for broadcasters to navigate, internet video is likely to account for just 5 to 10 per cent of total TV viewing by 2020, according to Enders Analysis – meaning they are unlikely to threaten traditional sources of revenues.

Nonetheless, Mr Gisby says 4oD is expected to turn a “modest profit” in 2009 for the first time since launching in 2006. “We believe there is a viable commercial business model for VOD,” says Mr Gisby, “but it’s still quite fragile and has a lot of risk associated with it.”


BBC are planning to launch a global iPlayer

The BBC are planning to extend their hugely successful iPlayer video on demand service to a worldwide audience by offering selected paid for content.

Because of licensing restrictions, a Global iPlayer would not be able to show domestic content in its entirety; rather, BBC executives believe that foreign audiences would be prepared to pay for the likes of Top Gear, Torchwood and Doctor who.

With around 50m registered BBC.com users, a major focus of a global iPlayer would certainly include the US. BBC executives believe that viewers in America would be prepared to pay up to $10 dollars for an episode of  a popular archive programme.

Since its launch on Christmas Day 2007, users of iPlayer have watched some or all of the BBC’s programmes over 450 million times. An ‘international’ iPlayer is a logical extension to this hugely successful service.

Although the international iPlayer is ‘production’ ready, being six months in development, it will first require approval from the BBC Trust (the Corporation’s governing body) before it goes live.


Aunty Beeb takes her iPlayer ‘toys’ home and won’t play nicely with the other children

In a decision that is likely to deject many broadcasters who were keen to tap into BBC’s iPlayer platform, the BBC Trust has apparently rejected a proposal from BBC to create an Open iPlayer federation which would have given other broadcasters access to its much vaunted video on demand platform.

The concept which was entitled as Project Marquee essentially involved Channel 4, Five and ITV and was aimed at distributing their content through the BBC iPlayer in what was termed as a “combination of commercial and public service elements”.

Explaining the rationale behind rejecting the proposal, BBC Trustee Diane Coyle in a statement mentioned “We concluded, Open iPlayer plans in their proposed form, combining both commercial and public service elements, were too complicated. We were not convinced that there was enough potential value to licence fee payers in public service part of the proposal”

Even though the trust rejected the proposal on the grounds that it appeared too complex to work out in an effective manner, it did acknowledge the value that iPlayer offers and in principle agreed to the idea of sharing its technology with other broadcasters at a later date if they come across suitable alternate proposals that are fair and on a commercial basis.

So all it not lost it seems. The BBC Trust could potentially changed its mind at a later stage and allow its rival broadcasters to distribute content on the platform as well. Both Channel 4 and ITV have participated with BBC on other projects such as Freeview, Freesat and Canvas as well as the failed Kangaroo

Read more: http://www.itproportal.com/portal/news/article/2009/10/21/bbc-rejects-calls-open-iplayer-technology-itv-channel-4/2/#ixzz0UcIgcaN3

In the Kingdom of the Blind only Murdoch knows best

Not withstanding that the UK’s own Wapping-based King Canute is set to try and strong arm the world’s news content publishing industry into forcing the public to pay for access to its online content, now these same charlatans of ‘open standards’ and ‘capitalist competition’ and ‘innovation for all’ are arguing for access to the BBC Canvass project. When new digital set-top boxes that lay at the heart of this project hit the shelves, viewers will watch internet-based services such as the iPlayer via their TV as part of an attempt to play catch-up with money grasping pay-TV rivals such as Sky. If the government caves in watch the prices for these boxes rocket skyward as the ‘paid for content’ project – a way of denying the online world up-to-date or even accurate news – takes another nasty step forward.

Canvas, a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT and Five, is set to materialise in time for Christmas 2010 when new digital set-top boxes — expected to be priced between £100 and £200 — are expected to hit shelves.

The boxes will allow viewers to watch internet-based services such as the iPlayer via their TV as part of an attempt to play catch-up with pay-TV rivals such as Sky.

Sky is not complaining about the BBC’s plans to use the internet to deliver programming to TV sets via a set-top box, instead the satellite broadcaster is concerned the corporation will “stifle innovation” in the market.

The company believes the BBC licence-fee funded attempt to establish its own platform rather than contributing to an industry-standard system for delivering online content to TV sets will impede new developments in the market.

Stephen Nuttall, Sky’s commercial director, said: “They shouldn’t go off and do their own thing and use their unique funding to drive a coach and horses through the market development.”

Sky wants the Trust to force the BBC to allow anybody — not just public service broadcasters — to join Canvas. The company’s SkyPlayer could potentially be incorporated into Project Canvas.

Sky’s submission to the BBC Trust will be published today, while the BBC has not yet revealed how much it is investing in Project Canvas.


Football crazy…or sign of things to come?


What value now the rights to a three-year 46 game Premier League football deal secured at a cost of £130m? Although media consultants Enders Analysis spoke of the rights being worth a lot less now in recent days, Disney’s ESPN still felt flush enough with cash to step in and secure a 4 year deal for a reputed £250m for 46 Premier League matches for the next three seasons and a further 23 games the season after that.

With talk of BBC being asked to ‘share the 3.5% of the license fee’ set aside for the digital switchover with struggling ITV and Chanel 4. With media regulator OFCOM in the UK allowing Channel 4 and ITV to introduce teleshopping (including gambling) between midnight and 6am – something is afoot. 

There is a major behavioural change taking place with TV taking a less and less important place in people’s lives, particularly in the lives of the under 30’s – the so-called ‘Digital Natives’ – who did not grow up with a ubiquitous flow of quality TV programming that was watched by millions each week.

Now TV competes for their attention – and for the attention of those of us who are in the more ‘traditional’ and ‘more mature’ bracket. There are very few TV programmes and very few days of the year when TV can command on support from the viewing public.  

The explosion in take up for BBCi-Player, TV programmes when you want to see them through whatever device you want to see them through. The dowloading of video content from illegal file sharing websites (up 10% of us are doing it in the UK according to latest figures from Future Consulting).  The new kids on the block are now developing new business models to cater for these new tastes.

Take Spotify as an example. It has managed to sign up 1.5m subscribers in four months and is currently signing a new subscriber every two seconds. It is now recognising that it is quality of service that holds the key to keeping these people sweet and are upgrading the music streams available to paid subscribers to 320kbs per second from 160kpbs – thereby providing a CD quality service for only £9.99 a month.

With 1.5bn people online in some form or other (digital TV, PC’s, mobile devices etc) there are two routes to take for a business nowadays: premium prices – sell expensive to a small group of people. Or sell cheap to as many people as you possibly can and aim to hit a break even number as fast as you can (something Setanta failed to do).

It is now a race downward in terms of price, a race upward in terms of speed and move towards ‘convenience’ and ‘accessibility’ for those business models at the cutting edge of media communications. Setanta was a loser. Out of the ashes will rise another contender.

The net effect though, is that the new generation of consumers are more demanding than ever before. They are more critical than ever before. They want the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost and they want it wherever they are – in whatever form the company can supply it.  This has terrifying implications for all media linked businesses.  Think about it for a second, do you really read more than 10% of that newspaper you bought at the station? Why buy it? Do you really watch more than 20 hours TV a week – why pay the TV licence. Football crowds and those who watch football are a ‘community’ that share a common interest and are prepared to pay for it. The same is true of the businessman, the soap watching housewife and the child and his or her cartoons. Our behaviour is changing and businesses need to change now before their business models become rapidly out of date.