I was contacted recently by a Social Media Agency working on the BBC iPlayer Global project. They were interested in my thoughts on the iPlayer and very kindly gave me a month free on the iPad.
As regular readers know, I seem to spend more time trying to create the perfect TV viewing setup than actually watching the telly, so of course I was interested in trying it out.
iPlayer Global is the BBC’s very welcome move to make their programming available online globally. As with many of these services, it has free shows and a premium version with monthly €6.99 sub.
One thing I didn’t realise initially is that it is iPad only. Whilst I totally understand that, it really needs to get on as many platforms as possible quickly. The issue isn’t the lack of iPad users, it’s that even those who own one don’t necessarily always want to watch TV on one. (I see it is actually now available for iPhone too. Same comment applies tho).
iPlayer need to be like Netflix and be available on _everything_. I’m very close to buying a $49 Roku box which would be perfect for it.
Over the few weeks I used the App several times and was highly impressed with the technical delivery of the product. The UI is very slick and it was easy to find and play shows. Social Sharing is a smidge unintuitive but that’s just nit-picking. I also had very few streaming problems unlike that steaming pile of crap that is the Sky iPad App.
However its killer feature is the fact that you can download for playback later. This makes it perfect for travelling. It is impossible to stream anything on train journeys in Ireland so this is a godsend.
Having said that, I don’t think Ireland is a particularly appropriate market. We can all get all of the BBC channels on Freesat, Sky and even on Freeview in the border counties. We can PVR them and sideload them onto mobile devices. Many of the popular shows are re-broadcast by RTE etc. I would be very surprised if more than a tiny percentage of people here sign up for it. Maybe those who travel a lot?
Thinking outside of Ireland, I can imagine a huge audience of people who either love individual BBC shows or have strong ties to the UK e.g. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. Obviously the strength of BBC America means it’ll be a big hit over there.
Of course it suffers from the same annoyance as Netflix where you can get only certain shows or older seasons of certain shows. All to keep the BBC’s existing distribution partners happy everywhere. Will we ever see a time where every show is available to everyone globally simultaneously based on how much they are willing to pay? Let’s keep fighting to make that happen.
Overall, iPlayer Global is a winner. Will I sign up for a sub in West Cork? No, but if I move to Half Moon Bay, I’ll sign up right away.