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BBC’s iPlayer will be overhauled by 2020

Broadcaster BBC aims to redesign its digital iPlayer service by 2020 to better reflect the needs of the content rental and streaming environment

The BBC will overhaul its digital iPlayer service over the next three years, according to Tony Hall, the broadcaster’s director general.

The BBC will redesign its iPlayer services in an attempt to make it one of the most popular online TV services available in the UK.

Hall told BBC staff that iPlayer has been the “biggest revolution” in the broadcaster’s transformation plans, but work needs to be done over the next three years to reach a larger audience.

“We need it to make the leap from a catch-up service to a must-visit destination in its own right,” he said.

Since the launch of digital streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, consumers have adapted to taking in huge amounts of content in a short amount of time.

The subscription-based on-demand nature of these services has also made the media industry an increasingly competitive environment.

Hall said he wants the BBC to “reinvent public broadcasting for a new generation”, something the broadcaster is already doing through various projects such as the MyBBC and the End-to-End Digital projects.

The End-to-End Digital project will use digitised videotapes used for digital content production, archiving and playback of BBC content, and the MyBBC project aims to develop new capabilities for use with BBC online services.

Read more about tech at the BBC

The priorities for the iPlayer overhaul project will be creativity, culture and global ambition.

“Our goal, even in the face of rapid growth by our competitors, is for iPlayer to be the number one online TV service in the UK,” he said.

As part of new plans for iPlayer, the BBC may provide TV programmes in their entirety before they are screened on television, allowing audiences to “binge watch” them as they would a Netflix series or box set.

The BBC will also attempt to make the service a more personalised experience, and look into using artificial intelligence (AI) and voice recognition.

A move to slow news

In 2016, the BBC made it mandatory for those using its iPlayer services to also have a TV licence. As of early 2017, the broadcaster will also require users to log in with a personal account to use the service.

The iPlayer service received approximately 243 million monthly requests in 2016, but Hall claimed the BBC needs to double the number of iPlayer users and quadruple the amount of time users spend on the service per week to beat its competitors.

Hall claimed the BBC’s audio and radio services would need to receive the same treatment, helping this content to reach global audiences.

But iPlayer is not the only service the BBC has been working on, with BBC Three becoming an online-only platform and the broadcaster experimenting with technology such as holographic, augmented reality television.

In the future, the broadcaster aims to move towards a “slow news” platform as opposed to fast-paced disposable content.

Jon Page, head of operations for BBC Research and Development, told Computer Weekly in 2016 how the BBC would be adapting the way audiences are viewing content through non-linear content delivery and object-oriented content production.

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