This year, rumors of Web TV have flooded the blogosphere. Google, Apple and TiVo have jockeyed for position in the increasingly crowded space - while lesser known rivals like Boxee and Roku are also making overtures to offer set-top boxes that will merge TV programming with the Internet. However the one contender that's lesser known on this side of the pond is the venerable old Auntie Beeb!
Auntie Beeb is the nickname for the "British Broadcasting Corporation" and their iPlayer has been perfecting this technology and raising the bar since their launch in 2007. So as the Net TV revolution ramps us, you just might find the US's tech firms either striking partnership deals or mimicking the iPlayer's technological innovations.
Initially introduced as a platform to catch up with old re-runs and advertised as "Making the unmissable, unmissable," this week, the iPlayer is debuting its new marketing campaign: "The Next Level."
iPlayer's new iteration, which officially went live this past week after beta testing since June has added various social media features and a recommendation engine built into it. The new version includes a number of downloadable programs as well as integrating with social networking Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The revamped system will now allow users to download TV show content before it's been aired and in a move that's somewhat akin to Facebook's "like" button or Amazon's "wish lists," users can now build lists of their favorite shows to share with social network followers and friends.
According to several reports coming out of the UK, Auntie Beeb hinted that the iPlayer would be coming to the States in 2011. The Worldwide wing of the BBC has hired Mark Smith as its global iPlayer launch director, in its latest attempt to get its video-on-demand service off the ground outside the UK.
However due to the BBC's complicated status as a quasi-public owned entity, US netizens should not expect to get the service for free. It's plausible that the Beeb will charge overseas subscription fees to actually view the content.
However, the BBC does not see this as a hurdle, based on the popularity of some its programming. According to a BBC executive, "millions of people love Torchwood and would probably pay 10 bucks an episode rather than two bucks (as on iTunes)."
So let the Net TV revolution begin, and let's see if the iPlayer is really going to be a "player" in directing the development of this new technology - and whether the BBC will create compatible APIs for Google's and Apple's TV platforms, in addition to mobile apps for their iPhones and Android smartphones.