The time is 23.40 and you’ve got in late again. To make matters worse it’s a Thursday and you just missed Dimbleby & Co. putting to rights the essential political discourse of the week. A spam sandwich and bed is all that’s left. If only there were a place where you could rewind TV and watch the things you like at a time to suit you. Throw the video recorder out the window and get your laptop out, ‘make the unmissible unmissible’. For once the internet isn’t just full of pornography and over rated bloggers (ahem). Cue BBC iPlayer.
BBC iPlayer, for those outside the UK who don’t know or can’t get it, allows busy folk to cherry pick the programmes they want at the time they want via the internet – anyone for the 10 o’clock News at 2am? The BBC was the first major UK broadcaster to offer such an application and with plans to open the entire BBC archive to keep on the heels of Channel 4’s OD service, the individual has never been in a better televisual position.
Recently the BBC broke a new record with 162 million requests on iPlayer in one month. This is quite remarkable. The way they carry on, you’d think that Sky was the UK’s most important source of broadcasting nowadays. The Sky+HD interface has deliberately relegated BBC 1 to position 12 in an attempt to make the next generation think the BBC is just another channel, but these figures show that the national love affair with the BBC is very far from over, in spite of a largely critical press.
As competition for on demand television and channel loyalty becomes ever more dog eat dog, BBC iPlayer is, once more, leading the way by pushing its mobile device equivalent to phones and iPads. Even top brass from Microsoft have defected to help the campaign.
At a time when the license fee is perpetually questioned, does this new swathe of internet and mobile accessibility allow the BBC to lead the way, as it did with radio and terrestrial television last century and merit the fee through innovation? Can it continue to compete digitally with commercially funded outfits? Time and audience share will tell, but it’s acknowledged a new key proposition, that audiences and their watching habits have changed for good.