iPlayer arrives on Virgin Media

The BBC has announced that its iPlayer has arrived on its first television platform, Virgin Media.

iPlayer arrives on Virgin Media

The move means Virgin Media’s 3.5 million customers can access the iPlayer through the red button on their handset, which will bring up a list of programming and a search menu. Once a programme has been chosen it will be streamed to the box, full screen and full quality without needing to be downloaded.

The BBC claims the content will be similar to that available online, with shows such as EastEnders and Doctor Who available an hour after their initial broadcast, though rights issues means some regional programming and radio channels will not be accessible.

According to a posting on BBC’s iPlayer blog, the process of porting the iPlayer to Virgin’s service was far from simple: “The integration across the systems of BBC, Red Bee, Siemens and Virgin took a long time. Problems we faced included metadata work (much longer than any of us expected); reducing the time it takes for a programme to appear on the TV to within an hour (the technical term for this is “propagation latency”); increasing application speed and making it work on many different variants of set-top box.”

According to the Beeb, the next step is to fully integrate the iPlayer into Virgin Media’s programme guide and on to other television services, presumably including those of, Sky, Tiscali and BT. High-definition services are also being looked at.

“This partnership takes us a step closer to transforming the way our audiences watch TV,” says Ashley Highfield, BBC’s outgoing director of Future Media and Technology. “It also further underlines our commitment to making BBC iPlayer a multiplatform offering that appeals to a wide range of audiences.”

As well as Virgin Media, the iPlayer is now available through Nintendo’s Wii and the Playstation 3. Linux and Mac users have access to a streaming service, but are still awaiting the full download service that was demanded as part of the iPlayer’s public value test.

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