In an announcement that may renew calls for the BBC to contribute to increasing Internet infrastructure in the UK, the corporation has announced the number of programmes downloaded or streamed on demand via BBC iPlayer has already reached 17 million, up to 500,000 a day.
Top shows on the new digital service for the UK included Doctor Who and Torchwood, with the BBC making ever more content available for viewing and download (the latter currently PC only).
Announcing revamps and expansions to its online offerings, the BBC, which is already working on a US version of iplayer, says BBC-branded entertainment channels showing clips on Yahoo! with Blinkx and MSN to follow soon. (The existing BBC-branded entertainment channel on Yahoo! is at uk.tv.yahoo.com). An iplayer for iphones and ipods is also due for release soon, along with a mobile iplayer.
A selection of BBC shows is now also available for purchase and download from the iTunes Store in the UK (www.itunes.com/uk).
The BBC says over 17 million programmes have been streamed or downloaded on demand on BBC iPlayer in the first seven weeks since its marketing launch, according to the latest figures. Daily volumes have been increasing strongly during January and February and last week the total number of streams and downloads in a single day broke through the half a million barrier.
During January, more than 2.2 million people watched a programme on BBC iPlayer, with approximately 11 million TV programmes streamed or downloaded on demand. This complements the 15.9 million radio downloads during January (rising from 13.4 million in December) and totalling 27 million requests for TV and radio programmes.
While all this is good news for the BBC which spent over £130 million developing the iplayer as it tries to reach out online to licence fee payers, there have been concerns that the services is playing havoc with ISPs bandwidth and last year there were calls from some for the BBC to compensate them. But The Register reports that during the announcement of viewing figures, the BBC’s Director of New Media and Technology Ashley Highfield said the impact of iPlayer on ISP networks has been “negligible”, with traffic representing a “few per cent” of overall bandwidth.
Last August, the BBC hit back at ISPs, pushing the issue back to the ISPs, which it said are responsible for pricing, monthly limits on how much data can be downloaded as well as acceptable use polices for their users.
“Inevitably, some ISP packages will be more suitable than others for the download of large amounts of data,” the BBC said in a statement. “All broadband is not equal.”
The row highlighted how much investment ISPs need to put in their infrastructure to accommodate greater demand for video and the rift over bandwidth was seen by some observers such as Jonathan Coham, a broadband analyst at Ovum, as a red herring, where the real issue was that the BBC’s content would compete with content offerings from ISPs such BT Group and Tiscali. Based on the viewing figures announced today, those content providers have every reason to be concerned.
The BBC has also been criticised for favouring Windows users on iplayer over and open source and cross platform approach to offering downloads as well as streaming, concerns BBC Director General Mark Thompson sought to address in a post to the BBC Internet Blog earlier this month, citing technical and rights issues as some of the reasons for not offering downloads to Linux and Mac as well as PC users.
BBC iPlayer Top 10: 25 December 2007 – 12 February 2008
1. Doctor Who
2. Louis Theroux Behind Bars
4. Ashes To Ashes
6. Six Nations Rugby
7. Top Gear