The iPlayer started as a long-running experiment that “tidied up” the BBC’s online video, and turned the UK onto video on demand.
With its elevated promise of “making the unmissable unmissable” the BBC single-handedly brought on-demand to the masses. (Ok, it had some help from a couple of dozen TV and radio stations pushing it 24/7 with every opening and ending credits.)
And now, it’s gone commercial.
But beware, iPlayer hasn’t had to compete yet. And the BBC isn’t famous for turning commercial successes out of mainstream products. Hold the iPlayer applications up to the light of other commercial digital products and it looks clunky and ‘a bit 2005’. It lacks the tactility of newer products and its social-and-mobile strategy looks about as advanced as a Strictly Come Dancing website.
What the BBC does incredibly well is achieve high impact with a set budget. But it hasn’t had to compete on this scale, in a development environment that moves much faster than ‘Auntie’ on her best day. The iPlayer has to make it on a commercial footing now, developing on the fly, and in territories where it doesn’t have the marketing platform or brand to leverage.
All I hope is that an international iPad iPlayer is step 2 in a longer strategy for getting the BBC into the heart of a global community — and not just yet another platform for airing TV and Radio products.