BBC iPlayer puts rocky start behind, begins building solid user base

bbc iplayer logoThe BBC heavily promoted its iPlayer, an online TV catchup service, on TV, in the press, and online during the holiday season. The effort seems to have paid off. Sort of.

UK Internet traffic to the iPlayer Website increased “14-fold between the week ending 8 December 2007 and the week ending 5 January,” according to Hitwise, and the service ranked as the 80th most visited Website in the U.K., having peaked at No. 62 on New Year’s Day.

It appears that the BBC has recovered from its rocky online TV start. When the initial iPlayer was launched, it was not without controversy. The BBC was accused of being corrupt due to the player’s reliance on Microsoft technology and lack of Mac/Linux support. UK ISPs were also critical of the iPlayer’s use of peer-to-peer technology and potentially high bandwidth costs.

bbc iplayer homeIn October, the BBC partnered with Adobe to develop a streaming version of the iPlayer based on Flash so it would be compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. By the end of December, the iPlayer left its limited beta and was a part of the major marketing push, although with considerably less fanfare than its first release.

Even with  the quick success, the iPlayer still has a long way to go to catch up with the UK’s — and the world’s — online video market leader YouTube.

YouTube accounted for 8.75 percent of all UK Internet visits to entertainment Websites, Hitwise notes, and has more than 12 times more market share that the iPlayer online (0.69 percent). Video content downloaded and played on the iPlayer’s desktop application was not included in the survey.

Hitwise expects that the iPlayer, with broader demographic credentials than YouTube, will continue to improve against YouTube, particularly among older viewers. It predicts that “2008 looks set to be the year when online video truly goes mainstream in the U.K.”

We’re happy to see the success of the BBC iPlayer, especially our U.K.-based editor Steve O’Hear. But for us folks in the U.S. — who grew up watching British comedies and wish “The Vicar of Dibley” was never taken off the air — we must, alas, do without.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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