A version of the BBC’s UK-only TV catch-up service, iPlayer, will be available to iPod Touch and iPhone users within “the next few weeks”, reports The Register.
Optimized for streaming over Wi-Fi rather than O2’s slower EDGE network, the new version of iPlayer will employ the iPod-friendly H.264 video codec, according to the report. While this would limit iPlayer use on the go, the BBC has a partnership with UK-wide hotspot provider The Cloud to deliver free Wi-Fi access to the BBC’s website.
However, were the iPhone/iPod Touch version of iPlayer to employ H.264 streaming, it would appear to contradict recent comments made by Ashley Highfield, the broadcaster’s Future Media and Technology Director. Shortly after Apple announced its movie rental offering, Highfield wrote on the BBC’s Internet blog that the move paved the way for iPlayer to be offered on iTunes, since the service could piggyback Apple’s copy-protection technology to ensure that programs expire thirty days days after being downloaded or seven days after viewing.
… Apple’s (long anticipated) move to a rental model, means that we can look to getting BBC iPlayer onto this platform too, as we should be able to use the rental functionality to allow our programmes to be downloaded, free, but retained for a time window, and then erased, as our rightsholders currently insist.
Highfield’s comments were widely interpreted as meaning that pushing content through iTunes was the only viable way for iPlayer to reach iPod Touch and iPhone users. Perhaps this isn’t the case, although it’s unclear how an iPhone-friendly version of the service based on H.264 streaming would meet the BBC’s commitment to lock down iPlayer content through the use of DRM.