The BBC announced today their new free Internet TV service today and are heralding the arrival of their "on-demand" iPlayer as "important as the first color broadcasts in the 1960s." They have got to be kidding.
For starters, the service is only available to users running Windows XP, contains programming from only 65% of the total content on TV and is only available to users living in Britain. The BBC says that it’s a priority for them to support other operating
systems at some time, including Mac, Linux and Vista, but don’t give a
time frame as to when. You can’t save the content to your computer and can’t burn copies of the shows and you can only watch the content for a total of seven days. You can stream content on-demand, you can only download it. The iPlayer, which the BBC has been working on since 2003 and was originally called the iMP (Integrated Media Player) is still in beta mode and to date, I have not seen the BBC talk about what kind of market penetration they think they can get with their player when they do a full launch.
The content won’t be HD quality and I can’t find any article or info that details what the quality of the video will be. What is the bitrate and resolution? You’d think the BBC would really be focusing on getting this info out there being they are comparing it to a TV experience. But of the 37 news articles in Google News today, not a single one talks to the quality of the BBC service. The BBC is not the first broadcaster to offer this service in Britain. Channel 4’s ‘On Demand’ video download service has been out for close to a year already.
Also, you can sign up to use the service, but the BBC is limiting the number of people initially who use as so as not to swamp the service and keep it to a controlled beta. I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing it that way, but then why promote it and talk about it so heavily when a large percentage of the people who sign up you will be turning away? Sets bad customer expectations.
The BBC has a long way to go before this becomes a real service and by continuing to talk about how important this is and comparing it to the color TV considering the service is only in beta, has not been tested for scalability, can’t support multiple platforms, and can only do downloads, they are setting themselves up for failure in the eyes of customers. You can’t promise the world, call it the start of a new revolution for TV and then not deliver an experience that is not even close to the one you say you are going to replace.