Feeds

How the BBC plans to save your ISP

Auntie's next big iPlayer gamble

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The BBC iPlayer is now an undeniable success with consumers. The technological mistakes and management waste of its lengthy gestation are almost forgotten in the flush of popular excitement surrounding the fact that now - at last - quality television is available on demand on the web.

A hostage to this success, the Corporation now faces its next big internet gamble. The price for a bad bet this time could be much higher, threatening the unique way the BBC is funded.

The restructured team behind iPlayer's resurgence is understandably upbeat about the spluttering revolution it's kickstarted. "In ten years it would be surprising if television wasn't all over IP," iPlayer boss Anthony Rose told The Register last month.

But to the ISP execs we've been speaking to recently, such predictions don't sound like a utopian vision of television that'll stand or fall on its quality, free from the schedulers' whims. Rather, it's a doomsday scenario for the broadband business in its current form. Backward as it may sound to TV execs, the way the bandwidth market is structured means people using the internet more is a bad thing for ISPs.

The BBC hierarchy knows that it must address this problem to preserve public service media in the IP world. The iPlayer project is already facing accusations from open source advocates that it has illegally interfered with the operating system market. More criticisms from business are sure to follow as BBC Worldwide ramps up efforts to compete in commercial media markets.

The Weakest Link

Web users got the first independent indication of how big a problem the iPlayer could be for their ISP a few weeks ago. Figures released by PlusNet showed that in the month following its Christmas marketing launch, the Flash-based version of BBC TV catch-up sent streaming costs rocketing 200 per cent.

Since streaming represents about five per cent of all the traffic PlusNet has to pay for, that's an overall costs increase of ten per cent in one month.

Such a big, instant costs hit would be tough for any market to take. For ISPs, who are already operating a fiercely competitive volume business on tiny margins, it's a thundering right hook.

And ISP execs know that iPlayer's impact will only increase as the BBC ramps up its rollout of the service away from the desktop and onto mobile devices and set-top boxes - including games consoles - over coming months. In this context, the headily slick experience of iPlayer on iPhone is a gateway drug.

Right from the point when ISPs first publicly voiced their fears over BBC on demand in August last year, the BBC has been ready to coo soothing words. Ashley Highfield, the BBC's director of future media technology told us in February that his new friends in the broadband business say iPlayer's impact on ISPs has been "negligible" so far.

The technological strategy the BBC is considering to soften the blow says different.

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
Oh girl, you jus' didn't: Level 3 slaps Verizon in Netflix throttle blowup
Just hook us up to more 10Gbps ports, backbone biz yells in tit-for-tat spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.