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BBC Trust says no to kit-specific iPlayer apps

Standard platforms only - unless the vendor coughs up

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If you're eagerly waiting for the BBC to pull its finger out and implement iPlayer on your TV, set-top box, games console or smartphone, forget it. The Corporation will almost certainly not help you, its governing body, the BBC Trust, has said.

The Trust has been pondering how the BBC should syndicate its content and it today stated that it believes iPlayer should be made available only in "standard formats" which service providers and telly manufacturers can readily adopt.

Hardware- or service-specific versions of iPlayer should be developed only in "exceptional cases”, the Trust said.

These are early conclusions - the review of the BBC's approach to making its programming available to on-demand and catch-up services will continue. There now begins a four-week consultation period to allow stakeholders - licence payers, service providers and the like - to have their say.

If these "provisional views" make it to the final policy document, it is essentially a big thumbs up for YouView, the would-be standard platform for both providing and playing IPTV content.

The BBC is obliged to make iPlayer as accessible to as many licence payers as possible, but there are clearly limits. Even the Corporation lacks the resources to build versions of iPlayer for every possible platform that might present its content to the viewer.

Better to focus on open standards that allow anyone to equip their kit with the technology safe in the knowledge that iPlayer - and other IPTV services, for that matter - will just work. If, for instance, the BBC won't do an iPlayer app for the iPhone, any third-party can using YouView tech.

Virgin Media will be annoyed by this since it wants to offer iPlayer through its set-top boxes but disapproves of YouView. It currently delivers on-demand content over its DVB-C feed, which, it says, delivers better results than a broadband internet link can. It fears that if iPlayer and other such service are explicitly tied to YouView, it will have to use IP, reducing its competitive advantage.

That may not happen. The "exceptional cases" clause provides the BBC with a get-out that lets it work with YouView-phobes on dedicated players for their boxes. Even so, the Trust said such cases should only be considered when "the BBC's costs for development and maintenance would also be fully reimbursed". ®

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