The BBC iPlayer is adding new features, including the facility to restart a live programme from the beginning, to pause and resume across different screens, and more personalisation functions. Usage figures for the first half of 2015 suggest that growth in BBC iPlayer viewing may be slowing.
Dan Taylor-Watt, who runs the BBC iPlayer, said: “This raft of new features promises to give users even greater control over their iPlayer experience, ensuring they’re never late for a BBC TV broadcast again and providing easy access to the programmes they’re enjoying on BBC iPlayer whether at home or on the move”.
The restart live television allows viewers on connected televisions to rewind a programme to watch from the beginning. This should preferably be a feature of connected television platforms like YouView, rather than the BBC iPlayer. What it should really mean is that users can start watching a programme on iPlayer before the end of the broadcast, which is a slightly different use case.
Live restart has been available on iPlayer for computers for three years. It will now be available on YouView, Roku, NOWTV, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox One and a range of connected television sets, with mobile and tablet apps to come.
The facility to pause a programme on one device and resume watching on another will require a user to sign in, as will other personalisation features. While some form of user identification may be required for use across multiple screens, it should not be necessary for a single app.
Initially available on computers, tablets and mobiles, the cross-device resume will be rolled out to television devices. That presents more of a challenge, as different viewers often share the television experience.
Providing a more convenient, personalised experience offers benefits to users, but it will be interesting to see how many sign up for them.
The BBC has proposed that use of the iPlayer will require a television licence in the future. A licence is currently only required to record or view a programme at the time of transmission.
The BBC iPlayer received 196 million requests for television programmes in July, compared to 165 million in July 2014. June saw 194 million requests, compared to 190 million the previous year.
BBC iPlayer viewing was only up slightly in the first six months of 2015 over the previous year. In the first six months of 2015, the BBC iPlayer received 1.36 billion requests for television programmes, compared to 1.32 million in the first half of 2014.
As with television viewing in general, usage varies according to season, with more viewing in the autumn and winter.