Sunday, September 25, 2005

BBC pushes internet TV

While U.S. TV networks still shy away from the internet, the BBC, Britain's public service broadcaster, is embracing it with open arms.

The Wall Street Journal took note last week of the BBC's moves to mainstream the Internet and integrate it with its broadcast activities. Aaron Patrick of the WSJ points out the Beeb's trial, beginning later this month, to issue its iMP (interactive media player) to about 5,000 selected UK viewers to allow them to download and watch most of the BBC's television content for up to seven days. "No other broadcaster has made so many shows available for download to computers," notes Patrick. He goes on: "The BBC hopes its iMP software will become the iTunes of Internet television, allowing viewers to customize their TV schedules over the course of a week."

Amazingly, the iMP uses peer-to-peer file-sharing/networking software similar to that designed for Napster and Kazaa (software that triggered a "music-sharing free-for-all" on the Internet). In this form of peer-to-peer networking,

    iMP users will be required to share the downloads with each other. As programs spread from computer to computer, most iMP users will actually download them from other people instead of the BBC. That means the broadcaster won't have to buy Internet capacity to transmit large computer files to millions of people.

The BBC's move shows how far ahead it has moved from its U.S. counterparts in this regard. U.S. networks, fearful of what they've seen happen with musical downloads, have so far only toyed with internet television, and refused to make complete shows available for download (although of course countless TV shows are in any case illegally obtained off the Internet thanks to software such as BitTorrent). The BBC is trying to make the whole process legal and above board. Patrick quotes Nancy Cassutt, vice president of content at Internet Broadcasting Systems Inc.: "What the BBC is doing is what every network Web site here in America is trying to do -- discover what works online." It helps of course that the BBC, funded by the license fee (a form of taxation), doesn't have to worry about shareholders and making profits as it tries out this bold new experiment.

The trial should last for three months, and if it's successful (and why wouldn't it be!), Auntie "plans to make the iMP freely available in the U.K. next year, becoming the first TV network to show its entire schedule over the Internet."

But remember, you'll have to live in the UK to get this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel that the simple fact that the BBC is essentially government operated (or at least subsidized) is what makes the iMP functional in British society. If one tried to move the iMP over to the U.S., I doubt that it would even be considered worth the effort by major TV companies. Similar in concept to Napster and Kazaa, (or DC++ in the Geneseo area last year) iMP would not only pose a huge threat to copyright laws and profit margins, it would also greatly affect the way TV advertising is controlled. However, it seems that these things that plague the potential Americanized version of iMP do not afflict the British version. Nevertheless, I think it is a very interesting concept.

-Libby Donaldson

9/26/2005 1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Libby that it seems like a stretch to translate BBC's idea to United States network television. This is due in large part to the fact that the networks are, justifiably, concerned with the effects it would have on their profits. However, it also needs to be noted that BBC is likely giving us a glimpse into the future in regards to an increasing correlation between the worlds of television and internet. BBC is wise to take advantage of the situation, which is clearly unique from U.S network television, and delve into the unexplored possibilities of iMP and online television in general. They are now certainly a step ahead of American television in that regard, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the domestic networks and their use (or lack thereof) of the internet.

~Travis Cass

9/26/2005 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I applaud BBC for experimenting with merging media. Innovation and growth are vital to the media industry. While I think some kind of merge in inevitable in the future, I do not think it will happen any time soon in the US. One of the main advantages to downloading shows is to be able to watch them when it is convenient. But with the growing popularity of TiVo and DVR's, this is already common among American families.

-Stephanie Zopp

9/26/2005 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its a great idea for BBC to try out something new and to welcome modern times into their doors. As we get more and more advanced in our technology, there are plenty of options in how you can use the media that is available. BBC is making a move that will probably place them at the top of the charts world-wide.


9/27/2005 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imagine the future of producing shows--with the mere touch of a mouse a network chief can actually see quantitative results of his efforts; what works, what doesn't. No more guessing by antiquated information gathering techniques to see what the public wants. No more listening to the advertisers input as to what they will support. Woe to those who are out of the "mainstream" of what they consider valuable entertainment--if reality shows aren't your bag, you could be lost in a void of drivel the likes never seen. However, we could be surprised by the results and maybe, just maybe, see a surge of better written, more intelligent programming that might add worth to the volume of human knowledge. Stop laughing, it could happen.

DJ Smith

9/27/2005 6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This idea seems very innovative and ahead of our time. Then again, the British are always one step ahead of us-- in the worlds of technology, fashion and other such trends. I feel as if the iMP idea will not begin to flourish in our country for some time. However, if it proves to be successful in Europe, the trend might float over to America sooner. Agreeing with Stephanie, I feel as if TiVo and other such inventions might limit this occurance in our country since we already have products which serve the same purpose. Yet, I'm sure in due time that iMP will become standard in America and other countries, just as Napster and similar tools have.

-Jillian Levine

10/03/2005 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally doubt that iMP can or will come over to the US without reform to the copyright laws. right now, the amount of money that it would cost to buy distridution rights to all of the network shows would be massive.Plus the amount of people that know about iMP and would pay to use it simply woudn't make iMP a finanialy wise investment. My final point is that I think the mass use of such a product could do wonders for the global community.

~Christian Foster

10/06/2005 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The iMP has been coming and it has been just a matter of time and correct licensing. I think that this will be successful in the beginning if it does come to the U.S. but will slowly fade. I agree with comments made about us haveing tivo and other technology. I believe we already have enough of our own t.v. control but who knows? I think hat this has been in the making for years and many won't stop until it is in effect. I think this will end up being detrimental to t.v. networks, the same way the music industry has been affected.
Casey L. Hanna

10/10/2005 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with all of the previous postings that such a program will probably never make it over to the U.S., or if it does it won't be for a very long time. One concern that I had was with advertising. With tv shows being online will they still have advertisments? If they do, the computer would allow its user to fastforward through the commercials, thus advertisers may think it not to be profitable to advertise on the networks that offer their programming online. It would be interesting to see what happens to the advertisement industry if such a program was implemented in the U.S.

~Meghan Scheib

10/12/2005 9:46 PM  

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