BBC iPlayer upgrade will bring another massive redesign and new ways to watch

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BBC iPlayer Redesign

BBC is gearing up to completely redesign its iPlayer on-demand service… again (Image: BBC • GETTY)

BBC iPlayer is getting another fresh coat of paint.

The BBC is planning to redesign the popular on-demand service, which is currently available on a wide range of Smart TVs, , , Android, and iOS, to name just a few. The decision has been taken to try to put a stop to the decline in viewers, compared to US rivals like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

BBC Director of Content, Charlotte Moore announced the changes in a speech this week, stating iPlayer will now be “at the heart of everything we do” for the first time.

Given that BBC iPlayer started as a way to catch-up on shows which had aired within the last seven days, this is a dramatic shift.

And the BBC isn’t stopping there. As well as a fresh new look, which we imagine will place a larger focus on images – like the new Apple TV and Fire TV interfaces, BBC is also promising “a unique mix of live and on demand – a richer choice for audiences than they’ve ever had before,” Moore revealed.

First up, BBC shows will now appear on iPlayer for 12 months by default. Until now, the default duration for on-demand content has always been 30 days. The move comes as part of a new ruling from Ofcom, which gave permission for shows to stick around longer by default.

According to Charlotte Moore: “A few weeks ago, a critical decision was made in the corridors of Ofcom – to give permission for all new programmes to be available on BBC iPlayer for a minimum of 12 months. Now if you have kids like I do, that might seem obvious – they expect every episode of Friends on tap – or every season of Miranda, Fleabag and Gavin and Stacey.”

It’s unclear how this will impact deals cut by the BBC to sell its shows to rival streaming services after they disappear from iPlayer. For example, The Bodyguard was promised exclusively to Netflix after it had aired on the BBC. Fleabag airs as an Amazon Prime exclusive in the United States. If these shows are available on BBC iPlayer for a calendar year after they air on the terrestrial channels, it could cut-out that revenue stream.

Describing the vision for BBC iPlayer going forwards, Charlotte Moore said: “iPlayer will be the gateway to all our programmes – a ‘Total TV’ experience which will bring everything you want from BBC television into one place. It will be where you watch our channels live or where you choose from all the films, drama, comedy, entertainment or factual on demand.

“So much more than a catch-up service, iPlayer will become the best place to watch all BBC TV – bringing you live music, the latest news, the big sporting events and all the shows that feel utterly relevant to Britain on any given day, alongside a rich library of boxsets and films. It will mean a unique mix of live and on demand – a richer choice for audiences than they’ve ever had before.

“We’ll transform the way iPlayer looks and feels – and how audiences use it. We’ll develop a more personalised service to help you navigate through all the possibilities.”

BBC iPlayer vs Netflix

The latest redesign – and new ways to watch – is to combat competition from the likes of Netflix (Image: NETFLIX)

Just as the BBC trialled with Peter Kay’s Car Share – and went on to achieve gargantuan success using with Killing Eve, Auntie will now launch entire series on iPlayer as the first episode airs on its terrestrial channels, so that fans can race to their apps and binge-watch the entire show on their TV, smartphone or games console in one manic, snack-filled evening.

So much more than a catch-up service, iPlayer will become the best place to watch all BBC TV

Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content

According to the BBC, the decision has been taken because it wants to allow audiences to decide how they watch, instead of dictating which evening, what time and what channel they need to be watching to enjoy the show. It’s a decision that’s likely been taken because of the vast success enjoyed by Amazon Prime and Netflix, which both roll-out the majority of their shows in their entirety in a single upload.

Finally, Charlotte Moore believes there is one difference that will help iPlayer hold its own against its bigger US rivalries.

“There is something else that makes our vision for iPlayer unique and special,” Moore said in her speech, “In fact, it’s the vital thing. iPlayer is curated… it’s a cutting edge tech platform – but it’s run by humans. Not assembled by algorithm, but carefully curated by people you can actually see and talk to in this room.

“People who back your ambition and champion your art. This is the thing I think excites me most about what we’re doing. Because in a world of so much content and so much choice, a dynamic curated offering will become more and more important to people.”

The last BBC iPlayer redesign was centred around great personalisation – with the BBC requiring all viewers to sign-up for an account, so the service could track your viewing habits to recommend similar shows and new episodes to keep you hooked.

Curated content sounds like a different approach with the same goal. Apple placed a huge emphasis on its human curation when it launched its music streaming service, Apple Music, to combat Spotify, which recommends new artists, tracks, albums and playlists based on algorithms. Although the move was widely well-received at the time, the subscription figures shows that Apple is still well behind Spotify… suggesting that listeners don’t really care who – or what machine – is nudging them about a new track.

Whether the same holds true for TV shows and movies remains to be seen.

But with new video on-demand rivals like and Disney+ on the horizon, the BBC iPlayer will need to offer some truly different – or risk losing viewers to its US counterparts. In the last few years, iPlayer has dropped from 40 percent of the UK streaming marketshare down to 15 percent.

So, let’s hope that redesign is something truly special – and the curated content is more reliable than the famous Netflix algorithm.

There’s no word on a release date for the BBC iPlayer redesign yet, but stay tuned. Express.co.uk will keep you posted as soon as we hear any whispers.

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