'

BBC throws down broadband gauntlet

The BBC is on the point of releasing an Internet video viewer for its content, and its CIO has told other companies to stop making excuses and use the bandwidth available to deliver better services online

Media companies must now keep their side of the bargain and deliver content which justifies consumers' switch to broadband, according to Keith Little, head of IT at the BBC.

Little said the emergence of technologies such as TiVo and Sky+ show consumers now want TV on demand -- broadcasters, he said, must embrace the ability of the internet to deliver on that demand.

"As broadcasters we are driven by the consumer. Scheduled broadcasting is now dying. The idea of the seven 'til nine peak schedule time is no longer relevant -- technologies such as TiVo are now driving the market and we must provide content for users to watch whenever they want," said Little, adding "the internet will enable that."

Little added that consumers have seized upon the now-widespread availability of broadband and broadcasters must now give them something to stretch their bandwidth and make those fat pipes worth the money.

Little said the BBC is on the verge of releasing an "Internet media player" which will enable online viewers "to go back over the last seven to 14 days of BBC content and watch whatever they like".

The bandwidth issue is key to both developing such content and innovation, while another panellist speaking at the Cal-IT Europe Forum in London said it can no longer be an excuse.

Mike Barrett, European technology director at CNET Networks, publisher of ZDNet UK, said: "The internet business five years ago was very scary and very immature. There were no proven business models and most importantly no bandwidth. Back then if you had a 2Mb connection you were state of the art."

"We have spent the past five years overcoming those obstacles and bandwidth is now incredibly cheap," added Barrett, saying media companies must now push forward and innovate with content and delivery, potentially to an increasing array of form factors such as 3G/smartphones and PDAs as well as users' broadband-connected PCs.