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BBC turns iPlayer on for social channels

iPlayer 3.0 goes live after a four-month beta trial, with a new interface and the ability to share programme recommendations on Twitter and Facebook

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Topic: Developer
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1 of 5 Jack Clark/ZDNet

In beta since May, BBC's new version of iPlayer launched on Monday, adding in social-networking and recommendation features.

The social element in iPlayer 3.0 allows users to set up an account with the on-demand online TV service and then link their on-site profile directly to a Facebook and/or Twitter account. People can feed links and recommendations to to their social-networking accounts without leaving their iPlayer account. The iPlayer page also pulls in a list of 'friends' from Twitter and Facebook who have signed up for an iPlayer account and shows which programmes they have recommended. However, there is no functionality for inviting friends to join up.

During the late stages of the public beta, BBC figures show that around 300,000 users were accessing the site each day. However, during the course of the entire beta only 18,000 users — six percent of the total — signed up for the social aspect of the service, according to the broadcaster.

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2 of 5 Jack Clark/ZDNet

The BBC has redesigned the landing page to add a long list of new items to the list of criteria used to filter and find programmes.

In addition to previous categories such as 'Factual' and 'Drama', the drop-down list for each channel includes new filters such as 'Featured', 'Most Popular', 'For You' and 'Friends'.

The page's content changes depending on what the BBC itself is choosing to highlight (Featured), what people across the site are watching (Most Popular), what the site's backend algorithms think the user would enjoy (For You) and what your social coterie have been watching (Friends).

The last two tabs are only visible if the user has signed up for an iPlayer account.

iPlayer boss Anthony Rose explained on the BBC Internet Blog during the beta period that these four tabs make up the personalisation element of the new player. "You can slide open any of the drawers to turn the iPlayer homepage into the tastemaker of your choice," he wrote.

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3 of 5 Jack Clark/ZDNet

The listings page in iPlayer 3.0 gives greater prominence to radio and offers a fine level of granularity when filtering by the type of programme wanted.

However, the ability to see all of a single TV channel's output has been lost and has been replaced by the ability to see an individual channel's output by day. In addition, users cannot view all content across all channels, though the interface does let them see all content in a particular genre, such as drama, across all 10 TV channels at once.

Radio programmes are organised and displayed along the same lines.

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4 of 5 Jack Clark/ZDNet

To test the new recommendation system, ZDNet UK created an account and viewed World Business Review and Mountain Gorilla (though not in full). After that, the For You page quickly changed from listing a series of generic popular programmes such as Top Gear and Hollyoaks to those shown in the image above, such as the Tony Blair interview with Andrew Marr.

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5 of 5 Jack Clark/ZDNet

The new iPlayer 3.0 interface now lets people set particular shows as 'favourite'. This stores the shows in a single place for later viewing and will warn the user when the show is set to expire. It will also suggest other episodes associated with the favourite programmes.

The image above shows the expanded view for favourites, with the Google Chrome-esque star favouriting system pictured at the bottom. The new iPlayer also includes advances to its adaptive bitrate system, so that the player will recalibrate the video quality on the fly according to the viewer's broadband speed and computer hardware.

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