By Sahil Patel
The primary focus for BBC’s iPlayer remains the British broadcaster’s TV channels and programming. But that doesn’t mean BBC isn’t interested in distributing original online content through the digital video service, whose apps have been downloaded more than 28 million times since launching in 2007.
BBC unveiled a new-look iPlayer today, designed to make it easier for users to discover and stream the content they want.
With the new redesign, which will extend to the iPlayer’s mobile apps in the coming months, BBC is also expanding its efforts in commissioning original content made for the service.
“New talent is the BBC’s life blood,” said Victoria Jay, head of TV content for BBC iPlayer, in a blog post. “We want BBC iPlayer to be where the best up and coming British talent choose to showcase their first work, because we’ll give them the creative freedom to tell the stories they want to tell, supporting them with all the expertise the BBC has to offer.”
As an example of this desire to give voice to emerging talent, the new iPlayer is already offering three new original short films, exclusively commissioned by BBC for the platform: “Flea” from Cat Jones; “My Jihad,” a Muslim romantic comedy from Shakeel Ahmed; and Katherine Chandler’s “Tag,” which is set in a school at the end of its life where two teachers play a final game of “It.”
Looking ahead, there will be more original short-film content, as well as series created by a diverse roster of creators.
For instance, BBC iPlayer has commissioned seven original comedy shorts from creators such as Frankie Boyle, Bob Mortimer, Meera Syal, Morgana Robinson, Micky Flanagan, Matty Berry, and Stewart Lee. These shorts will debut on iPlayer in May.
Then there’s “People Just Do Nothing,” a new comedy series born out of the youth-facing BBC Three’s ‘Comedy Feeds’ pilot program. “People Just Do Nothing” comes from a group of writers and performers who used to put short sketch-comedy videos on YouTube, were discovered by the BBC team, and invited to produce a half-hour pilot for the ‘Comedy Feeds’ initiative in 2012. Now, BBC Three has picked up the show, the most-shared program on iPlayer in July 2012 according to the BBC, for a four-episode series, which will premiere on the iPlayer in May.
The “Comedy Feeds” program will continue as BBC iPlayer and BBC Three plan on launching a third season of pilots later this year.
In addition to unearthing new creative talent, BBC iPlayer will option original programming from established individuals across a variety of formats:
- Journalist Adam Curtis will debut a three-part documentary series exploring his “radical vision of contemporary Britain.” His three films, “Out There,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” and “Dream Baby Dream” will arrive on iPlayer in July 2014.
- A companion digital film, “My God, It’s Full of Fans” tied to a BBC Two series on the history of science fiction, “My God, It’s Full of Stars,” will premiere “soon.”
- Video guides to installments such as the “Matisse The Cut-Outs Exhibition” at Tate Modern by musician and artist Goldie, and the “Chelsea Flower Show” collection via a partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society.
Online-only content isn’t new to BBC iPlayer. The platform has been used by Steven Moffat to debut original content tied to his popular “Dr. Who” and “Sherlock” franchises on BBC. That said, last week, BBC announced plans to turn its youth channel, BBC Three, into an online-only channel within the next few years. It signals a shift at the broadcaster of embracing digital as a viable means to help creators find an audience for their content.
“As the rules of fixed durations and transmission slots fall away, we want the finest British talent to come on a creative adventure with us, to pioneer new forms of iPlayer-first storytelling that will delight and surprise our audiences,” wrote Jaye in her blog post.