Reviews of BBC's iPlayer program have been mixed. The service offers U.K. residents access to television programming through a downloadable player that can queue up shows, and grab entire seasons at a time. Most of the criticism has been toward its staunch DRM and lack of Mac and Linux compatibility, which will be changing shortly. Yesterday, the BBC announced it's chosen to move to Adobe's Flash platform to deliver its video content on the iPlayer, taking the service from Windows-only to a Web-based platform.
Windows XP users will still be able to use the iPlayer software to download the shows ahead of time, but my guess is that those wanting one less thing to clutter up their desktops will make the move to a browser bookmark instead.
The news comes in tandem with another partnership announced yesterday with broadband service The Cloud, which operates 7,500 Wi-Fi hot spots in the U.K. The company will be giving users of BBC's various Web services free Wi-Fi at all their locations. Users won't be able to surf any old site for free without signing up for the company's pay-as-you go and unlimited plans, but they'll be able to watch iPlayer programming and peruse BBC.co.uk freely.
This is a wise move on the part of the BBC. The iPlayer project was originally created as a response to piracy of video content. However, the closed and limited system hindered some users from getting their hands on content easily, which is one of the many reasons people choose to pirate content in the first place. Similar efforts by content providers in the United States have proven successful, although piracy remains rampant. Initiatives like YouTube's antipiracy protection program (announced yesterday) are trying to keep that content off the Web, but technologies like Bittorrent and other P2P platforms continue to improve speed and safety for users who want to swap files with one another.
BBC will launch the new and improved iPlayer service "by the end of the year." It will remain limited to U.K. residents, even in its online form.