London: British state broadcaster the BBC launched a new version of its popular iPlayer online catch-up video service with prominent links to rivals’ websites, a move that may dampen criticism of its power in the market.
The new version of the iPlayer, one of Britain’s top websites, will also allow viewers to personalise their home page, and share tips with friends via Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft’s MSN instant messenging chat service.
The BBC will feature links on its TV homepage to the ITV player, Channel 4’s 4oD and Clic, RTL’s Demand Five and SeeSaw, an online service showing content from Channel 4, RTL’s Five and older BBC programmes.
“We want to double the amount of traffic we send to other websites in the country,” Erik Huggers, the BBC’s director of future media and technology, told a news conference on Wednesday. He said the BBC would not be sharing its technology.
The BBC earlier this year signalled a retreat from some commercial operations to focus on core services, bowing to pressure from rivals led by pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB, which has called the BBC’s digital scope and plans “chilling”.
The corporation, renowned for its news coverage and comedy drama like The Office, receives a guaranteed 3.6 billion pounds ($5.2 billion) a year from the licence fee, a tax paid by all television-owning households.
Huggers said the Internet remained at the heart of the BBC’s overall strategy.
The launch came a day after the new Conservative-Liberal coalition government, expected to be more hostile to the BBC than the previous Labour regime, began its work in parliament.
The new iPlayer will not link to BSkyB’s websites, although Huggers did not rule this out in future.
“If Sky wants to be part of this, we would very much welcome their participation,” Huggers said. “They are considering it.”
The BBC says a third of all British adults claim to have used the iPlayer. In January, 120 million requests were made for programming from the website.
On Tuesday, the BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, published results of a review of its online services including the iPlayer in which it said it was broadly satisfied the iPlayer was fulfilling viewers’ expectations.