Next-gen BBC iPlayer: The future of TV explained

The BBC is planning to shake up its iPlayer service and key changes will be happening over time.

No longer will it be just an on-demand and catch-up service. Instead, the BBC has plans for its iPlayer platform across Smart TVs, set-top-boxes, online and apps to make it the company's primary digital entertainment division. It wants to make the new iPlayer "the best TV service in the world".

We have rounded up a few of the features the Beeb has planned or is experimenting with. Although not all of them might make it to the final build, this is the overall picture the corporation has in mind for its new service.

Exclusive content

With the next-generation iPlayer service, the BBC is planning to offer you exclusive content, meaning it will almost turn into a all-new BBC channel of its own.

It plans to give you a greater range of content just for iPlayer so you will have a bigger choice of shows to watch. Including unique shows based on star franchises, such as Doctor Who.

New channels

There will be even more channels available within the future iPlayer and they will all be on one place so it will be easier for you to access.

These channels could include those based on specific subjects, collating science and art programming, for example, under handy, themed banners.

There is also talk of pop-up channels for big events such as Glastonbury to be made available on the new iPlayer. We have seen some of this in the past with the Olympics and it seems to follow this path. 

Personalised

You might be a fan of Doctor Who, but you might also love a bit of Strictly Come Dancing. With the new iPlayer, you'll be able to create a personalised channel so you can put all your favourite programmes into your own space.

It sounds like an expansion of the current favourites feature, enabling you to gain access to all your favourites shows easily, based on your preferences. It is something that has been successfully added to Netflix in recent months and would be very welcome here too.

Creating schedules

In addition to personalised profiles, the new iPlayer will allow you to line up the shows you want to watch for an evening, enabling you to create an evening schedule. Playlists if you like.

The BBC has also said you will be able to watch some programmes on iPlayer before it hits TV screens. This was something the broadcaster mentioned back in February this year. It isn't likely to be flagship content, but it could be a top of the line programme that will give BBC ideas on viewing numbers before it is released to terrestrial TV.

The idea is that the BBC will make it easier for you to watch what you want, when and where you want to watch it so we are excited for the roll out to begin. Anything that makes life easier is always a bonus.

Multi-camera angles and 4K

There are some programmes you might want to get a little closer too, whether that is to Danny Dyer in EastEnders or the giraffes in Africa. And there are plans to make some of its programming more interactive when it appears on iPlayer.

Not only could there be information boxes and multi-camera angles to choose from, but also Ultra HD 4K video footage in some cases, giving you a crystal clear picture. This will, of course, rely on the footage being shot in that format in the first place so could take time getting to the platform, but modern video compression techniques mean it is possible to send 4K footage using roughly the same amount of bandwidth as 1080p content before.

30-day catch-up

One of the most frustrating things about the existing BBC iPlayer is that if you don't get round to catching-up on the programme you want to watch within seven days, it's gone.

The next-generation iPlayer will have extended watching times, so you will now be able to watch the show you want up to 30-days after it has been on, meaning you can go on a two-week holiday and not worry about missing anything.

Pause and resume

Sometimes you move about. You might start to watch a programme on your TV in the living room, and then decide to finish off watching it in bed.

Rather than having to fast forward to where you were, there will be a pause and resume function, which allows you to watch it on different screens and pick up where you left off.

This function is something Netflix, Lovefilm and a host of other media streaming services offer and it works well so it is good to see it coming to the iPlayer.

Buy content to keep

Finally, as well as the free shows and films to watch through the iPlayer service, the BBC has announced that it is to open an online BBC Store in order to sell digital box-sets of classic and contemporary series of shows.

It hasn't detailed whether this will be through a digital locker or a full download service, but you will get to keep paid content forever, it says. Perhaps it will turn out to be a little bit of both.

Many of the above features will make BBC iPlayer a very different prospect to what it is currently. Clearly, the BBC is looking towards the future of broadcasting and ensuring its place is at the forefront with such an investment in internet provided television. Could it spell the death of terrestrial TV? The Beeb would hope not. But it will make sure it is ready, just in case.