New BBC iPlayer version to go live
Published Sep 6 2010, 11:41 BST | By Andrew Laughlin
The new version of BBC iPlayer goes live today, offering a refreshed design, personalisation options and links to social media services.
Writing on a BBC blog, head of BBC iPlayer James Hewines said that the changes to iPlayer are a "big step" for the catch-up service and its more than 5m weekly users.
In May, the corporation unveiled
iPlayer 3.0, including a redesigned layout separating TV and radio programmes, backed up by a general clean up of the site's homepage.
Other new features include the ability to watch and listen to live TV and radio directly from the BBC iPlayer Desktop application. Users can also now set advanced downloads of their favourite TV shows so that they are ready to watch as soon as the programme ends on TV.
However, the biggest changes came in the BBC's partnership deals with Facebook
and Twitter to allow iPlayer users to recommend content to friends in their existing networks.
A further partnership has also been agreed with Microsoft to enable Windows Live Messenger uses to invite contacts to watch iPlayer programmes and chat live.
"While social networks are now a well-established phenomenon, socially-enhanced TV and radio aren't," said Hewines.
"It's early days yet, but we're pretty sure that this is going to be an important facility in the near future. Together, we hope these features represent a crucial evolutionary step in the enjoyment of online TV and radio.
"Until now, the focus has been on getting programmes to users packaged in a coherent experience - this next step is about allowing users to interact with the service and each other around our programmes."
During the beta testing phase, 8% of the total iPlayer user base switched to the beta version. Around 18,000 beta testers signed up to use the social features and linked BBC iPlayer to their Twitter or Facebook profiles.
Nearly 700,000 users 'favourited' content, adding an average of 2.5 programmes each. The most frequently chosen programmes were EastEnders
, Doctor Who
, Top Gear
, Mock The Week
The beta feedback revealed that 75% of users preferred the new BBC iPlayer to the existing version.
However, some users complained about buffering issues in the media player and disappearing downloads.
The BBC said that these issues should be resolved by the full launch of iPlayer 3.0, and the corporation will continue to "monitor and put right" any other problems that arise.
The BBC has also produced a series of how-to videos fronted by comedian Rufus Hound offering hints and tips on how make the most of the new site.