One of the few complaints lodged against the Virgin Media TiVo is that the BBC iPlayer is disconnected from the rest of the system. It lives as a separate app, and isn’t integrated into the ‘catch-up’ EPG, etc. While BBC iPlayer on older Virgin Media boxes, like the V+, was tightly integrated.
But it turns out this wasn’t Virgin Media’s, or TiVo’s, fault, but the BBC’s doing. The iPlayer used on the VM TiVo platform is their new ‘Big Screen’ iPlayer and they require it to be less integrated than the old player that was used on earlier boxes, as detailed by paidContent:UK (all emphasis in the original):
But, as iPlayer moves from PC to TV as a branded service, platforms like BSkyB and FetchTV would rather carry individual BBC programmes in their own EPGs, just as they do with live programming – something BBC syndication guidelines forbids.
Virgin Media’s new TiVo box is amongst those now forced to carry the badged Big Screen iPlayer in an “apps” section, separate from all Virgin’s other VOD, even though its previous V+ box had closely integrated BBC catch-up shows. All broadcasters are doing the same. Connected TVs are increasingly shipping with iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand Five and, perhaps soon, Sky Player, resulting in VOD becoming siloed.
Fortunately, according to BBC on-demand GM Daniel Danker, this should be changing and integration should improve:
“This is a strange moment in time that I hope will be very, very short-lived,” Danker tells paidContent. “We are offering any provider our full metadata for everything we have in iPlayer.” That means the likes of Virgin, Fetch and BT Vision will be free to include BBC catch-up prompts in their own EPG, but clicks will deep-link out to the individual programme on Big Screen iPlayer.
It means box operators can own the initial discovery experience but the BBC will retain the subsequent viewing experience. Virgin Media is currently working with this metadata to improve its TiVo, Danker says.
This is good news for Virgin Media TiVo users. While it sounds like it won’t be as seamlessly integrated as in the past, it seems it will be a big improvement over the current state of affairs once the work to integrate the BBC iPlayer metadata is complete. Most of the complaints have focused on disappointment over the iPlayer content not appearing in the EPG and in search results, and it sounds like those issues, at least, will be solved. I don’t think users will care that they’ll be deep-linking out to programs in the standalone iPlayer.