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AUNTIE BEEB is preparing for a fourth iteration of its iPlayer streaming platform, as it attempts to keep pace with the breakneck speed of change in the industry.

According to a report in today’s Guardian, the next version of iPlayer will go ‘beyond channels’ as it attempts to fight not only its terrestrial rivals and established streamers like Netflix, but also the raft of new streaming services set to launch next year, from companies like Disney and Discovery.

It will also face competition from its own Britbox joint venture with ITV – because, quite simply, you can only watch one show at once.

The BBC is working on the basis that iPlayer will eventually be the main way that its content is consumed, and for that reason, it’s aware that it has to make iPlayer enticing, rather than perfunctory.

To that end, it has already agreed with Ofcom that it can leave shows available on demand for a full year after linear broadcast.

Now, it wants to revamp the service yet again. Details are sketchy but it is understood that it will be putting greater emphasis on live content for streaming (ie channel simulcasts and pop-up streams) alongside the wealth of box set and catch up content.

At the moment, although both are available via the current service, they’re a bit fiddly to get to, where the new version puts them front and centre as the BBC Sounds app does for radio stations.

“iPlayer will become the heart of everything we do; the gateway to all our programmes – a ‘total TV’ experience, which will bring everything you want from BBC television into one place for the first time,” said Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content.

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It’s not surprising that iPlayer has had more revamps than everyone else. When it began in 2007, it was the only game in town and as a result, it was nailed down to all kinds of regulations which left it unable to compete with commercial services as they emerged.

Now the BBC says it is free of “the burdens of excessive regulation”.

Whether that allows it to gain a foothold alongside its commercial rivals, without peeing off its Britbox partner, ITV or its commercial arm UKTV, remains to be seen.

It is understood that the ‘iPlayer’ name will survive, despite the launch of BBC Sounds suggesting it might get changed to ‘BBC Pictures’. µ  

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