iMP proves internet 'about to revolutionise TV'

Ashley Highfield

BBC new media director Ashley Highfield has unveiled findings of the integrated media player (iMP) trial in a keynote speech at digital content market Milia in Cannes. Highfield said the consumer trial involving 5,000 triallists over four months had demonstrated that "the internet could revolutionise broadcasting, and prompt a wider, cultural shift in television consumption".

During the trial between November and February web users could catch-up with television and radio programmes they had missed within seven days of broadcast.

Triallists watched on average two programmes a week via iMP during the period of the trial. "This is equivalent to 6% of a typical household's BBC viewing in a week," said Highfield. "Consumption was consistent over the period of the trial, and the iMP appealed equally to men and women."

Highfield said niche programmes "performed consistently well throughout the period of the trial".

"While the top five programmes accounted for a quarter of all the viewing, some niche programming performed disproportionately well. The Amazon 'long-tail effect'—seen in the publishing and music industries—indicates that there is significant value in a broadcaster's archive."

Most viewing took place between 10pm and 11pm, thus potentially extending peak time usage for an hour after the traditional linear peak time of 7pm to 10pm. "This apparent shift in television consumption is consistent with the results of early video-on-demand trials with NTL and Telewest," added Highfield.

The results of the iMP trial will now feed into the public value test of MyBBCPlayer, the corporation's proposed online distribution platform for live streamed television and radio as well as a downloadable seven-day catch-up service of TV and radio programmes.

Key research findings:

  • iMP received an overwhelming positive response—74% said that they would recommend it to a friend. Key benefits were that it offered genuine flexibility (to watch and to listen to programmes when they wanted), greater control and genuine, added value
  • iMP was perceived primarily as a TV service: 92% claimed that they used it most to watch television programmes rather than to listen to radio
  • The total number of TV downloads during the trial was 150,000, and the total number of viewings and listenings was 70,000
  • The most popular reason for using the iMP was when a favourite programme had been missed and to watch a programme at a more convenient time
  • 77% used it to watch a favourite programme that they had missed, while 64% used it to watch or listen to a programme at a more convenient time; and 32% used it to watch a programme they had never heard of
  • The majority of iMP usage (66%) was for an hour or less at a time; usage mainly took place in the study and living room

Key issues raised in the research:

  • Half of the programmes downloaded were watched; 70% claimed that one of the reasons for their failure to watch was tied to the seven-day viewing limit
  • 27% said that the download speed could be improved; 78% of panellists, however, said that they would not compromise on screen size or picture quality for quicker downloads
  • 76% said that it was important to be able to view iMP via the television screen, and roughly 30% of panellists said that portability was important (particularly for radio)
  • 94% said that increasing the number of programme titles would improve the iMP

The iMP was created and developed by the BBC's New Media & Technology Division in partnership with Siemens, Red Bee Media, Kontiki and Microsoft, and internet service providers AOL, Wanadoo, NTL, Tiscali, Telewest and Bulldog.

Lovelace Consulting  |  06.04.2006

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