BBC iPlayer: yet another "TV highlights over the Net" service launches – how about some nostalgia?

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Andy Merrett writes…

The BBC has announced that an open beta trial of its iPlayer will launch next month. It joins Channel 4’s 4oD service — reportedly doing quite well — for those who want to sit at their PCs and watch highlights of the last week’s TV.

Stuart has already extolled the virtues of “Telly 2.0”. BT are heavily marketing their Vision service, and 4oD can be accessed via BT Vision and Virgin Media.

Are the BBC slow off the mark? When the beta launches next month, it’ll be for a select band of Windows XP users only, with other versions potentially rolling out over the following months. Having said that, Channel 4 still have licensing and technical issues with protecting their content – their excuse for not getting the service to work with Macs (or indeed, any other non-Windows system).

Probably not. Let’s face it, most British consumers are recording the TV programmes that they want to watch on VCR (or possibly a DVD recorder). Some who only have terrestrial TV are even being introduced to the wonders of PVRs thanks to the likes of Freeview Playback.

What none of these services yet offer is complete access to the back catalogue of TV shows. Now that would be something. It’s all very nice being able to watch TV from the last week – though if it’s a programme you really wanted to watch you could’ve recorded it and benefitted from being able to skip all the adverts – but what about that sitcom from the early 90s?

Yes, yes, I know there’s ITV2…

I found myself watching title sequences from old kids programmes on YouTube last night. Goodness knows why – nostalgia perhaps. The terrestrial broadcasters, who even accounting for lost tapes must have hundreds of years of content between them, could make a killing on selling nostalgia online.

It would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly than creating a load of niche DVDs, and come from well-known, trusted names in British broadcasting.

Even as a geek, I don’t really want to try to relax watching a weeks worth of TV sitting at my PC. That’s where I work. If the trial is successful (which is fairly reliant on geeks, some of whom will have their PCs hooked up to their TVs already) then hopefully the BBC will find ways of making their content more wide-ranging and accessible to the sofa brigade.

Andy Merrett