The BBC has formally proposed another new feature for the superb iPlayer video on demand service: a pre-booking function. Did anyone else feel that? It was like a great disturbance in the Force; as if hundreds of ISPs suddenly cried out in terror.
A pre-booking service, as the name implies, would let you queue up TV shows you’d like to download up to a week before they air and would also be extremely handy for ensuring you keep up to date with on-going series. A similar feature is already offered on various other TV download services, including 4oD and Sky.
The Beeb isn’t entirely ignorant of the problems faced by ISPs, whose finite amount of bandwidth is being destroyed by the popularity of the iPlayer service (and other less legitimate file-sharing and download tools). Therefore, the system will incorporate of minimising the strain on the networks by performing the download at an “optimum time for the user, the UK internet and the BBC”.
We don’t have any sympathy for ISPs who have sold ‘unlimited’ broadband and now are upset to discover their customers using it, but there’s no getting around the fact that the UK’s broadband infrastructure is struggling under the weight of its usage. A pre-booking system sounds like an ingenious way of minimising the strain and ensuring you keep on top of your favourite shows at the same time.
The service is merely at the planning stage right now, but it has been put before the BBC Trust, which has to give it the go-ahead. This was also just one of a number of potential new features shown off to journos last week.