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BBC iPlayer now includes commercial TV channels

'Partner Linking' adds ITV, Channel 4 and Five

BBC iplayer logo

BBC iPlayer yesterday added non-BBC content to its on-demand catch-up TV service for the first time, in a move dubbed ‘Partner Linking’. 

The BBC first announced Partner Linking in May 2010, but the service has now come to fruition. Six new video on demand (VOD) services are now accessible through the iPlayer portal, including ITV, Channel 4, Five, S4C, SeeSaw and MSN Video Player.

Programming from the BBC’s rivals is not hosted within iPlayer, but is searchable through the iPlayer interface. The commercial partners’ feeds are included in the iPlayer listings where their scheduled and archived programme information is listed. Viewers can then click through on links to invidual partner programmes to watch them using the partner’s own online TV delivery system. The commercial alternatives to the BBC iPlayer include 4oD, Demand Five and ITV Player. 

With these new links between online TV services, the UK moves a step closer to a single integrated hub for online TV. YouView, set to offer a similar service via a broadband-connected TV set-top box, has recently confirmed that it will not launch until 2012.

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Partner Linking has ‘intuitive user experience’

‘It’s been a while in the making, but this has been an extremely ambitious and technically complicated project,’ said Paul Clark of BBC Future Media and Technology.

‘We wanted to get to a user experience that feels intuitive and not “bolted on”, even though the experience is as much reliant on the data feeds from our partners as our own engineering.’

The BBC is planning for its online offering to ‘serve as a hub to support other UK sites’ and it views Partner Linking as ‘an important public service’, and one that will ‘support fellow broadcasters’.

BBC iPlayer is the UK’s most popular online catch-up TV service, and delivered more than 162 million programme requests in January 2011. 

See our guides to BBC iPlayer and online TV.

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