Today the BBC announced that it wants to compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime by improving its iPlayer platform. It hopes to do this by doubling its current user base by 2020 and offering better functionality and quality programming so the consumer watches programmes for longer.
The Director General of the BBC said that he wants iPlayer to be “The number one online TV service in the UK.”
So how can the BBC actually achieve this?
In this article I will look at some ways that the BBC can improve its iPlayer offering:
1. Change the look of the iPlayer platform
If iPlayer is to improve, it will have to modernise its current look to be more user-friendly. The way the app behaves on PlayStation is slow and clunky compared to Netflix.
2. Add an automatic ‘Auto-play next’ feature like in Netflix
Netflix is the biggest and most popular platform for streaming TV shows and movies. One reason that helped the binge-watching phenomenon is the automatic ‘Auto-play’ function they implemented. Once an episode is coming to an end, Netflix puts the next episode in the queue and automatically plays it – unless the user tells Netflix to stop the player. This has led to a binge-watching culture where it’s easy to just keep on watching. That’s what the BBC wants to do, yet BBC iPlayer doesn’t do this. Instead, it gives you recommended shows to watch, some of which are completely unrelated to the original content you were on. If it’s a series, I most likely out of anything on the platform want to watch the next episode. The BBC has to implement this change on the iPlayer.
3. Improve suggested shows that a user might enjoy
Make us have an account. The more invested we are in a product the more likely we are to continue using it. The BBC’s sign-up process is generally pretty arduous, though, or at least it always appeared that way, with the need to confirm emails and even wait for a period of time before using certain stuff. This is an archaic way of doing things on the Internet. People want things and they want them now. Make the sign-up process as simple as possible and instant. Take a few details but give us what we want quickly. Remember our logins automatically so we don’t have to keep signing in. This feature would then open up a world of opportunities for the iPlayer, from favourite lists and suggested shows specific to what users would enjoy.
4. In our account, let us add shows to our favourites
This is a simple one taken from Netflix, let us add our favourite shows to a ‘favourites’ list somewhere in our account. This would strengthen the link we feel to the platform, give us a place where we can store what we want to watch in the future and make us more likely to use the service in the future. The BBC can then find out exactly what we like and make better suggestions of what else we might want to watch on the iPlayer in the future.
5. Improve the reliability of the platform
I don’t know if it’s just me, especially when compared to Netflix, which I’ve watched on Smart TV as well as Apple TV and PlayStation and literally never had a problem with it, it seems that the iPlayer function is prone to crash a hell of a lot. It either buffers for no reason, even though you have a strong internet connection or it just malfunctions in some way. The BBC must improve this aspect of the service to gain credibility. A lack of reliability can give people a negative view of the platform as a whole which already pushes it down the list of players that people are going to watch.
6. Add a bigger back catalogue of shows
The BBC claims they don’t do this because of rights issues and it costing too much and yada-yada. People want to be able to watch their favourite shows from any time, any time. Ultimately, it would be great to be able to watch every episode of The Office or Fawlty Towers whenever we want. New shows are great but the BBC must know better than any institution that you sometimes can’t beat a golden oldie, and old shows inform the new ones. We must never forget the quality programming from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
7. Take off trailers airing before an episode is played
This isn’t YouTube. We’ve technically already paid for the content. I get why the BBC wants to push other similar TV shows to us but where’s the sense in when I am sitting down to watch a series them showing me another thing I could watch instead? I want to watch the show I’ve chosen to watch. We don’t need trailers. We know what we like. There are other ways we can hear about things: recommendations from friends, reviews in newspapers or magazines, or simply by pure luck or chance that we stumble onto something. Besides, I think people are prone to ignore adverts and just simply want to skip them almost instinctively so the trailers won’t be watched anyway and it just slows down our viewing experience. YouTube has made good revenue from its advertising but it’s a downside on the format as a whole. Most users skip adverts and the adverts border on being annoying. It would be sad to see the iPlayer adopting a similar approach to advertising as YouTube, even if it is other TV shows.
8. Make iPlayer a separate experience from the BBC website
Entering Netflix is an experience. The splash screen and the recognisable music reinforce the fact that you’ve made a decision to watch Netflix. Netflix does one thing and it does it well. The BBC has other irons in the fire like News and Sport but when we enter iPlayer we want to feel like we’ve gone somewhere different. We want to sometimes shut off from the world. The BBC has to keep this in mind when deciding how to improve iPlayer.
9. Let us watch shows for longer
A major downside of the iPlayer is a lot of their content is only available for 30 days after going out on the TV. This means we can miss the first episode or two of a series if we arrive late and have no way of watching the entire series. This is very off-putting of the platform in general. It comes back to the issue of money but if the iPlayer truly wants to be the best online provider of UK television content then they need to really look at this and improve on it.
10. Trial some programming as iPlayer-only
This could entice people who haven’t used the iPlayer before to delve into it. The first episode of a series could be put on the iPlayer well in advance of it going out on television. The BBC has already done this but I think they could make even more of it. Give people a reason to start using the iPlayer who maybe have never used it before. That’s their goal so they must think of strategies to help achieve this.
Do you like iPlayer? What are your suggestions for improvements to the service? Leave a comment.