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BBC Revamps iPlayer
Changes in the world's leading catch-up service highlight the switch from "TV online" to "online TV"

The latest in a rolling series of developments intended to place the iPlayer front and centre of the BBC's distribution strategy sees the VOD service itself given a wholesale makeover.

The new look iPlayer, which launches today, has been redesigned to deliver a consistent multi-screen experience with mobile and tablet apps updated over coming months.

"It’s just a first step to re-inventing BBC iPlayer, the best online television service in the world," said BBC Director-General Tony Hall at today's launch in London.

Included in the new iPlayer is a feature called "Collections," which curates programmes by series, event, or theme as well as BBC TV and radio seasons.

When an episode ends, iPlayer can automatically line up the next in the series and suggests other shows of relevance. There's a "recently watched" and "recently searched" option, and a "resume play" function that allows users to pick up an episode where they left off.

Navigation is image-led. Hovering over stills from a shows will highlight further textual information.

"The current iPlayer’s pretty good if you know what you want to watch, but we know that 42% of visitors are now coming without a particular programme in mind," said iPlayer chief Dan Taylor. "A major focus of this release is to make it easier to find something to watch, helping you quickly and easily find the programmes you know you’re looking for, and crucially, helping you discover something new."

Following on from last week's news of plans to axe BBC3 from the schedules and serve it online only from Autumn 2015, a raft of new content—series of original drama shorts and comedies—will be made exclusive to iPlayer. The BBC hopes to draw more audiences to the service as a first port of call.

A move to a 30-day catch-up window on iPlayer from its current 7-days is also in the cards. Fresh IP-only channels will be introduced, such as a Radio 1 video channel, subject to approval from the BBC Trust.

Two weeks ago, the BBC received the backing of the Trust to go ahead with proposed download-to-own service, BBC Store (once codenamed Project Barcelona). The new online commercial venture will allow users to buy new programmes and a selection of content from the BBC archives. BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm, will establish and run the service. BBC Store is distinct from BBC iPlayer, which will remain a free catch-up service funded by the licence fee.

Launched on Christmas day 2007, BBC iPlayer has grown to be the number one brand in the UK (according to YouGov’s BrandIndex Ranking). Available on over 1000 devices across four screens—mobile, tablet, computer and TV—its apps have been downloaded more than 28 million times. In January this year there were 315 million requests, averaging more than 10 million requests a day.

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