…as technology chief defends iPlayer launch

BBC technology chief Ashley Highfield says internet service providers (ISPs) should see its on-demand iPlayer as a “marketing opportunity” instead of a threat, following fears that it could slow the internet.

IPlayer will let viewers download programmes, such as Doctor Who, over the internet for up to seven days after they have been broadcast.

ISPs voiced concerns about the iPlayer increasing levels of rich media content and the volume of data consumed by users.

Instead he says ISPs should herald the launch of services such as the iPlayer, which allow consumers to watch programmes on their PCs, as an opportunity to sell more broadband and at higher speeds.

Highfield, director of future media and technology, admits the concerns voiced were “really valid”. He says/ “We are working very closely with ISPs in order to make sure that we don’t swamp their networks.”

He adds iPlayer will launch as a download-only application later this month in a bid to control the flow before launching streamed content in autumn to rival commercial broadcaster Channel 4 and ITV services.

“For ISPs, in many ways it is a marketing and upsell opportunity,” he says, adding that they should balance the benefits against the additional internet traffic.

“One of the responsibilities of the BBC is to be a force for good, drive consumption, not bring the internet down.”

Highfield expects 500,000 users within six months and 1 million within a year. The service will have a full marketing launch in autumn when it hopes to be on the Apple Mac and Windows Vista platforms as well as PC. It has also inked a deal with cable company Virgin Media, which will see iPlayer on its TV platform.

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