Watching TV on the train (or anywhere).

Watching TV on the train (or anywhere).
I love the BBC. They’re so far ahead of the New Media game that American TV will never catch up. They are actually doing many of the things that people like myself have been talking about for years. It makes me want to return to the motherland one day.

The latest is an experiment to provide TV programs via the Internet, so that people can watch what they want whenever and wherever they want. What I like most is their justification, as told to The Independent by Ashley Highfield, the BBC’s director of New Media and technology.

“If we don’t enter this market, then exactly what happened to the music industry could happen to us, where we ignore it, keep our heads in the sand and everybody starts posting the content up there and ripping us off.”
Here are the details. A three-week pilot, called iMP (Internet Media Player), will allow 500 BBC staffers to scan an online guide and download any show. Programs would be viewed on a computer screen or could be burned to a DVD and watched on a television set. Alternatively, programs could be downloaded to a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), a hand-held computer that is becoming increasingly popular in Britain and sells from about £70($125). The plan is to make all of the previous week’s programs available during the current week.
“We might get an over-positive response because I think a lot of BBC staff would love to be able to catch up on the programs they missed last night on the bus or on the train,” Mr Highfield said. “The quality is staggeringly good. It’s slightly better than you get on the seat-backs if you are in a plane, although PDAs have a slightly smaller screen.”

After the BBC pilot, an external trial will be launched with 1,000 people selected from subscribers with the broadband service providers AOL, BT and Tiscali.

The trial will examine whether people watch more television with iMP and if they change their viewing patterns, such as “starting to watch EastEnders in the morning”, Mr Highfield said.

“If it seems that for a substantial part of the audience this is a very valuable way to consume media, then this is something we are going to have to take seriously,” he said. “We will have to take some punts but if the feedback is strongly positive we will have to look at how we clear bulk content and how we start to roll this out widely.”

The BBC has not been — nor will they be — content to just defend the status quo, always looking, instead, to get ahead of the technical curve. Whether it’s Michael Rosenblum’s VideoJournalist (VJ) concept, newsgathering by cellphone, or now transmitting TV programs via the Internet, they are proving that broadcasting’s future is multimedia.

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