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BBC iPlayer redesign brings Netflix-style ‘play next episode’ and recommendations

A new version of BBC iPlayer will begin rolling out today, adding improved search and recommendations, as well as a Netflix-esque ‘play next episode’ feature.

The latest update features a responsive search, which starts to comb for programme titles based on the first letter you type, while an A-Z list promises to make finding programmes easier than ever. A YouView-style seven day EPG lets you scroll forwards and backwards in time.

It’s even got links to ITV and Channel 4 content; clicking on The Only Way is Essex and Hollyoaks for example will take you to the relevent pages on ITV Player and 4oD. 

BBC iPlayer redesign brings Netflix-style ‘play next episode’ and recommendations
Dan Taylor taking the wraps off the new-look iPlayer at BBC Broadcast House

The new version of iPlayer should also see an end to fragmented development, which has seen things such as mobile downloads arrive on iOS months before Android device owners could watch their favourite shows offline.

Dan Taylor, head of BBC iPlayer, said: “The new iPlayer is built for the multiscreen world. Optimised but consistent across PC, tablet, mobile and smart TV. We’re now able to quickly develop and make changes across whole platforms at once.”

The revamped iPlayer is based around the principles of responsive design: its layout will alter automatically depending on the size of your device’s screen, giving you the best possible experience regardless of whether it’s through the web browser of a 4.3-inch smartphone or a 60-inch smart TV.

The latest iPlayer has a renewed focus on programme discovery. The main page of iPlayer will feature
links to specific channels – BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Three – and categories including, Archive, Exclusive, Catch-Up and region-specific programming for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The category formally known as ‘Factual’ is now broken down into Documentaries, Premieres, Arts, Food, History, Science and Nature.

After a programme has finished streaming on iPlayer you’ll automatically be offered a link to the next episode (if one is available) and recommended other shows to watch.

BBC iPlayer redesign brings Netflix-style ‘play next episode’ and recommendations
A snapshot of how BBC iPlayer will look across multiple soceity devices

Taylor spoke of plans to make programme recommendations more personalised and tailored to specific users in the future, but these are very much in the planning stages at the moment.

The revamped iPlayer will be accessible from mobile and tablets web browsers first and updates will be rolling out at 1:00PM today. Current BBC iPlayer mobile apps will be updated over the coming months. 

If you want to see how it’ll take shape on desktop browsers and smart TVs, you’ll be able to opt in to a preview mode to see how it will look once the full version rolls out. 

HTML5-based versions of iPlayer, seen on platforms including PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Freetime from Freesat will also benefit from a refreshed design incorporating all of these features. Other platforms such as Virgin Media TiVo and YouView will see updates rolled out later in the year.

There was no mention of the iPlayer expanding the current seven day catch up window to 30 days nor was their any mention of 4K Ultra HD streams. With regard to the possible online-only future of BBC Three, BBC spokespeople at the event reiterated that the plans are subject to approval from the BBC Trust.

When asked if people in rural areas and places where broadband speeds are too poor to support iPlayer streams, spokespeople revealed that some BBC Three content could be moved to BBC One and BBC Two, suggesting that the ‘online-only’ move of BBC Three won’t keep people who can’t stream Suspicous Parents spin-offs totally in the dark.  

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