BBC tests new hi-tech technology including ‘random TV’
7th March 2019

BBC tests new hi-tech technology including ‘random TV’, a couple’s shortlist option and programmes to match mood in a bid to help warring families decide what to watch

  • Developments are part of a plan to improve the BBC’s digital services offering 
  • To be piloted on BBC Tester website with the aim of being introduced on iPlayer  
  • The BBC’s director general Lord Hall will give a speech on the future of TV today 

The BBC could allow viewers to randomly select iPlayer shows by spinning a fruit machine reel as part of new technology being tested to help divided families decide what to watch. 

Other features being piloted on the BBC Tester website include voice software that selects programmes based on mood, like ‘something funny’, and technology that selects a show based on how long the viewer can spare. 

The final development will help couples build a consensus about what programme to watch. One person selects five on a shortlist, which is whittled down to two by their partner before the first person makes the final choice. 

The BBC has introduced several new features to help people chose what programmes to watch on iPlayer, which can be linked to normal TVs like this one (pictured) 

‘We want to make choice fun,’ Libby Miller, a senior producer at the BBC research and development unit, told The Times. 

‘Our research showed very strongly how difficult it is to choose things, particularly for people with children, and older couples.’

The developments are part of a shift towards improving digital services at the BBC, which its director general is set to warn will be ‘the only ones some of our audiences use’ in as little as five years. 

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Viewers are increasingly moving away from linear channels to digital services such as iPlayer and Netflix, Lord Service will say today on a speech about the future of TV. 

The director-general will say audiences ‘need to get value for their £154.50’ licence fee.

‘Increasingly, they expect to get that value through iPlayer, through BBC Sounds, through News Online,’ he will say.

With audiences moving away from linear television to streaming and catch-up services, he will add: ‘It might be five years away, it might be 10, but soon our digital services will be the only ones some of our audiences use.’

BBC director general Lord Hall (pictured in 2015) will make a speech about the future of TV today 

In 2016 a loophole that allowed viewers to catch up on shows on BBC iPlayer without paying the licence fee was closed.

Lord Hall will say there must be ‘a new contract’ between the BBC and the public, with a service ‘that is more personal’.

‘Not long ago, traditional broadcasters and media organisations could each do our thing and expect audiences to make time to come to us. Now we must fit around their lives. Deliver value directly to them. Or we all risk irrelevance,’ he will say.

The BBC recently announced plans for a streaming service, BritBox, with ITV, to counter competition from Netflix.

But Lord Hall will say that ‘iPlayer lies at the heart of the BBC’s strategy to create the TV of tomorrow’, with audiences wanting and expecting ‘more than just catch-up’.

Shows currently remain on iPlayer for around 30 days but the BBC wants that extended for at least a year.

BritBox is designed as ‘a long-term home’ for many shows after they are no longer available on BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub.

Lord Hall said he wants to see ‘more boxsets, more titles for longer, programmes available for at least 12 months after they’re first shown, more personalisation, more live programming and more content from the archive’ on iPlayer.

He will argue that the BBC is a place for ‘British creativity – unique amongst today’s vast array of global content’ and will stand out ‘in an algorithm-driven world’.

Lord Hall will be speaking at the Media And Telecoms 2019 & Beyond Conference, taking place in London.

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