BBC iPlayer 3: new features explained

New BBC iPlayer becomes a social butterfly
New BBC iPlayer becomes a social butterfly

The BBC showed of the latest iteration of its iPlayer service today, dubbed iPlayer 3, promising better streaming capabilities, social integration and a general simplification of the service.

At the launch event, with TechRadar in attendance, the BBC's Anthony Rose called the iPlayer "more of an application than a website" and explained the many new features that make the iPlayer a more personalised service.

Below we highlight the main new bits of iPlayer 3 – bearing in mind that it is still in beta – which are set to make your VoD viewing experience that little bit more enjoyable.

New user interface

The new user interface is cleaner and is brought into the present with a TV listings page that tells you what's on now.

There is also new 'sliding drawers' options: Features, For You, Most Popular and Friends.

Live channel hopping

There is now a one-click window between channels, which means that you can essentially channel hop the iPlayer's live TV content.

To help you do this there will be quick links in the viewing window.

TV and Radio separate

The BBC has decided to make TV and Radio into separate things so that it is easier to browse through the categories.

Confusingly, Eric Huggers from the BBC says that they will be "separate but intermingled".

Twitter and Facebook connectivity

The social web has been integrated into the iPlayer, with partnerships with Twitter and Facebook announced.

This allows for some audience interaction when watching programmes, all within what the BBC is calling "a clean and intuitive user experience".

Friends recommendations

If you fancy taking a look at what your friends have been watching you can now do this through the Friends Recommendations section of iPlayer.

This is another social enhancement to the site, which obviously wants you to view as much content as possible.

Enhanced browsing

The browsing feature on the iPlayer has been significantly enhanced in a bid to make navigation of the service better.

You can now browse by popularity (there's a top-ten programme chart) and take a look at not only genres but sub genres too.

Windows Live Messenger integration

This announcement is a biggie for the BBC (so much so that they left it till last). Essentially using the new iteration of Windows Live Messenger, you will be able to synchronise watching shows with your friends wherever they are (through an on-screen minutes and seconds counter so you can see how far through the programme you both are) and live chat about the programme.

It sounds an awful lot like the Twitter and Facebook connectivity but a whole lot more intuitive.

Series downloading

Instead of just downloading specific episodes, users will now be able to batch record series, meaning that you won't miss any of your favourite shows again.

Third-party VoD love

The BBC has decided that it is to become a hub for VoD content from other broadcasters. Essentially on its BBC online homepage it will offer links to ITV Player, 4OD, Click, Demand Five and SeeSaw.

This is a significant step for the UK, offering a space on the web which houses all the significant long-form VoD content you need. Although it will just link out, it is a great move.

This also sounds achingly similar to what Project Canvas will be offering, albeit through set-top boxes in the future.

iPlayer 3 is currently in beta, with a full rollout happening in July. Because of this, some of the social-networking capabilities are not yet available.

If you want to try it out for yourself, go to

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.