BFI Player can do for film what iPlayer did for TV, says Greg Dyke

The BFI Player can do for film what iPlayer did for TV
Epic of Everest is debuting on the BFI Player

The BFI has announced the launch of a new on-demand platform which will unlock content from the British Film Institute archives, as well as showcase new movies and behind-the-scenes material from the institute.

Launched to coincide with the London Film Festival, the service comprises both free and pay per view content - with the split being around 60/40 in favour of free footage.

TechRadar was at the launch of the platform, where BFI chair Greg Dyke heralded the service as an iPlayer alternative to film.

"The BFI player can do for film what the iPlayer did for TV," Dyke explained.

"This is a real milestone in the BFI. It is the boldest move since the launch of the NFT, it is that important in the institute's 80-year history.

The launch of a standalone platform comes a month after Samsung announced updates to its BFI app for its Smart TV platform.

This is the first time, however, that a web service has been created and it is all part of the BFI's Film Forever five-year plan.

"When I was interviewed for the job, I said 'I think you are the London Film Institute and not the British Film Institute. Today is a big step to change that," said Dyke about the BFI's London leanings.

"We want to make as many film as possible available to as many people as possible. And this launch of the BFI Player is a trailblazer to a platform that will truly blossom in 2014."

BFI Player

The BFI Player launches 9 October

According to the BFI, the player will use adaptive bitrate to bring as best a picture as possible to viewers, with much of the content available in HD.

Director of Digital Ed Humphries noted that the files used for the movies are the same as Apple's so quality isn't an issue, and as for combating piracy the BFI Player will have industry standard DRM.

Curation is key

When asked about the virtues of a standalone player, instead of linking up with Netflix or Lovefilm to make BFI movies on-demand, Humphries explained: "Commercial VOD platforms do a great job but cult and specialised film is definitely under represented [on these platforms].

"We want to support the film industry and another platform will help reach out to film directors. One of the ways we can offer uniqueness is through curation. We will have packages on the service that tell a bigger story about film."

In all there will be seven collections on the service, some representative of current BFI 'seasons' at the moment.

At launch there will be a section dedicated to Gothic films, London Film Festival behind-the-scenes videos, cult cinema as well archived content from Edwardian times and movies selected by Sight & Sound magazine.

As for what's to come Humphries said that "over the next four years we will be digitising many thousands of films" and also hinted at some sort of geo-targeting to help with curation.

"We are working in a way for audiences to find films based on the context of where they live," he said.

The BFI Player on-demand platform will be available from 9 October at

Pay per view movies will start from £2.50, with selected movies that are released on the platform the same day as cinema costing £9.99.

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.