Rose: tiered iPlayer could benefit ISPs

iPlayer - accounting for 7% of bandwidth in peak hours
iPlayer - accounting for 7% of bandwidth in peak hours

The BBC's controller for Vision and Online media, Anthony Rose, has suggested that ISPs should use the iPlayer as a key factor in selling its higher bandwidth products, rather than moaning about usage.

In comments that are already being misconstrued as a suggestion that people should pay more to use the iPlayer, Rose suggests that offering tiered quality on the iPlayer would provide ISPs with a clear message to take to its customers – namely that you would need higher bandwidth connections to get the better level of service.

"The future lies in tiered services. What we need to do is to create the iPlayer services at different quality levels and then let ISPs offer different bandwidth propositions to users," Rose says in the European Broadcasting Union Q4 review.

No worse - only better

He continues: "For example, the user who enjoys higher bandwidth connections would pay more, and those who are satisfied with lower bandwidth connections would pay less. Of course, nobody should get a worse experience than today.

"We were offering streaming initially at 500 kbit/s. Today we are also offering 800 Kbit/s and in three months' time we might be offering 1.5 Mbit/s.

"Some people will stay with 500 kbit/s, so they will not be able to experience our high-quality streams.

"If you sign up with Virgin, you will be on a 20 Mbit/s plan and you can download a film in six minutes, rather than in one hour if you only have a 2 Mbit/s line. So we could introduce a new scalable business model.

"For example, the user can get a good quality iPlayer service for, say, £10 a month but for £20, a much better iPlayer quality would be available.

"If we can create iPlayer in tiers, then ISPs will be able to work out how to sell that. "Every content provider should create such quality tiers and then ISPs will be able to build business models around these propositions.

"This can lead to win-win situations and ISPs will see video services as a profit centre rather than a cost burden."

Higher bitrate

Rose's comments make sense; people using higher bandwidth products – such as Virgin's recently unveiled 50Mb connection - would be potentially able to receive a much higher streaming bitrate – potentially allowing the streaming of HD quality pictures.

Should the BBC start to offer a more heavily tiered service, it would give ISPs the opportunity to upsell or market their products to a generation keen to have better quality iPlayer functionality.

In the meantime, expect a welter of 'BBC says people should pay for iPlayer' stories.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.