When Microsoft first announced the Fall 2011 dashboard update for the Xbox 360, there was a great deal of excitement over the range of new content and apps that would soon be made available for the console. But just ahead of the rollout of its new Metro-style user experience, Microsoft disappointed many users by revealing that not everything would arrive at once.
The BBC iPlayer app was one of those that Microsoft promised would be delivered in ‘early 2012’. True to their word, the BBC and Microsoft have jointly announced that the iPlayer app is being made available on the Xbox 360 from today – and even more excitingly, it’s free for all Xbox LIVE users in the United Kingdom, not just those with a Gold membership.
The new app features extensive Kinect integration, allowing users to discover, search and play programmes using gestures and voice interaction. The BBC’s Daniel Danker (General Manager, Programmes & On-Demand) said: “As we continue our work to make iPlayer as simple as possible, we’re also excited to experiment with natural user interfaces made possible with Kinect, including voice and gesture control. We believe it’s early days for these experiences, but see a great future working with partners such as Microsoft on innovations like these.”
High-definition streaming is also offered (on supported programming), but while the new app will offer BBC television content, users will have to wait until later in the year for an update to bring the BBC’s radio content to the app.
The ‘free-for-all’ nature of the app makes the BBC the UK’s first content provider to make its programming available to all Xbox LIVE users. This was a deal-breaker for the BBC, which must make its core services free at the point of use in the UK, due to the mandatory television licence fee paid by all UK viewing households. Microsoft had previously refused to grant the BBC an exception to offer its services outside of the Xbox LIVE Gold subscription.
Such restrictions on commercialising BBC content don’t exist outside of the UK, but while the BBC launched an international version of iPlayer for the Apple iPad last year, there’s no word yet on whether an iPlayer app will be made available for global Xbox LIVE users.
There’s good news for Windows Phone users though (in the UK, at least). The head of BBC iPlayer, David Price, told Digital Spy that the Corporation is working with Microsoft to bring a bit of love to the mobile OS: “We make our services available through a number of ways, whether they’re applications or the mobile web experience. We’re working with the teams at Microsoft to ensure that we can deliver an iPlayer experience on those devices.”
Images via BBC Media Centre