Ashley Highfield - BBC Director for New MediaAccording to this press release, BBC has successfully concluded trials of their most deadly weapon – the integrated media player (a.k.a. BBC iMP). This traditional media killer was tested on 5,000 BBC viewers for four months (between November 2005 and February 2006).

Some may find my irony a bit ill-fitting but according to an Independent interview with Ashley Highfield, BBC Director for New Media, he feels his job is to “oversee the end of broadcast media as we know it.” So what were the results of the iMP trials? No irony this time. Says Highfield:

Niche programmes that would have struggled in a mainstream linear schedule performed consistently well throughout the period of the trial.

While the top five programmes accounted for a quarter of all the viewing, some niche programming performed disproportionately well. The Amazon ‘long-tail effect’ – seen in the publishing and music industries – indicates that there is significant value in a broadcaster’s archive.

Some key stats from the trials:

  • iMP received an overwhelming positive response – 74% said that they would recommend it to a friend
  • Key benefits were that it offered genuine flexibility (to watch and to listen to programmes when they wanted), greater control and genuine, added value
  • 77% used it to watch a favourite programme that they had missed, while 64% used it to watch or listen to a programme at a more convenient time; and 32% used it to watch a programme they had never heard of
  • Throughout the trial there was continuous interest in all programmes: more than 85% of titles available were downloaded, with comedy, drama and documentaries being the most popular genres

Key issues raised by the trials were: only half of the programmes downloaded were watched; 27% said that the download speed could be improved; 78% of panellists, however, said that they would not compromise on screen size or picture quality for quicker downloads; 76% said that it was important to be able to view iMP via the television screen.

Note: BBC has already put a news archive on the web.