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BBC iPlayer to feature improved recommendations

The BBC is working on bringing recommendations to the iPlayer. 

Similar to the recommendations offered to you on services like Netflix, when you’re done watching a programme like EastEnders or The Voice, you’ll be served up links to upcoming or related programmes.

Dan Taylor, acting head of iPlayer has announced that the BBC will be spending 18 months developing new recommendations software in order to improve the iPlayer experience and feed our insatiable appetite for more online TV.

BBC iPlayer to feature improved recommendations
Watching an episode of Top Gear might cause BBC iPlayer to recommend you the Conservative Party Political Broadcast

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to BBC iPlayerSpeaking to Digtial TV Europe at the Video User Interface Conference in London yesterday, Taylor said recommendations would likely be a blend of related programming as well as random elements so as not to bore viewers: 
“I think that a lot of the techniques that are used in traditional television around hammocking programmes – putting one programme in between two other programmes – we’re learning what some of the digital equivalents of those are and how you flow audiences from one programme into another. It may be that you don’t always want something similar to what they just watched – so if you’ve just watched a one hour history programme you might have had your fill of history.”

Currently the BBC offers the option to watch a programme again on iPlayer once it has finished and has introduced some programme recommendations. This is based on a simple algorithm and what will be offered in the future will be more dynamic.

Tapping into what’s trending on Twitter could be a smart way to serve up relevant recommendations and knowing a viewer’s location could be useful too. These are things that Channel 4 is looking at right now to provide better recommendations on 4oD.

“The early versions of the recommendation engine were quite crude mappings of genre,” said Taylor “The new version of the recommendation engine that we’re developing takes account of what channel it was on, what time of day it was on, what the sub-genre and format the programme was and how those things correlate. The plan is to increase the sophistication of the automated recommendations to get that scale across everything.”

BBC iPlayer has recently launched eight new BBC Three comedy pilots. Zai Bennett, controller for BBC Three has said that iPlayer will be used as a test bed for new shows in the future. Shows that prove popular on iPlayer will then be selected for development into full BBC Three programmes. A tweaked recommendations algorithm could also point viewers in the direction of future pilots if they’ve been catching up on episodes on Mock the Week or Russell Howard’s Good News.


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