Play it again BBC: Streaming the Corporation's content to APAC
TV Tech Global talks with Richard Amos, CTO of Ostmodern, about BBC Worldwide's new BBC Player. The Player is built on Ostmodern's Skylark product and will bring BBC content to Asia Pacific viewers.
What new content will be brought to APAC via the newly launched BBC Player?
BBC Worldwide has informed Ostmodern that their ambitions are to take the new BBC Player to targeted markets where the demand for the premium British content is strong. The first two deployments are in Asia - Singapore and Malaysia.
The BBC Player launched with programmes from six BBC global brands: BBC Earth, BBC First, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies, BBC World News and BBC Brit. It’s the first time BBC Brit is available in Asia and it’s exclusive to BBC Player. The programme offers premium factual entertainment that blends expertise with entertainment and fact with fun. It covers a rich variety of subjects including cars, science, adventure, business and comedy. Shows on the channel include Top Gear, Friday Night Dinner, The Moaning of Life and The Wrong Mans.
What were BBC Worldwide's requirements?
Ostmodern won the request for proposal to build BBC Player based on a track-record of our strategic consultation, design and implementation of another BBC service. From this previous experience, we gained an understanding of the BBC brand and the principles that guide its approach to video on demand.
BBC Player is delivered through numerous partners around the globe, so it was essential that Ostmodern create a flexible VoD product that could be built easily for each partner and could be customised effectively for their requirements - in terms of SSO and device/content windowing, for example
BBC Player had to be developed so that it could be built quickly and cost effectively for each new affiliate with whom BBC Worldwide forms a partnership. It was essential that the product be scaled up quickly, when required. Another requirement was that the platform must adhere to the strong BBC brand while also accommodating certain branded elements of affiliates. It also needed to have a powerful CMS that enabled a team of editors to manage content for many different affiliates around the world.
Parental guidance ratings vary significantly for different countries within APAC
Ostmodern’s Skylark product provided the answer to these needs as it gives editors a powerful CMS, which aims to fit into their workflows and provides them with the right tools to schedule and deliver programmes. The BBC Worldwide editorial team can customise each different affiliate site using a single CMS so team of editors from each affiliate around the globe can manage their own content.
At the moment, BBC Player allows viewers in Singapore and Malaysia to stream and download content on iOS and Android as part of their affiliate subscription package. Streaming is also available on the responsive website.
What APAC-specific requirements needed to be addressed?
One important requirement is parental guidance. Parental guidance ratings vary significantly for different countries within APAC. BBC Player is able to display region-specific ratings and guidance to the user as well as show specific edits of particular shows depending on regional content restrictions.
Is the BBC Player language-specific or only in English?
The responsive website, iOS and Android apps are in English, but video content can have Chinese and Bahasa Malay subtitles. There are provisions with the product to alter the UI languages and also to provide additional subtitles and dubs.
Can you take me through the process from development to deployment?
We’d worked with BBC Worldwide previously and were familiar with their brand and its ambitions, their programming, stakeholders and how these interrelated. As part of the selection process for the project, Ostmodern gained a close appreciation of their project goals. We collaborated with BBC Worldwide on the product design and specification, the development of the technical architecture, and build itself. In our role as Systems Integrator for the project, we also worked closely with BBC Worldwide’s technical partners who provide infrastructural services for delivering its content.
In order to achieve the project goals we had to work closely together from the initial requirements gathering, to active participation in the agile development process, to in-country testing and to the launch itself. Each affiliate had an agreed timeline for deployment based on commercial agreements.
The product went live in Singapore in September 2016, with Malaysia following in February 2017. The process entailed breaking down and defining user features specifically for each country. Through an iterative development process, these features were rolled out to users through thoughtful prioritisation, taking into consideration what the APAC market would benefit from first.
Is there much customisation that needs to happen with Skylark? Can the BBC team continue developing into the future without Ostmodern’s partnership?
Skylark API is designed in a way to be easily configurable and maintainable to meet each of client’s needs. Ostmodern’s internal teams build products on top of Skylark every day therefore we have designed the APIs in a way to make this process as simple as possible. If BBC Worldwide needed to develop on top of Skylark directly themselves, our development teams would provide them with the necessary guidance.
Are there any localisation or geographic restrictions in place for the BBC Player and how are those addressed?
The site and apps have been built with geolocation functionality and are specific for each affiliate. Users who do not have logins for the affiliate and are outside the regions are not able to access the product.