The ABC has its eye on the broadband future with the launch of its new online platform, iView, reports Pip Bulbeck.

Just 24 hours after its launch late July, the ABC’s new six-channel internet service, ABC iView, was hailed a success.

According to the ABC the iView homepage had recorded a total of 58,000 visits and 130,000 views with more than 2.3 Terabytes of files were transferred from the ABC secure server for the iView service. That equates to around 8000 hours of TV streamed in a day.

iView has been conceived as an online free to view platform offering six channels of ABC programs., similar to the BBC’s hugely successful iplayer which launched last December. In total 72 programs covering 40 hours of TV is available at launch including some of the broadcasters marquee shows ranging from the 7.30Report to Australian Story, The Bill to Doctor Who, The Gruen Transfer to Hollowmen and The First Tuesday Book Club to Sunday Arts.

The six channels include: ABC CatchUp – showcasing key weekly programs from ABC1 and ABC2; ABC News – the latest news and the ABC’s weekly current affairs programs; ABC Kazam! – a kids’ fantasy channel offering a mix of action, adventure and animation and which is a precursor to the planned ABC Kids digital TV channel; ABC Docs which includes a hand-picked selection of natural history programs, social documentaries and factual series; ABC Arts with a specially crafted schedule gleaned mostly from the ABC archive and ABC Shop – which plays previews for programs which can be rented or purchased as high-quality downloads from ABC Shop Downloads.

Programs will be updated on a regular basis – news and current affairs programs will be updated daily and weekly while catch up TV programs will be available for view up to two weeks after their screening on ABC 1 or 2. More content is expected to be added to the service as it builds.

ABC director of television Kim Dalton said ABC iView is the next stage in giving people more control over their TV programming.

“ABC iView offers the convenience and choice of television on your computer, without having to compromise on the quality of the vision. With five channels on offer and more in the pipeline, ABC TV continues to set the agenda for the media industry in Australia,” he says.

The platform has been built to allow programs to be viewed in high resolution full screen streaming and can be viewed through either a PC or a TV with a PC connection. It will run over high speed broadband systems such as ADSL2 and Cable, which are currently accessible by around 30% of the population, according to Dalton. The ABC is actively negotiating with key ISP’s to quarantine ABC programming from users download caps. ISP iiNet is the first to confirm that it will allow ABC content online to be unmetered.

The iView platform was built by ABC Innovations in twelve months with a budget well below that of the BBC’s iPlayer which was launched last year in the UK. Indeed the ABC is clearly eyeing the success of iPlayer which since its launch last December, has served 100 million videos. iView builds on ABC TV content available already on the ABC site and as vodcasts on services like iTunes and provides an additional window for programs from independent producers who are supplying the ABC.

In 2007 the ABC reported almost 18 million vodcasts downloaded from more than 20 programs. So far this year, more than 55 programs have episodes or segments that can be viewed online (either through download or streamed).

Ian Carroll, head of ABC Innovation and Development, says that with the creation of iView, the ABC is “taking a significant step into the broadband future”.

“I see this as just the first of many new and different relationships the ABC will be forming with all Australians,” he says.

This article appeared in IF #113 September 2008

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