Thursday, February 18, 2010

BBC to launch free mobile apps

Corporation to roll out official applications, beginning with BBC News in April and BBC Sport in May
BBC News for mobile phones provides breaking news in text, video and audio for free
The BBC has announced a new range of free applications that will deliver its online services to mobile devices, starting with BBC News in April. The BBC is also considering an iPlayer application for release later in the year.
BBC Sport will follow News, lauching its application in May. Both apps will be launched in a UK and a global version.
Announcing the new mobile services today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the BBC's director of future media and technology, Erik Huggers, said: "It's been 12 years since the launch of BBC Online, but as media converges and technology accelerates, licence fee payers are increasingly using sophisticated handheld devices to access information. They tell us that they want to access the digital services that they have paid for at a time and place that suits them."
A range of unauthorised BBC applications are already available and fairly popular. According to the second largest app store GetJar, an unauthorised version of BBC Mobile was downloaded 110,032 times by January.
The new official applications now give licence payers an authorised alternative as mobile phones become more powerful and connectivity more accessible. In December, the official mobile BBC site attracted 1,851,000 visitors.
BBC News
BBC News for mobile will not only provide users with updated breaking news including video and audio, it will also allow them to send comments and pictures directly to the newsroom. However, the demo of the new app reveals that the user integration isn't as prominent as with the BBC's international rival CNN.
The simple and intuitive navigation of the BBC News app can already be tested online. "The main screen uses a carousel structure so you can quickly catch up on the news by sliding each row sideways to skim through the latest stories. You can also personalise the experience by reordering the rows to put your favourite news section at the top," says David Madden of the future media and technology mobile team in a blogpost.
BBC News will first be available on Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch, followed by the BlackBerry OS and Google's Android later in the year.
BBC Sport
Starting with the football World Cup in South Africa, the sport app will focus on the live match experience. Content that is broadcast on TV by the BBC will be available for football fans as well as on-demand clips of every goal scored in the tournament. Users will also be able to access content from BBC Radio 5 Live, and live text commentaries from BBC presenters and blogs.
The 2010/11 English football season, Formula One and coverage of other sports will be added later in the year. While the UK version of the spoart app will be free, the global version will be released separately by BBC Worldwide and, in line with other international BBC Worldwide services, will feature advertising.

How will news organisations react?
The BBC iPlayer is already optimised for mobile browsers, and available for Nokia's Ovi app store, but there are plans to make further versions available for other smartphones available to UK audiences only.
While news organisations have pinned their hopes on smartphone applications as a way to make revenue, the BBC will offer its applications for free. Recently, News Corporation's James Murdoch said that a "dominant" BBC threatens independent journalism in the UK.
Should the BBC charge for its mobile applications or does its licence fee already include them? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.


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