BBC developing common platform API to connect with business partners

The BBC is working on opening up a common API that will allow its products like iPlayer to be used on other businesses’ devices.

The BBC has in excess of 100 APIs which are used both internally and are open to external partners to develop innovative products.

It has open custom APIs in the past for certain partners, like Samsung, to allow iPlayer to be available on its smart devices. But now it is working on opening a common API that is used internally and externally by all partners.

“Previously our stack was as siloed as siloed gets across TV, iPlayer and news” Allan Donald, executive product manager for API platform, told the Apigee I love APIs conference in San Francisco.

The 2012 Olympics were a tipping point for the BBC. With a huge demand for real-time coverage, the platforms team saw how each channel could benefit from using the same content simultaneously and that its vertical silos did not make sense for the business.

The BBC is launching a new website for developers to use. The hub will give partners advice on how to use these APIs and allow the BBC to vet and license use of its data assets.

APIs are not new to the BBC however this will be the first time that it has streamlined this platform for developers both in house and externally to break down silos. It has opened and closed “baby-APIs” for external developers to create interesting and novel apps, but not to open new revenue streams.

“We do allow in certain circumstances integration with our products to involve data extracts so that BBC content can appear within interfaces. For example YouView the pieces of content or metadata around the content can be discovered in YouView for example recommendations” David Ball, business development of TV platforms at the BBC, told ComputerworldUK.

“The BBC point of view is if you want to watch BBC content you have to watch it within iPlayer so those journeys always end up in iPlayer but we are in certain circumstances allowing content - or allowing people to get to it - from different places” he added.

The BBC deployed Apigee’s API management platform as it began to seriously consider opening up to business partners.

“With Internal APIs we innovated ourselves into a mess because we had no controls over our APIs. We had an iPlayer API but when we changed iPlayer we couldn’t use it. We had interdependency hell really. We needed API management for our own internal uses we needed to track change” Allan Donald said.

The BBC currently runs a connected studio program which functions similarly to hackathons. It takes projects and produces briefs from third party companies like tech startups and entrepreneurs. The companies will own the intellectual property (IP) and will be paid for their work.

The BBC reported improved performance of its popular iPlayer video on-demand service after moving from a legacy relational database system onto a NoSQL platform.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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