Deep Link into BBC iPlayer Content

One of the really handy things about Youtube is the ability to share bookmarks that “deep link” to a particular point within a video (e.g here’s Google having a dig at Microsoft; the URL?, which should start the video playing 29 minutes 10 seconds in. That is, just add something like #t=29m10s to the end of the Youtube video page URL to start the video playing that far in).

A similar service is offered on podcast material published through the wonderful IT Conversations, that lets you deep link in to a particular part of an audio file, which is great for sharing audio quotes and, err, messing around with: IT Conversations samples trigger pad;-)

Anyway, anyway, yesterday I saw this:

which means you can now deep link in to iPlayer content :-)

Deep link into iPlayer content

As with the Youtube deep linking, if you know the URL pattern, you can can create your own deep links on the fly (just add, ?t=21m45s, for example, on to the end of the URL to start the programme playing 21 minutes 45 seconds in.)

Something else I thought was interesting – the shared link is actually a BBC short link. So for an example, this is the sort of link you are given to share:

which then resolves to something like this:

I’ve raised the issue before now (in conversation with HEI internet services people, rather than through blog posts, I think?) about whether HEIs should run their own short code services (maybe as a Library service), but it’s always been shot down as being an extra hassle that we don’t need to worry about. (I always saw it as an opportunity for providing a couple of value add services: 1) providing a persistent web identifier that could act like a DOI; 2) providing a level of indirection (as in the case of a DOI) that might help as part of an archiving or “archival redirection” project – e.g. in the case of content moving and URIs changing (because they do change).)

Anyway – it seems as if the BBC think running their own short URI service is a good idea.. It’d also be useful to know if the short URI will permanently map to the same full URI, or whether it will support a more arbitrary form of resolution, e.g. maybe hooking in to services like URIPlay?

PS sort of, but not really, related, see also: Open University Podcasts on Your TV – Boxee App

PPS note the deep link time code doesn’t work with radio content in iPlayer console.

PPPS for a hacky mashup way of making use of timecodes, see Searching the backchannel with Twitter subtitles

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

3 thoughts on “Deep Link into BBC iPlayer Content”

  1. The Open University library does provide URL aliases for (at least some) resources. The project I’m currently working on ( is about referencing – but these days this often includes a link to the online resource.

    In the example you have – if you referenced the BBC video, and provided a link would you link directly to it, or prefer to use an alias provided by the library? What if it were a reference to the BBC homepage – do you think a library sponsored alias would be a better idea than just a link to

  2. The shortened BBC URLs expand the code l9n18 to b00l9n18 so I can’t imagine them changing where it points to – that was the whole point of the /programmes URL scheme.

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