iPlayer Shortcut (Not App) Heading To Windows Phone 7.5 & 8 In “Next Few Months” After Microsoft Inks Deal With BBC

Windows Phone fans are still waiting for Instagram to land on their mobile platform of choice but there’s some good news for U.K. owners of Microsoft-powered smartphones: the BBC is bringing its TV-on-demand iPlayer service to the platform — albeit, via a live tile shortcut (not an app). iPlayer has long been available on iOS and Android in app form. It can also be accessed via some BlackBerry devices as a shortcut — and it’s that same workaround the BBC is taking to Windows Phone support.

Asked when the iPlayer live tile will launch, a BBC spokesman told TechCrunch: “We’re hoping to launch within the next few months.” The Corporation has “no current plans for a native app”, he added.

The news was announced today by Cyrus Saihan, head of business development at BBC future media, in a blog. He said the corporation will be releasing a shortcut to BBC iPlayer “in the near future” that will enable the iPlayer website to work on a Windows Phone Live Tile.

Both WP 7.5 and 8 will be supported, according to the post:

Today I can let you know that we have signed a deal with Microsoft that will enable us to bring BBC iPlayer to the Windows phone platform.

We will be releasing a shortcut to BBC iPlayer in the near future which will be available in the Windows Phone Store, enabling the BBC iPlayer website to work on Windows Phone 7.5 and 8 via a live tile.

This shortcut will wrap the BBC iPlayer mobile website together with our media player. Hopefully these and other developments will help to expand our online reach further. Our latest figures show that over 650 different device types can access BBC iPlayer.

The BBC has a remit to widen access to its content but limited funding to achieve this, so it’s highly likely Microsoft is paying for iPlayer to support Windows Phone — something Redmond has done to ensure other high-profile apps make the transition from Android and iOS to Windows Phone.

Asked how much Microsoft is paying to fund iPlayer support for Windows Phone, the BBC spokesman said: “The BBC doesn’t disclose specifics on costs, however we want to make iPlayer available on as many devices and platforms as possible (we’re already on over 650), ensuring audiences can watch, listen and catch-up on their favourite BBC programmes whenever and wherever they are.”

Microsoft is slowing plugging the biggest app gaps on Windows Phone — last month, for instance, Spotify finally arrived on Windows Phone 8. However the iPlayer live tile is not a fully featured app and it’s unclear whether Windows Phone will ever get more than a shortcut to iPlayer. Presumably the platform would have to increase dramatically in usage in the U.K. to justify the cost of building an app. According to Kantar figures from January, Windows Phone accounted for just 5.4 per cent of smartphone sales in Europe.

The BBC does not break out iPlayer performance by mobile platform but in its latest performance report (for January) it said “mobile and tablet use for TV programmes grew significantly over festive period”.