I just finished watching a demo from the recent Mix06 conference in Las Vegas where Microsoft had a "72 hour conversation" with the leading voices in web development and technology.  Much of the talk was on Web 2.0 and the next gen of web applications, but there were some interesting speakers talking about content delivery.

The demo itself was presented by a chap from the BBC who was talking up their efforts to shift broadcasting from the traditional terrestrial delivery method to an over the internet delivery method.  The potential savings from such a move are staggering: to broadcast over the air waves in a traditional manner costs the Beeb £7m every year, per channel. To broadcast over the net, it cost them £70k! No wonder they are interested in internet delivery!

The BBC sees the vehicle for this delivery being Media Centre and the demo featured a gadget they have built for Windows Vista which provides users easy access to content through a rich graphical interface.  It was really cool how he searched through all the content, as each letter he typed refined the search results.

Furthermore, he mentioned about working with Microsoft to build a DRM (Digital Rights Management) framework, key features of which were to be flexibility to the content owner whilst maintaining ease of use for the consumer.  The BBC is in a unique situation where it wants to allow its license fee payers (in the UK) to be able to download content for one week after the show is aired, after which the consumer has to pay for the pleasure of watching it.  However, for all those outside the UK, it might want to only offer on-demand access.

Another exciting thing he mentioned was the plan to digitise all of the BBC's vast archive of footage, tagging each item with meta data thus making it easy for users to search and find any content that has been made since the 1930's.

The way he described the DRM model, makes paying for digitised historical content an interesting discussion point: will they charge UK residents (again) for the liberty of downloading and watching the content, or will it be a free service?  I agree there will be costs in digitisation of the content, but could this be passed onto the consumers outside of the UK?

Watch the BBC demo and others here: http://weblogs.asp.net/astopford/archive/2006/03/27/441161.aspx