BBC Content API

I haven’t written anything for a while because I have been busy getting into the swing of things at BBC Radio & Music. But it is now appropriate to talk about the last project I was involved in at BBC R&D.

The navigation team are concerned with all things to do with finding content and navigating in and around it. A lot of work over the last few years has involved the standardisation of TV-Anytime, a rich method for describing content. Through this we produce a fairly stable stream of live programme data. It seemed a logical progression to make this data available to the public to play with through BBC backstage.

I thought it would be another logical step to build a service around out data, to allow more developers to get their hands on it and to make it as accessible as we possibly could. The BBC Web API (beta) was born.

Before I continue to should point out the scope of this project. We set out to build a simple web API, borrowing the package structure of Flickr and built on a solid foundation of TV-Anytime data. The current offering is very much beta and no guarantees are made as to its stability or accuracy but the core is there to build on. It has been noted that TV listings are possibly the next data feeds to make their way in to the mash-up mainstream and I believe the BBC should be the first to offer a suitable API.

The API offers a handful of methods which return channel, programme, genre and grouping information. You can also retrieve programme and channel stream locations where available. Methods return XML but all results have been wrapped up in XSLT to make them more human-readable. Have a look at this example for getting what’s on now and next. You can also get the full-blown TV-Anytime response if you would like even more information.

As part of the project I set about creating some demo applications to show off the API functionality. I tried to write the documentation in such a way as to offer help to bedroom developers unsure about using the API and these demos are a good place to start. These are not polished applications and I’m sure the team will be keen to see what people can do with the data (good, wholesome non-commercial use only of course).

With the BBC iPlayer currently in development and the creative archive being made publicly available, access to BBC content will become wider and deeper. This API is another step in the right direction.

ProgrammableWeb.com have since catelogued and written up the API

Overall, it’s a good looking, straightforward API. Will be interesting to see what sorts of mashups folks build with this.

I couldn’t put it better myself.

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