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Anthony Rose

BBC iPlayer On iPhone: Behind The Scenes


Today was a big day for BBC iPlayer: it's the day that it first became available on a portable device. BBCiPlayer is now available on iPhone and iPod touch.

To play BBC programmes on your iPhone or iPod touch, you'll need to be online via a wi-fi broadband connection (the iPhone's EDGE connectivity is too slow for streaming video). BBCiPlayer on iPhone is a beta version right now, so if you find some programmes aren't available on iPhone or you get the occasional oddity... yep, we're working on it.

iplayer_3dshot175.pngEver since we announced that we were working on BBC iPlayer for iPhone, there’s been a lot of speculation in the blogosphere as to how it would work. Would we use Apple's new iPhone SDK? Would we use the rumoured Flash for iPhone? What video format and bitrate would we choose? And which devices will we support next...?

So, for those interested in a behind-the-scenes look, here's the low-down...

First up, we can divide portable and gaming devices into those that include a web browser (iPhone, Nintendo Wii, Nokia N95, etc) and those that don't (Apple TV, Xbox, most mobile phones, most home media servers, etc).

For devices with browsers, assuming that those browsers are able to access and display the BBC iPlayer website, getting BBC iPlayer working on those devices "merely" [see below] requires us to provide audio and/or video streams in a format that is supported by the media player(s) available on that device.

For devices without browsers, it becomes necessary to create custom applications that users need to install and run on that device. There's little standardisation across devices, and creating these custom apps is time-consuming and expensive; so for now, we're focusing on browser-enabled devices.

We started with iPhone because it is the device most optimised for high quality video currently available. It displays the BBC iPlayer site and BBC programmes nicely. But - go on, speculate! - we're working on making BBCiPlayer available on many more browser-enabled devices over the coming months: stay tuned for details...

Back to BBC iPlayer on iPhone implementation: we're not using the new Apple SDK, nor are we using the much-rumoured Flash for iPhone (no - we haven't seen it, either). Instead, we're creating 516Kbps streams (400Kbps H.264 video, 116Kbps AAC audio) that show off BBC programmes brilliantly on an iPhone.

There's been a lot of press about the amount of money that the BBC spent developing iPlayer, but what most people don't realise is that only a small fraction of the cost went into the parts that you see (i.e., the web site), with most of the cost going into the development of a high-quality content production backend that's able to crank out 400 hours of content each week to the BBC's high standards (frame-accurate in and out points; manual quality control; provision of subtitled and signed versions; guidance-labelling for stuff not suitable for children; rich metadata, etc).

That probably doesn't sound too hard, but consider this: every day, tapes for the programmes that you see on TV (the pre-recorded ones, not live events) are retrieved from our secure archive facility, delivered to our playout centre at Red Bee Media, and sequenced for playout to TV. As you've probably noticed, BBC One hardly ever goes down, so this system has been optimised over many years and is tightly run. Into that process we needed to add the transcoding of that content for our various iPlayer platforms, including PC iPlayer (e.g. the one available at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer), TV iPlayer (available soon on Virgin Media), and now portable devices.

This means that every programme needs to be transcoded in a Flash version (for PC streaming), a WMV version (Windows PC download), MPEG2 (TV set-top box), H.264 (web browser), and a variety of other formats coming soon. To do this, we have a transcoding farm of over 50 rack-mount PCs, most of which are running really fast dual quad-core Xeon CPUs. As content arrives off tape (for pre-recorded programmes) or off-air (from our digital satellite links, for live content like news and sport), it's fed into the transcoding platform.

Those input files are encoded at over 50Mbps which makes them huge - around 25GB per hour of incoming video. With eight BBC TV channels plus 18 regional news broadcasts, that means we need to deal with up to 24 simultaneous incoming programmes, for a peak data rate of over a gigabit per second of incoming video.

We now need to transcode those source files into each supported output format. The various file formats take different amounts of time to transcode - it takes roughly twice as much CPU time to create a 1Mbps WMV files as it takes to create a 500Kbps Flash file, which is why you’ll sometimes see programmes in iPlayer that are available for streaming but not (yet) for download; the downloadable version usually arrives an hour or so later.

The transcoded files are then "pushed" to streaming and p2p download head-end servers, and rights management (i.e. content encryption) applied as needed. Separately, programme metadata is delivered into our database. As soon as both metadata and the first of the available media files for a given programme have been received and are confirmed (all automatically, of course) by our system, then that programme becomes available in BBC iPlayer.

We’ve recently added a just in section ("Most Recent") to the bbc.co.uk BBC iPlayer homepage so you can see this in action - every few minutes, this section is updated, showing the latest content that's arrived into our system and made available in iPlayer.

Looking at the BBCiPlayer website, it all looks pretty simple - but beneath the hood, there's a lot of moving parts to deal with those real-time high-bitrate long-format incoming programmes, to process them, to QC them, and to make them available in BBC iPlayer, 24/7.

The challenge is to continuously enhance that transcoding platform to support a whole host of new formats to make BBC iPlayer available in the coming months at higher and higher display resolution and quality, and on more and more devices. Which mobile, portable or gaming device would you like to see it on next?

There's lots of exciting things to work on!

Anthony Rose is Head of Digital Media Technologies

Comments  Post your comment

Thanks for some background to all of this - and thanks especially for the iPhone version of the iPlayer! Now I really wish I had not left my iPod Touch at home this weekend...

Now, I just need to wait for that magic moment when I can get Iplayer on my Alle TV!

  • 2.
  • At 12:58 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • dave wrote:

Hi, I'd rather watch the 516Kbps H.264/AAC file than the Flash video on my laptop and desktop because Flash is kind of slow and crashy. (I guess the video and audio quality would be higher too). Is this possible?

  • 3.
  • At 1:04 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Kieran McGhee wrote:

How in God's name can the BBC justify making the service available to iPhone users before Mac users?
There are thousands more Mac users than iPhone users.
This is disgraceful.

  • 4.
  • At 1:17 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • David Wilcox wrote:

Excitement delayed - most recent doesn't show up on the iphone

  • 5.
  • At 1:38 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • David S wrote:

It would be great to see the iPlayer on Sony's PSP or Playstation 3. Or is this further down the list of developments because more people have an iPhone than a PS3? It would be great to see a road map of devices you intend to reach.

Many thanks

David

How joyous it would be to see if the transcoding platform could be opensourced in some way so that we geeky licence fee payers could attempt something similar at home for other channels for our own use!

  • 7.
  • At 2:07 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Stephen Orr wrote:

Great news, I am too waiting for Iplayer to debut on AppleTV. Is there an eta to when this is going to happen?

Kindest Regards

Stephen

  • 8.
  • At 2:16 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • naeem wrote:

Please hurry with the wii version

  • 9.
  • At 2:23 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • colin wrote:

hey what about the n95 is it likely to be anytime soon :D

  • 10.
  • At 2:24 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Kieran - have you visited the iPlayer site at all since December?

The service is available to all Mac (and Linux) users via an embedded Flash streaming console on every programme page. Almost exactly the same user experience as is now available to iPhone owners.

Nothing to see here, move along..

iPlayer compatible on Nokia NSeries devices, please. There are way more NSeries ownsers than iPhone owners, too, so you'll be reaching a bigger audience

  • 12.
  • At 2:30 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • ToeJam wrote:

I don't know what planet you are on but the iPlayer has been available for quite a while now for us more sophisticated and brilliant mac users.

  • 13.
  • At 2:41 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Matt wrote:

Uh, Kieran, you can use iPlayer streaming on a Mac.

To Kieran,

The BBC iPlayer is already available to Mac users...

In fact, I'm using it right now

  • 15.
  • At 2:50 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Gavin Davies wrote:

Is the iPlayer going to come to Apple TV ?

  • 16.
  • At 2:52 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Mat wrote:

@ Kieran McGhee (comment #3) - I'm not a mac user, but does the flash streaming version not work on the mac?

Either way, iPhone/iPod Touch should have been a long way down the list of devices supported.

Symbian S60 (and windows mobile) mobile phones would be a good one, most of them are 3G, and provide a more true mobile experience than having to hang around near one particular wifi hotspot. I suspect "iPlayer on the Nokia N95 etc" gets less headlines/attention than an "iPlayer on iPhone" announcement though.

I'd like to see iPlayer on the Nintendo DS as well, just for giggles. (I'm pretty sure there are a lot more DS consoles in the UK than iPhones/iPod Touches as well).

There must also be more linux users who would appreciate a downloadable iPlayer than there are iPhone/iTouch users - I'd prefer to have a higher bitrate programme that I can comfortably watch full screen when I want, without having to rely on my cranky copper wire to the BT exchange keeping a sufficient quality connection to watch the entire programme.

  • 17.
  • At 3:03 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • David T wrote:

@Kieran

Umm... the service is already available to Mac users, and has been since Christmas!

  • 18.
  • At 3:08 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • wills wrote:

Erm, Kieran - navigate to bbc.co.uk/iPlayer on your browser of choice on a Mac.


Great article guys.


  • 19.
  • At 3:16 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • tomh wrote:

What software do you use to do the transcoding? How does it scale across the servers?

  • 20.
  • At 3:16 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Ian H wrote:

I'd like to see this work on a Play station portable which is already great for watching media content on.

Kieren - you can already watch iPlayer streams on the Mac via streaming so the iPhone's getting what Mac users already have got.

  • 22.
  • At 3:24 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Jason Hodge wrote:

@#3
You've got the wrong end of the stick Kieran. The iPhone version is for streaming, not DRM downloads. It's the same type of offering that Mac users can access now with the embedded flash player at bbc.co.uk/iplayer. The iPhone doesn't have flash capability so the Beeb have transcoded the source to h.264 for it's built in QuickTime layer.

  • 23.
  • At 3:25 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Neil Hoskins wrote:

Next devices? The wii, clearly, although I understand that this is technically not easy given the lack of a Flash 9 API. Then the Nokia N-series, of which there are orders of magnitude more in circulation than all of Apple's shiny things.

  • 24.
  • At 3:31 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Alastair M wrote:

I can't help but agree with Kieran. Not a Mac user myself, but I find it odd that the BBC are developing for new embedded devices, rather than getting iPlayer working on all 3 of Windows, Mac and Linux first. Desktop users are surely a larger market for this sort of thing, people with computers but not TVs, etc.

  • 25.
  • At 3:34 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Rob S wrote:

@Kieran McGhee

What are you on? You realise right that even since the flash version of iplayer was released (i.e. 3 months ago) you can use it on any browser than works with flash, so Macs work just fine.

  • 26.
  • At 3:34 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Kerin wrote:

Um, so where is the iPhone iPlayer site? I don't see any URL in this post; unless there's no specific iPlayer site and iPhone users are supposed to use the standard iPlayer site. If that's the case, the iPhone experience matches my desktop experience pretty well, in the sense that nothing whatsoever works.

  • 27.
  • At 3:34 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Fra wrote:

Kieran iPlayer is available on Macs, but it's a streaming service rather than a download one, exactly the same service which is now available on the iPhone. So the BBC is providing anything for the iPhone which has already been available for the Mac.

  • 28.
  • At 3:36 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Les Greenhalgh wrote:

Sony Playstation 3 or PSP next please :-)

Thanks for a great job so far.

  • 29.
  • At 3:37 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Jody Dunderdale wrote:

@ Kieran

The iPhone iPlayer seems to be the equivalent of the streaming Flash version which is currently available for PCs and Macs.

The Mac version which is not yet available is the one that allows you to download the programme to your computer and keep it for a limited period of time. Windows PCs already have this, but I don't see what the big deal is, to be honest.

I think you're confusing the two.

  • 30.
  • At 3:45 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Joe Royce wrote:

"How in God's name can the BBC justify making the service available to iPhone users before Mac users?"

Mac users have been able to use the flash version of iPlayer for a while now.

I think you mean the download service which is not available for the Mac or iPhone yet.

Hopefully the BBC will get this sorted, especially as they are obviously able to do the H.264 format and so can presumably use the DRM Apple is using in it's movie rentals.

This is excellent, I just watched Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and the quality was superb. Now all you have to do is make the page more iPhone friendly for browsing the videos and everything will be great! :)

@Kieran

The iPhone gets exactly the same service as the Mac does - the video can only be streamed, you cannot download the video to either device.

Windows users can download the episode to watch later I believe.

  • 32.
  • At 4:17 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Adam wrote:

So far, really nice. I'm looking forward to more content being available though.

I'd like to request the following for your consideration:

a) an iPhone specific version of the iPlayer website (much like your podcast site) to avoid all the scrolling around to find content. Even better, use the new SDK to do a full-blown application, although I do understand this will require significantly more work than the former.

b) an AppleTV version.

c) limited time downloads via iTunes. The movie rental framework should now make this possible.

Great work - Thanks for thinking of us Apple/iPhone customers.

  • 33.
  • At 4:25 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Andy wrote:

Apple TV next please, or PS3 would make my day. Will look forwar to trying in on my ipod touch thanks

  • 34.
  • At 4:34 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • David wrote:

It's good to see the iPlayer in beta for iPhone and the iPod touch but don't get too cocky: you have got to improve the interface i.e. change it. That means a dedicated iPhone version of the webpage if you're going with streaming. So: easy to navigate, easy to search, with user preferences. It's about usability. USABILITY! If you at the BBC can wean yourself off the Redmond teat for 2 seconds then you may just realise how things should be done properly. Like using H.264 from the get go.

And instead of trying to write your own downloadable iPlayer for the Mac desktop, offer BBC content through iTunes like you should have done in the first place instead of wasting everybody's time.

  • 35.
  • At 4:49 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Just tried this out on my iPhone after hearing about it on the Chris Moyles show this morning. Very impressive!

I would love to see this implemented on the PS3 so I could view back on my TV.

  • 36.
  • At 5:02 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • David Glover wrote:

How do I report bugs? I already found one.

If your iPhone is configured to use a web proxy, it says "you need a broadband connection", even though I do have one.

If I turn off the proxy, it works fine.

  • 37.
  • At 5:11 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Fantastic,

what more can I say, I use the Iplayer alot and have missed it on the Touch but had a look at the Beta on the Touch and have to say, amazing quality. Well done to those concerned.

  • 38.
  • At 5:26 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Dan wrote:

Thanks for the in-depth info. Very interesting read.

I hope you guys are planning to bring iPlayer to the Xbox 360, you're already transcoding to WMV after all.

  • 39.
  • At 5:42 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Philip Topping wrote:

Magic. Both Iphone users can now access the Iplayer via their devices. What about the rest of us who have proper 3g devices?

And why can't you post on these bloody blogs without getting time out messages all the time. I'd spend more time getting the basics right before wasting time and effort delivering content to a minority group.

  • 40.
  • At 5:49 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

Great to see the iplayer on the iphone and ipod touch. Not that it matters for the iphone, but it is also great for the ipod touch that the BBC has signed up with The Cloud to stream the iplayer.

Next I would like to see the ability to download the files so I can watch them when I'm away from my wi-fi connection (like you can with Windows) rather than pay to get them much later from itunes.

  • 41.
  • At 6:01 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • John Lockwood wrote:

Just tried iPlayer on an iPhone. The picture quality is excellent with no blockiness or stuttering. In fact if anything it looks better than the Flash version in a web-browser on a Mac.

I would say that the BBC need to do a version of the website designed for a mobile (i.e. iPhone). While of course the iPhone can (and does) display the full BBC website and the iPlayer webpage, if it was designed like some other iPhone optimised sites it would be a lot quicker and easier to navigate.

  • 42.
  • At 6:25 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • jacopo wrote:

I think that develop a video client application on a platform like the XBox is not only a technical issues.

Tools like XNA enable you to develop only games.

j

Re: The above comments about the iPhone h.264 version being available for everyone. That'd be awesome.

  • 44.
  • At 7:00 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Graene wrote:

we want wiiPLAYER

  • 45.
  • At 7:36 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • jo chan wrote:

Does anyone know if we can download a tv program on the iphone and watch offline when on the move?

  • 46.
  • At 7:36 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

I'm loving the iPlayer and thanks for all the development work to make this happen. It's very cool.

I do a lot of travelling so it's nice to be able to load up the laptop before I go away and watch some quality British shows while I'm out of good old Blighty ! It would be cool though if I could download shows while outside the UK. When I'm in the office in the UK we get IP addresses which look like they are from another country so can't download content then. Why not have a registration login to override this - tie it to the TV licence and address and limit to a max of 5 computers per household or something?

Also I'd love to be able to view the content on my TV without having to hook up the laptop each time. I've got an Xbox 360 and a Wii sitting there - can anything be done with them ? (Obviously after the Mac development).

Great news about the iPod - I'll be trying that when I get home !!!

  • 47.
  • At 7:41 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • pthimon wrote:

Just tried watching one of the h264 encoded videos on my Nokia Internet Tablet (N810), but unfortunately the built-in media player says the codec is not supported, and the version of MPlayer for the tablets does not have hardware support for AAC decoding so video playback stutters (although it works perfectly with the audio stream turned off!).

So my request for a format to transcode into is MPEG4 video (400x240, 768kb/s) with MP3 audio (192kb/s) :-)

  • 48.
  • At 8:14 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Douglas Penman wrote:

I'd like to second the request Dave made in comment #2 regarding allowing the choice to view the H.264 stream from a non-iphone/ipod touch browser.

At the moment you can use the firefox User Agent Switcher to make the iplayer site think you're using an iphone, but the video doesn't load - presumably it's using something iphone specific to push the video into the iphone's full screen player?

Anyway, the streams look brilliant on my ipod touch, so top marks there - just wish I could choose the same stream from my laptop rather than the flash one.

  • 49.
  • At 8:41 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Malcolm B wrote:

I can't get this to work on my iPod Touch. I go to the iplayer page and can see the "iPlayer for iPhone beta" logo, but when I click on a video I seem to get the 'flash' version, which I can't play. Anyone else have this problem?

  • 50.
  • At 10:22 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Austin wrote:

shame its rubbish at finding shows that actually play on the iphone, so far.... it aint an occasional issue, its the vast majority - alpha, not beta

  • 51.
  • At 10:28 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Woo wrote:

"It's the day that it first became available on a portable device."

Doesn't the Nokia N8xx count then? It got it at the same time as every other Linux box.

  • 52.
  • At 10:50 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Sam J wrote:

As everyone else has said, the quality is indeed excellent! I think that people underestimate the significance of adding H.264 to the formats encoded for the iPlayer - the encoding process must be the most technically time-consuming part of getting programmes onto iPlayer, and H.264 is a very processor-intensive format to encode.

Now that the video is in a certain format, the BBC can focus on ways of delivering it to devices that support it. The iPhone is most likely the first device to take advantage of this because it can already display the iPlayer web pages.

Most of the connected devices that people have been mentioned in their comments can actually play H.264 - the Apple TV, Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, Nokia N-series devices and even the Zune can play it, but would require custom, maybe even non-HTML client interfaces to be developed (with the possible exception of the PSP, which can stream media pointed to via RSS feeds).

I don't believe there is any sort of conspiracy on the part of the BBC or Apple to make a good headline out of this - although this announcement *does* make a good headline considering the popularity of the iPhone platform - at the expense of other, more common devices, it simply appears to me as a want for the BBC to actually *do* something with the technology, a bit like when the iPlayer was first introduced only for Windows. The amount of work required to launch the iPlayer beta, and now to integrate H.264, must have been enormous - and it's only natural for the teams to want to show something for it!

Sam

  • 53.
  • At 11:00 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Jack Donaghy wrote:

I was sitting in my living room today wanting to watch Whistleblower on iPlayer and I got to thinking that it would be really cool to be able to watch it on my TV instead of my Laptop.

Any chance of a Wii version? Wii supports Flash, but it doesn't seem to support all the latest stuff in the Flash spec, it gives me an error about it not supporting something. Maybe work with Nintendo on developing an iPlayer channel for Wii?

Also, Xbox 360 or Nokia N95/N800 support would be great.

And access to that h.264 stream on the desktop would be good, it looks much better than the current FLV stream.

"only available in the UK"

This annoys me to no end.

This is excellent, I just watched Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and the quality was superb. Now all you have to do is make the page more iPhone friendly for browsing the videos and everything will be great! :)

@Kieran

The iPhone gets exactly the same service as the Mac does - the video can only be streamed, you cannot download the video to either device.

Windows users can download the episode to watch later I believe.

Hopefully, the Nokia N810 is on your radar for another mobile optimised version:

http://europe.nokia.com/A4568578

800x480 screen, Firefox 3-based browser, Linux operating system, wireless and Bluetooth.

The streaming Flash version works almost adequately on it: the sound is fine, but the video is very laggy. This is a side effect of the N810's relatively sluggish processor and full blown desktop Flash implementation.

  • 57.
  • At 11:46 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • JoeRamboUK wrote:

Please can you try to get this on the xbox 360 or even Windows Media Center extender that runs though the xbox.

  • 58.
  • At 11:51 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • BenJ wrote:

Curious to know if your system is able to output in any of the Dirac formats yet? Is it still in your plans?

  • 59.
  • At 11:52 PM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Dave wrote:

Wii please. Opera supports Flash 7 as that was the most recent version that was available with a device SDK when Opera was developed.

It looks like Adboe has pushed out FlashLite for embedded devices since then:
http://www.adobe.com/products/flashlite/
... but the site says "support for most Flash 8 content". Doesn't iPlayer use Flash9?

Anyhow, I guess if you could just make iPlayer a little more backward compatible (like YouTube is) so people that are stuck with Flash 7 can still enjoy the fun that'd be grand :)

  • 60.
  • At 12:17 AM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Monk wrote:

There are more Mac users than iphones, there are more Linux users than iphones.

Yet still we are waiting.......

  • 61.
  • At 1:35 AM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Bob1967 wrote:

Interface, interface, interface, try stealing the YouTube model, apart from that the programme itself was excelent. Thank you.

  • 62.
  • At 1:46 AM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • chris wrote:

it be excellent to get ps3 support, you can watch youtube on a ps3 so why not bbc iplayer

  • 63.
  • At 9:09 AM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Steve wrote:

Not withstanding how good it is to see iPlayer being made available on new platforms, I think the most interesting thing about this post is the detail around the backend processes.

This I found fascinating, and would appreciate more of this level of information.

Thanks Anthony.

  • 64.
  • At 10:05 AM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Neil wrote:

You're using the iPhone "because it is the device most optimised for high quality video currently available" - rubbish!! The iPhone is great for music and talking but for video, Archos are the best devices with bigger screens, higher resolutions and bigger capacities. Please work with Archos!!

  • 65.
  • At 10:40 AM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Andrew wrote:

Must agree now the BBC is using H.264 why are they not using this for the other versions too?

H.264 is the way to go, and while MPEG-2 is still needed for set-top boxes it provides better bang per buck in terms of quality.

Less transcodes would mean a smaller server farm, or able to do more content, e.g. slowly get the BBC archives online.

BTW PSP and PS3 version is soon I hope, we can play H.264 content out of the box.

I'm sure people will be able to view the H.264 version on their Macs (rather than the standard flash version) pretty soon. If not via an official version, then with a browser extension that 'pretends' to be an iPod Touch...

  • 67.
  • At 11:04 AM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Neil Stewart wrote:

So the iPlayer is now available for the iPhone. How many people are actualy going to use it? how about a version which allows mac users to download the programs the same as a window users. since it is named after a mac product anyway.

  • 68.
  • At 11:42 AM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Hedley Lamarr wrote:

Watched a couple of programmes on my iPhone - very impressed!

  • 69.
  • At 1:06 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Craig Wylie wrote:

The big question for me is when I will be able to view this stuff from abroad - I spend a great deal of m time travelling but when I log in from the US (say) the system detects the IP address and refuses to work for me.

I would even pay a licence fee for my portable devices.

Missed the first episode of new TorchWood because of this.

Thanks for explaining about the backend stuff, makes the expense make sense now.

Does seem to me that encoding in WMV and Flash is a bit of a waste of time since Quicktime is available for Windows so a H.264 stream could be served. If you then add 3GPP support you have a lot more of the market covered.

Just kill WMV, you know it makes sense, it's a nasty low quality format for ancient devices and don't hope for improvement, the next version will be worse..

Cannot believe BBC wasted time and tax payers money on making a version for iPhone.

They said themselves due to the iPhone only using 2.5g (EDGE) it cannot handle streaming yet there are phones like the Nokia N95 that support 3.5G with insane speeds around 3mbit with massive market share which they didn't bother with first. Instead they went for such a small market share then only offer it with WiFi. If someone can afford to waste that much money on an overpriced piece of rubbish, I'm sure they can afford a laptop to watch it on!

Come on BBC, you said yourself the reason you went Windows only first was for market share reasons, then you do the reverse here! Guess some high up people at BBC put there own personal choices ahead of the British Tax Payers!

  • 73.
  • At 2:47 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Andrew wrote:

When are we going to get an international version of the iplayer. I live in Belgium, my boss in Poland. Both of us are interested in being able to watch and/or download current BBC shows. We will even pay for them, just give us the option to do it legally, and not through PhP or Proxy servers.

  • 74.
  • At 3:46 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Tim wrote:

Love the beta so far,
But like others have said, please make a nice iphone/ipod touch interface like the beta podcast site, and fingers crossed, please make the radio streams work. I would love a aac or mp3 stream of the radio shows, it would be great to pick a show on listen again and listen to it on my iphone!

Im so happy things are moving forward, For years we have had to deal with stupid real player for the radio, and wmv for video, now we get options from a transcoding farm.

I cant wait for teh dau that i can watch catch up tv from any station on a box under the tv be it the AppleTV, Ps3 or whatever, and watch tv in bed on the iphone, or listen to a radioshow ive missed. Add in a 3G iphone, an the custom interface or app, and I will have an amazing device!

Please work with ITV and channel 4 to get all tv shows using this system, and work with Sony, Apple, and Microsoft to get it on their boxes!

Thanks again, loving the iphone beta!

  • 75.
  • At 4:18 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • George Day wrote:

Amazing! I love the iPlayer!

  • 76.
  • At 4:32 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Steve wrote:

In no particular order :

PS3/PSP
Apple TV / iTunes for PC and Mac via limited time rentals, with iPod transfer possible. That way you can watch the same content on your PC, your iPod and your TV.

However the biggest step forward should be delivering decent picture quality - whilst the streamed and downloaded services are fine for the iPod touch sized displays, they don't scale well on a decent living room TV. I'd like to see 720x576 50i content - so you get full motion rendition - not the jerky 25p stuff that is currently being used.

I'd like to see BBC programmes on Miro. (This means you, Ogg Vorbis.)

  • 78.
  • At 6:23 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Tim Dunne wrote:

Great new service and I will use it alot. Although it would have been nice to be able to download the content to watch where there is no free wifi coverage (most places)

It would be great to be able to download the content and watch on the train on the way to work. Hopefully that will come with the proper mac support promised later in the year that hopefully involves using itunes rental type model, thus covering ipods, macs and apple tv..

  • 79.
  • At 9:26 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Matt wrote:

@Kerin:

"Um, so where is the iPhone iPlayer site?"

Just visit bbc.co.uk/iplayer on an iPhone. There's no separate site; it just sniffs the user agent string to find what platform you're on and serves you the appropriate content.

As someone who is anti-apple I'm quite pleased that you've managed to do this. Sounds like not much was needed in new technology to pull it off, and hopefully it can be "ported" to other devices.
I would suggest like others that the homepage is tweaked, and programmes filtered out so only those which are available are showing.
Just waiting now for the hinted Wii release :)

  • 81.
  • At 11:09 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Julian wrote:

Yeah, as a Brit living in San Francisco i'd love to have access to this. I have no problems paying for it. I'd buy a UK TV license like that! .

I'm not hopeful that this would become a reality though. I'd honestly pay $1000 a year no problem to have access to british TV (though would be nice to have channel 4 also). If only it were available. :(

@woo - it might just be me, but the framerate of the flash iPlayer is too low to be watchable on my N800.

A version of the iPlayer optimised for Nokia internet tablets would be a great idea, IMO.

  • 83.
  • At 2:56 AM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • rodrigo wrote:

Tim - #72: Live iphone radio streaming would be easy for the beeb to pull off. WFMU, a station in the US has been doing it for a few months now at both 32k and 128k mp3.

check http://iphone.wfmu.org

  • 84.
  • At 5:57 AM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • Keith O wrote:

I can't reconcile these statements:

"We started with iPhone because it is the device most optimised for high quality video currently available."

"(the iPhone's EDGE connectivity is too slow for streaming video). "

What was the point of this exercise other than to grab Jesus-phone media interest? If you're in range of a Wi-Fi connection, you're probably near a laptop.

Wouldn't it have been better to start the mobile push with a device that has connectivity that wasn't designed in the early nineties?

  • 85.
  • At 10:56 AM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • Ethan Duffy wrote:

I stream and I'd really rather do so on quicktime. H.264 videos are just far more suited to the job and what the service needs to get more hits than the same video on youtube.

  • 86.
  • At 11:23 AM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Amazed at the number of complaints about the exciting development in the above comments.

I have iplayer working on my PC, my Mac and now my iPod touch and they all work really well.

What's not to like?

Thank you for this new service.

  • 87.
  • At 1:15 PM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • Steve Manser wrote:

Well it's got to be AppleTV support, that would take this service and make it compete in the real world with SKY & cable.

Please make the iPhone/touch h.264 version being available for everyone. That'd be awesome.

Finally, think a Wii version would also be a great thing, as the largest selling worldwide entertainment platform should be first to get iPlayer support!

Steve

Check this out for Live Streaming FLV content to Nokia N95:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUJak7rCpNU

  • 89.
  • At 3:21 PM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • Mike wrote:

A massive thank you to the BBC. Watching on my iPhone is just stunning and has to be seen to be believed. I was expecting quality similar to the YouTube application that's already on there, but it's crystal clear and flawless.

I was furious at the launch of the iPlayer being a Mac user, and as many people have pointed out you can use it on a Mac now (albeit just the streaming version) but it took a long time before anyone not using Windows could use the service.

The BBC has now redeemed itself by committing to making the service available in as many ways as possible, which sets them apart. 4oD for example still doesn't work on anything but Windows and there are seemingly no plans to change this.

Keep up the good work! For those who love the iPhone like me, the iPlayer is up there with the stunning applications like Maps and YouTube which make the device exceptional.


Hi Anthony,

This isn't the first time a mobile device has been able to play iPlayer. The N95 8GB can already access iPlayer in its flash enabled browser without being redirected to any specially optimised site.

Also, I'm sure you could have released this for the N95 classic at the same time, it shold be able to handle it perfectly.

  • 91.
  • At 5:15 PM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • Lummy_al wrote:

Before I start my, self-confessed, rant, I would like to ask this Question...


What if the BBC only allowed one brand of television to decode BBC channels?


I apologise in advance for my spelling and grammar which I know will be incorrect. It is a message I want to get across, and you will hopefully see that message despite my deficiencies here.

Thank you. I don't own an iPhone, but I can fool my browser to say that it is one. Since you badly wanted your content on the Iphone and it can't handle your DRM'd media, you decided to remove it. Everyone else has to use it, and some operating systems don't have access to this service but Iphone users (BBC execs) are special. They should have access before Mac, Linux and Unix users, you thought. You could say that it was easier to do it for the Iphone but this would be a lie. It is simple to introduce this for other operating systems in the same way but you chose not to. For us. But the iPhone user is clearly special. He would not be able to use this DRM'd media. So you removed it, but only for him.

So, thank you. Now that you have removed this limitation on the Iphone, and I have a lying browser, I can now use your service without the degraded quality of the flash service. We are all equals now.

It appears though you have taken down this service. Maybe this is due to a large amount of traffic, thanks to the www.boingboing.net article. It might however be because you found out what people were doing. Either way I hope to be enjoying the Iplayer soon.

Though my tone here is rather disrespectful I do appreciate the flash support. That is, if it is a first step. As I have always said, the BBC should not be supporting a proprietary standard that forces people to use a specific operating system. Now I am guessing you are finding out that you are fighting a loosing battle.

Fantastic Good work and well done using Safari rather than an application. The only thing that is missing at the moment is a slightly easier to navigate style for small screen devices!

I would hate to see an iPhone only design, but an easy to navigate with big buttons would be great if your screen size was a little small!

  • 93.
  • At 10:49 PM on 09 Mar 2008,
  • JP wrote:

Question from someone without an iphone and to lazy to investigate. Are you able to access the listen again feature and/or stream radio?

Big factor in not getting an iphone yet is the lack of radio. It would be great if this development solved it. It would have to work whilst on the move in the city, at least, to be truly great.

Anyone tried?

  • 94.
  • At 1:19 AM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • robert ronson wrote:

Well done the BBC on bringing the iPlayer to the iPhone. This along with Apple TV and iTunes will prove to be the best thing the BBC has done with regards to the iPlayer.

Thank god you have seen sense and not used the abomination that is flash player for the iPhone. The sooner Adobe are eradicated from the internet the safer and more secure the web will become.

  • 95.
  • At 9:11 AM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Martin Saunders wrote:

Apple TV support for me would be very helpful. Especially if the content was delivered using the iTunes/podcast system as the BBC wouldn't need to create a new custom app. An alternative option is to use YouTube?

Saying that, I'd imagine using iTunes would mean the BBC would have to embrace the Apple DRM system?

Really great to see and use this. Quality is excellent. It is like suddenly being able to watch good quality TV on my phone! Well done.

  • 97.
  • At 9:47 AM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Tes wrote:

There is one reason and one reason alone that the BBC has not made this service available to more handsets. Money.

When I start the web browser on my N95 (that uses the same technology as the iPhones Safari browser and is h.265 codec compatible too) I have the option to PAY for BBC content. Why would the BBC give me the option to pay for something and then give it to me for free? No one would do that. That's the same reason the BBC has been "unable" to create a DOWNLOAD version of the iPlayer for the Mac yet decided to give the option to PAY for content on iTunes. Why give away stuff when you could pretend the technology does not exists to make it possible, but you CAN pay for it and then magically the technology DOES exist!

Shame on you BBC.

  • 98.
  • At 9:52 AM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Neal wrote:

I would like to see the Wii next on the list, as so many people have one connected their TV already.

Thanks for the overview of how the system works, it sounds like a pretty major setup! The iPhone / iPod Touch version is a really great application of this technology, I'm far more likely to get round to watching shows on my iPod Touch than on my computer!

That said, I would love to be able to access the h.264 streaming version via my Mac rather than the Flash version as it does appear to be better quality and scales in size better than Flash's codec does. Is this likely to be enabled? You could of course offer the h.264 version via the Flash 9 player which supports this format natively although I would like to view it via quicktime directly.

It would be great if there was some visual way of identifying whether a programme is available for viewing on the iPhone / iPod Touch, although I presume once more shows are transcoded it will be less likely to find shows that aren't available.

  • 100.
  • At 11:16 AM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Barry wrote:

A complete waste of time and money.

  • 101.
  • At 12:05 PM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Martin Garthwaite wrote:

I watched a show on Iran, 1.5 hours and the experience was great on the touch. The H264 coding looks absolutely brilliant on the screen format of the touch.

To have this on AppleTV would be absolutely great!

Just another person wanting to add themselves to the list of people frustrated to see BBC investing time and effort into a minority platform compared to Symbian S60. Especially given the promise to work on a download solution for Mac and Linux.

  • 103.
  • At 5:17 PM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Neil Lewis wrote:

The h264 video looks great, markedly smoother than the FLV output. I only hope the BBC can work out cross-platform DRM so we can watch EastEnders on the tube.

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