BBC Internet Blog

Matthew Postgate

BBC iPlayer on Nokia N96 mobile phone

We're taking the next step in bringing BBC iPlayer to mobile audiences, or as The Times puts it:

Lying in bed watching the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing on a mobile phone will become possible from next month after a tie-up between the BBC and Nokia.
All BBC programmes transmitted in the past seven days will be available to download to the new Nokia N96 multimedia handset, in a first for the broadcaster and phone maker.

N.B. BBC News also has the story here (ed)

iplayer_3dshot175.pngMobile can be a complex environment and there is a great deal of fragmentation to contend with.

I have always wanted to take BBC iPlayer to mobile but we have been waiting for devices to arrive which mean we can create the kind of experience that audiences have come to expect from the service.

The iPhone and iPod Touch gave us something to work with and we launched a beta for those devices earlier in the year. Some aspects of the experience were fantastic but there were still compromises. The Nokia N96 was always gong to be a contender, as we knew it would be optimised for video and audio. The success of the N95 also meant there was a good chance of it becoming a mainstream device.

Nokia were keen to work with us on the project and together we looked into what it would take to launch something. It proved to be the first platform where we could fully realise the ambition that we had for mobile iPlayer. Naturally, we will want to introduce other devices as they become available - and we're already working on the next group.

Read all our posts about the BBC iPlayerIt will be interesting to see how people use BBC iPlayer on mobile rather than over a set-top box or a computer. I think that the ratio of download to streams might be more, even compared to the PC; I also think that BBC radio programmes will perform well. No doubt there will be some surprises that we will be able to feed into the next version.

As ever, any launch is only the beginning of the journey and now we have the core functions of iPlayer available we will begin to see what the mobile version can do uniquely well. Social features seem an obvious choice but there is a possibility for something around location. Ultimately, we want the mobile version to make a contribution to a BBC iPlayer that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Matthew Postgate is Controller, Mobile, BBC Future Media & Technology.

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  • 1. At 11:30am on 08 Sep 2008, Chris wrote:

    TV on mobiles won't ever become mainstream until you stop focussing on the latest individual devices and start looking at how to deliver something cross-platform.

    The N96 will go away eventually, as will the iphone but there will always be mobiles around. What is the BBC doing to drive a standard across all platforms?

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  • 2. At 11:35am on 08 Sep 2008, The_Phazer wrote:

    Could we have a decent explanation of what this service actually is (the press release isn't very illuminating, nor are any of the newspaper stories reporting it)?

    Is it a streaming service (like the Flash or iPhone services)? Or a download service (like the DRMed P2P service for windows with timed expiry)? Or both?

    If it's streams, what format is it streaming in? Presumably the N96 only has Flash Lite and can't support the desktop streams, so are you encoding them into WMV for streaming or using the same h.264 streams that the iPhone service uses?

    If it's downloads, is there something (unannounced) about the N96 that mkes this possible? Presumably these are coming direct rather than P2P since there's no P2P client, but how is the DRM being handled? Does the N96 have some proprietry DRM system that supports 7 day timeout that you're using rather than the Windows Media DRM? If so, presumably Nokia are not offering to port this back to old handsets like the N95?

    You seem to infer this device will support radio. Again, I can't see how the OS in an N96 will support any of the current formats, so is it being encoded to a different format? Is it just live streams or iPlayer Radio? When's the iPhone iPlayer Radio service coming? :-)

    And given this service will apparently be possible via the 3G networks (though there are very few stations, does that mean that the iPhone service will stop being blocked over 3G as well?

    Sorry, lots of questions, but this whole situation is as clear as mud at present?


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  • 3. At 11:36am on 08 Sep 2008, Chris_huh wrote:

    Is it only going to work on the N96, or is it all S60 phones?

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  • 4. At 11:39am on 08 Sep 2008, angrymartin wrote:

    Ironically, iPlayer worked fine on the N95 until the recent iPlayer upgrade, when the new more complex bbc flash player seemed to simply be too much for it. A cut down version of the bbc flash player (or a return to the original) would probably allow the content to play on many more phones than the as yet unreleased N96. N95 and N85 for example?

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  • 5. At 11:57am on 08 Sep 2008, TheBogBrushZone wrote:

    There may be some technical excuses why the N95 might not be supported (e.g. while the N95 does support H.264 video, it lacks the N96's hardware acceleration, and the N96 supports WMV9 whereas the N95 doesn't) but Nokia has a vested interest in only supporting the new handset from a marketing perspective. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the new iPlayer app will only install on the N96 while being perfectly capable of running on other models.

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  • 6. At 6:30pm on 08 Sep 2008, speculatrix wrote:

    could the Beeb offer a lower quality version with flash player so that nokia tablet users could benefit? or, simply write a GTK-based linux app which could then be recompiled to run on arm linux!

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  • 7. At 6:31pm on 08 Sep 2008, BrynRoberts wrote:

    Frankly, it's a complete waste of time.

    So far my experience of the iPlayer is that, at quiet times, it's slow; and at busy times it's inaccessible.

    Furthermore, it slows the loading of pages, and requently locks internet explorer.

    Perhaps the best thing for the BBC to do would be to either scrap the system, or give us the option of accessing the website without it.

    Sorry, but it's just rubbish.

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  • 8. At 6:49pm on 08 Sep 2008, tcrooks3843 wrote:

    Since having an iPhone I've found the experience of iPlayer compelling. Quality and performance using a Wi-Fi connection is very good.

    The case for H.264 as the standard for mobile is of the utmost merit. I'd certainly resist lower quality. Symbian and other mobile device OS should get with the programme asap.

    Now if only streaming to bigger devices was of such good relative quality...

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  • 9. At 08:36am on 09 Sep 2008, APFerguson wrote:

    Why has the BBC skimmed over the cost to people that downloading material on a mobile will cost?

    Emphasis is made on Nokia making it free, but the bigger bill which is the mobile network operator is ignored.

    Also is it not about time the BBC sorted out the live radio streaming since the latest version of iPlayer was released. Prior to this I always avoided RealPlayer but now I have no choice but to use software that appears to rebuffer the radio and switch up and down bit rates constantly.

    Or does the BBC think having to press stop and play in a radio player every hour or so is acceptable?

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  • 10. At 09:08am on 09 Sep 2008, creativebloke wrote:

    Um excuse me BBC but where is the iPlayer for the Apple TV that you promised at the beginning of the year?

    What some little phone gets precedence over my home centrepiece, you even gave it to that toy pretending to be a console the Wii.

    Serioulsy I pay my license fee, so I only think it fair you keep your promises

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  • 11. At 10:16am on 09 Sep 2008, MaxRandor wrote:

    Far more people use Linux than will have N95 phones, and you said you would make a version for Linux ages ago. Please can you make a version for Linux - once you have done that you will never need to make another version as it will run on anything.
    Pretty please.

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  • 12. At 10:23am on 09 Sep 2008, The_Phazer wrote:

    "Um excuse me BBC but where is the iPlayer for the Apple TV that you promised at the beginning of the year?"

    Err? that link doesn't promise anything. It says they would ask Apple, but given Apple has consistently refused to open Apple TV to anyone else or licence out Fairplay, it would appear that Apple continues to say no.


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  • 13. At 12:45pm on 09 Sep 2008, DigitalDiablo wrote:

    Its a shame there seems to be no incentive to deploy this to Windows Mobile Devices. With the vast array of devices running WM, there would be a good user base for the beeb to reach out to.

    Also, if I remember correctly, the BBC were supposed to be working with Microsoft to bring iPlayer to the Xbox360 - has this fallen by the wayside?

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  • 14. At 3:54pm on 09 Sep 2008, GadgetStylist wrote:

    Good point by AP Ferguson - watching iPlayer over a 3G connection could cost you a fortune if you don't sign up to a suitable data tariff - unless you use wi-fi of course. I hope the BBC make consumers aware of the potential charges to prevent horror stories of huge bills for catching up with Dragons Den on your mobile.

    Lots of moaning about formats I see! Just goes to prove you can't please everyone.

    For what it's worth I'm pretty certain that sales of the Nokia N96 will outsell Apple TV in the UK for... ever.

    Cracking mobile is far more important than any other platform given there's 74 million mobile subscriptions live in the UK it's clear that virtually everyone has access to at least one mobile phone for the majority
    of their day. Most of us only get close to our TV or home PC/Mac in the evening. I'd love to be able to get access to any BBC content (for which I pay a licence fee) in a way that is convenient to my lifestyle. I'm sure the lessons learned on the N96 will lead to a rapid roll out across devices with suitable screens, battery life, wi-fi and stable platforms.

    Other than mobile I would expect we'll see 'connected' Freeview boxes with iPlayer/Kangaroo/VOD in the near future as long as BT's archaic network can handle it...

    BTW - don't forget that Virgin Media have already launched the iPlayer on their cable platform if you're lucky enough to live in a cable area.

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  • 15. At 4:20pm on 09 Sep 2008, mike_eci wrote:

    @ MaxRandor - as the n95 was the UK's highest selling mobile last year (and I'd hazard a guess there are more mobiles than there are desktop pcs) your assertion that 'far more people use linux than the n95' is utter nonsense, particularly when linux use is in reality is 1% of desktops.

    I'd much rather the BBC used development budgets providing a service to normal people rather than catering for a loud and irritating minority who have made the conscious choice to use an obscure platform.

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  • 16. At 9:34pm on 09 Sep 2008, jj5768 wrote:

    Still very disappointed that there has been no BBC developed iplayer for the PS3.

    Even if there are still ongoing discussions with Sony regarding placing content in their video store, its very disapointing that the only way to access iplayer on the ps3 is via an external website created and maintained by a well intentioned member of the public.. rather that directly through the PS3's webbrowser

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  • 17. At 11:11pm on 09 Sep 2008, linuxcentre

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 18. At 1:55pm on 11 Sep 2008, neilhoskins wrote:

    There are surely ethical and charter-compliance issues if the BBC were to be supporting Nokia's marketing by creating an app for the N96 but not the N95. There are a lot of N95s around, and personally I don't think the N96 will sell at all well here due to the total absence (afaik) of DBV-H in this country.

    @MaxRandor... I don't understand: the Flash-based website streaming version works fine on the vast majority of Linux distros. What's your point? Oh, are you one of these people who think licence-payers' money should be spent on the 0.0001% of the population who run a weird distro on a 64-bit alpha chipset?

    @BrynRoberts... Your post is equally as confusing; are you talking about the desktop standalone app? If so, get rid of it and just use a browser. Internet Explorer crashes? Yes, and I understand the Pope is Catholic. Get rid of it and install a decent browser.

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  • 19. At 4:08pm on 11 Sep 2008, Nick_iPlayer_Host wrote:

    Just to explain that I have had comment number 17 removed.

    It was linking to a site which was infringing the iPlayer's terms and conditions. In particular Number 12 (see this link and scroll down).

    Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC Internet blog)

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