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back to article Next generation BBC iPlayer gets MS man on board

The BBC has hired another Microsoft executive in a shakeup of its digital media technology teams earlier this week. The Register has learned that Jon Billings was appointed to a new team responsible for the development of the next generation of the BBC iPlayer earlier this week. He is a former program manager in Microsoft's …

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Anonymous Coward

BBC Trust should step in, or UK Gov should

All these hires are from a single vendor, the skills they bring are of a single vendors products, hence the team is being stacked to favour that vendor.

It can't be in the BBCs interests to make its viewers require a particular vendors product, since that puts the BBC's access to it's customers dependent on that companies terms.

Currently the BBCs media fails to delivery, it works on a tiny fraction of the devices that YouTube works on, and none of the things plugged into a TV, none of those hard disk media centres, no hard disk recorders, it can't be played even on crappy old DVD RW players which practically every UK household has!

All it will play on is some PCs, only Windows, only Microsoft and even then works badly.

If YouTube can deliver a workable product and Comedy Central can and others can, then how come the BBC can't deliver except on Microsoft platforms?

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iPhone/iPlayer Support

I wonder if the beeb is going to support the iPhone/iPlayer?

The problem with only supporting one major platform is sometimes the market is going in a different direction.

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Silver badge

Rely on any more MS tech and the project will implode

Whoever had the genius idea to slap together IE 6 specific Javascript, a third party client, ActiveX controls, WMP and god knows what else really deserves to be thrown off this project.

Even if, for some unknown reason the BBC wanted to inflict Windows on their customers, there are far, far, far saner designs than the pigs dinner they ended up with. Even a .NET app would have been a better solution. And if they hoped to go cross-platform now or in the future then Java would be better yet.

Write a nice Java based PVR-like application that handles listings, downloads, caching, file management but calls out to native code for video playback performance.

Hopefully the disaster will give them pause for thought and make them wonder if they'd be better off to write something platform neutral with less hideous DRM. I doubt the pirate market for home grown BBC content is massive to begin with. It would be a sufficient deterrent to watermark downloaded content with the downloader's TV licence details. They could even let people download in H264 or some other common standard and trust them to use it any way they want.

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The truly funny bit in all this

All of the foofarah over the iPlayer is caused by the fact that the BBC is constrained to use DRM (or as it is more correctly know, Technology Users' Rights Denial System, or TURDS).

This is utterly useless, since, if the data stream can be sent to a computer, it can be captured by that (or another) computer. And once it has been captured, removal of the TURDS is much easier than getting a Microsoft Exchange server to work properly.

And if it can't be sent to a computer, then there's no point in developing the iPlayer, with or without TURDS in.

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Anonymous Coward

Well, no surprise there then .....

1) I wonder who got the M$ kickback

2) I wonder how much it was

Honestly, these days it has become the norm for such bare-faced nepotism to be carried out with zero degree of shame.

And yet, withold your licence payment in protest and you'll be banged up for longer than a murderer.

Kinda makes one proud

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Silver badge

Hmmmm.

Compulsory digital TV round the corner too. Can't be any connection of course. Guess I won't be buying many more TV licenses though :(

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Anonymous Coward

Well what a surpise...

... NOT!!

Time for an email campaign to the Board of Governors to ask them to investigate the obvious corruption in parts of their organisation.

I wonder how much money Bill and Co have bunged into some peoples private bank accounts to get this one through...

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DRM

It always amazes me that people think the BBC added DRM just to annoy us. The people who own the programmes won't let the BBC put the programmes on the iplayer without DRM. Why is that so difficult to understand?

And - like it or not - they require the BBC to use DRM features that only microsoft can currently provide.

As for hiring a former program manager in Microsoft's *digital media* division to work in a team developing a program devoted to *digital media*... well, it clearly has nothing to do with having relevant experience, does it?

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Drm? Microsoft influence? Hmm ...

Nope, it cannot be. At http://www.bbcshop.com/ , one can now *buy - yep, that's right - *buy* Microsoft WMP10+, DRM-Encumbered audio/video. As opposed, you know, to buying the equivalent stuff on CD, tape, DVD, video, etc. You need certain system requirements, their download manager, WMP10 with Unique ID on ... I didn't hit the button at the checkout. I lacked the nerve. Cleared my order; paid double for a CD. I shall wait for my CD and rip it, thus getting me what I wanted (a Dr Who story, matter of fact) in the right and honourable flac at just the right quality for me - f***ing perfect.

Corruption from Microsoft? No, it must be something else. Hell, even if it'd been MP3, I'd take it. But I draw the line when the BBC employs needless M$ technology at my expense to give me my license to *my* copy of *my* favourite audio on a string the BBC can give a little tug and revoke my right to listen to. Sick. Will the fanboys please smell the f***ing coffee?

Cheers,

Sabahattin

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Title

Scott: "It always amazes me that people think the BBC added DRM just to annoy us. The people who own the programmes won't let the BBC put the programmes on the iplayer without DRM. Why is that so difficult to understand?"

It's not difficult to understand - it's utterly incomprehensible why the people who own the programs punish legitimate viewers with ridiculous restrictions on viewing, while the same content is freely available to anyone who wants to obtain it illegally from a P2P network.

Furthermore, the BBC seems to be not only a willing, but an eager partner in this insane scheme. THAT is what is difficult to understand.

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Bronze badge

Withold License fee

"And yet, withold your licence payment in protest and you'll be banged up for longer than a murderer."

Only if you carry on using your TV equipment.

I'm taking a few months off TV, partially because of this fiasco (it was certainly the final straw).

If everyone who disliked this situation took a month or three without TV, the BBC may just notice it in their wallet.

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Joost

Why don't the BBC use a delivery platform such as Joost? For a fledgling platform, it's got loads of content and the video is actually not bad once it settles down. But the plus side is there's clients for MacOS, XP/Vista and Linux.

The other angle here is that it only costs circa £80 to get a DVB USB device for your laptop, with included PVR software. Why not use that, because it will also let you sync out to an iPod / iPhone (well, my Mac software does that automatically - records from DVB stream, compresses for iPod and plonks it in iTunes ready to sync the next morning). The video quality is 100% better and portable too.

The Kontiki / Windows Media product inside the iPlayer is exactly what they use for Sky Anytime, and the video quality is atrocious - much worse than Joost and nowhere near broadcast quality.

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Freeview broadcasts are not DRM'd...

So the content owners demand DRM... Hmmm but they are happy for the BBC to broadcast un DRM'd programming at full broadcast quality... so all you have to do is add a DVB-T card/usb dongle to your PC and you can record the program... and keep it forever! Strange world isn't it...

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It's a shame

The BBC used to have a great reputation for engineering excellence and broadcasting an eclectic range of material in way it could be accessed easily by millions here (in the UK) and overseas.

The problem, as I see it, is that it's fallen foul of political intrigues and infitration by 'managers' with commercial agendas. It's become a hydra-headed organisation with no-one willing (or able?) to truly direct it as it was originally meant to be. A very large part of the blame can be attributed to John "Dalek" Birt, who as Director-General of the Beeb from 1992-2000, apparently acceded to requests by politicians to alter the balance of it's output.

That this strategy was wholeheartedly implemented and appreciated by his political masters can be judged by Birt being made a life peer in 1999. Funny old world, eh?

If you've just sat down with cup of tea you can read more about this twat here (and he's in Wikipedia).

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2005/01/10/do1001.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2005/01/10/ixopinion.html

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Anonymous Coward

DRM is commercial suicide

"It always amazes me that people think the BBC added DRM just to annoy us. The people who own the programmes won't let the BBC put the programmes on the iplayer without DRM."

No, I think the *DRM* *vendors* convinced the BBC that program makers demand DRM. They were not given the choice of mainstream access to the full market, which would require a proper open format.

That's a pity. The BBC could simply put the companies that want DRM in DRM format and for everyone else in DIVX or MPEG4 or something widely playable, and we would see the reality of the market. DRM'd stuff would not be played, since it *CAN'T* be played.

I'm sure Microsoft laughed their c*ck off when they got this, since every single media product they've made has failed in the market. Everyone, without a single exception, failed.

Even Walmart failed with their Microsoft music store. WALMART!

MTV gave up with their music store. MTV,THE music TV station!

There is no TV station that has ever had online success with Microsoft's DRM'd crap.

And now it's the BBC's turn to repeat others mistakes.

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Anonymous Coward

The BBC should do market research

I'll tell you what, the BBC should do a simple market test.

Put a show up in non DRM'd format, a single MPEG4 or DIVX file on a website with a link.

And also in Microsoft's DRM'd format.

Then see the difference in uptake. Why not? It's all well and good to discuss it in abstract, but they should test how big the negative effect of the DRM really is. There's nothing to lose in terms of piracy anyway, since all of their shows are also transmitted in a completely unprotected digital format anyway!

At the very least the Trust should insist they test the market, since this is basic practice for any company.

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Boycott TV and you can stop paying your licence fee

I campaign for a mass switch off and license cancellation.

Let's bankrupt this fat cat government mouthpiece.

Time the licence fee went and that it was exposed to commercial pressures, what other business do you know that we have to pay for by law if we want to use a certain piece of equipment, only decent programme on the BBC is Top Gear and that will become tame now because the beeb wont pay for proper health and safety.

I bet if we all stopped paying, the licence fee would be gone within 3 months and there would be vans driving round begging us to come back.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Boycott

Count me in

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"Never ascribe to malice what can satisfactorily be explained by incompetence"

This sorry tale needs no corruption at all, just standard management poor thinking... MS sell extremely well to senior management. Much less well to the techies, but that doesn't matter. Senior management think MS must be good because they make so much money, and its much *easier* picking up a standard MS thing out of the brochure. OK it may not exist, but its in the brochure.

So then they are on that road, so they pick what looks like the best people to run down that road, and who better than a Microsoft "expert"?

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Silver badge

What are the terms of the appointment ?

Is he there for a fixed term ? Going back to M$ in a few years ? Is M$ subsidising his salary, or paying for an assistant, ... ?

I can't believe that the BBC did this ? It is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken food - not in charge of the entire operation but definitely with a huge conflict of interest.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: The BBC should do market research

"I'll tell you what, the BBC should do a simple market test.

Put a show up in non DRM'd format, a single MPEG4 or DIVX file on a website with a link.

And also in Microsoft's DRM'd format."

Wouldn't be a very useful test though, would it? Of course people would download the former more. But since the BBC don’t have the rights to distribute permanent copies of their programmes online and can't afford to buy them (it would cost literally billions and billions extra per year) it's irrelevant. If the tobacco companies did a test selling cigarettes without any taxation they'd likely find that they'd sell a lot better too, but that doesn't mean the government is likely to get rid of the duty on them any time soon, does it?

The BBC announced today that it appointed Anthony Rose from Kazaa as it's digital media head today - curiously no reg story about that. Doesn't fit a reporting agenda?

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Don't forget Dirac

Maybe you guys should go to IBC once in a while.

All your pondering about the BBC's plans ignores the BBC's long-running Dirac project, to create a royalty-free advanced compression algorithm which will replace proprietary algorithms in almost all of the BBC's production and distribution work (except for those to set-top boxes with embedded codecs).

Dirac is actually essential for the iPlayer project, because the BBC can't afford to pay MPEG licence fees for every user in the long run, even if it stuck with Windows.

So that solves the compression problem. Now we just need a DRM...

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Re: Naich

Your posting is nonsense:

"it's utterly incomprehensible why the people who own the programs punish legitimate viewers with ridiculous restrictions on viewing, while the same content is freely available to anyone who wants to obtain it illegally from a P2P network.

Furthermore, the BBC seems to be not only a willing, but an eager partner in this insane scheme."

You must know that "the people who own the programs" are NOT the BBC. There's no evidence at all of the BBC being necessarily "eager" or even "willing" to use DRM, it's just a question of their being "obliged".

There is nothing incomprehensible about a public service broadcasting organisation obeying the law.

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