back to article Beeb confirms iPlayer streaming dominance

The BBC has revealed that eight times as many people are using its Flash-based streaming iPlayer than the desktop P2P version. The first publicly available official figures since the Christmas launch say 3.5 million iPlayer programmes were watched by more than one million viewers between 25 December and 7 January. More good …

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Happy

25 minutes?

"... people are watching an average of 25 minutes ..."

Wow! What a coincidence. That's about the length of most programmes.

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Smug, cynical, ill-informed and spiteful.

I'm not sure where your snide attitude comes from, Mr. Williams, but I think you might benefit from reflecting upon the fact that you are merely a journalist. Your job is to reflect the actuality, not attempt to invent it.

Sarcastic and innaccurate remarks along the lines of "recently-minted corporate line" and "the BBC was forced to act swiftly under pressure from its own Trust and Downing Street" do you no favours.

When I started work on the iPlayer project early last year, the streaming option had already been in development for months. I witnessed dmonstrations of various technical solutions from oddly attired boffins released for the day from the secret underground facility at Kingswood Warren. Various flavours of iPlayer were in discussion up until at least half way through 2007, before the form it would take for a formal launch was finalised.

I'm not working there any more, so I have no vested interest. What I do have is a better knowledge of the project than you do, as is betrayed by your article.

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Unhappy

It doesn't work on my Wii

Which is a real shame as my Wii is positioned in the right place in relation to my Sofa for me to sit and watch telly, unlike my various computers with various operating systems.

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Coat

Surprise!

"The BBC has revealed that eight times as many people are using its Flash-based streaming iPlayer than the desktop P2P version."

That's because it's installable P2P version is a fetid steaming pile o' iShite, surely?

Last time I tried it (Ok, it was in the beta, but I was running Windows XP and IE6) it simply refused to work. At all. Not once.

Although the bandwidth-leeching bit did embed itself rather nicely, requiring a virtual crowbar to get rid of it.

The flash version can also be used by those wacky Linux and Mac users ( ;-) ), so even more chance for people to outnumber the fools who install the whole thing.

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Linux

iPlayer - how deep is your love?

The title is misleading, but in an interview with Ashley Highfield, Mark Taylor, and a representative from the Open Rights Group, the BBC claimed that they in fact used debian servers to host the program databases.

It's also true that many Linux and Mac people can only use the streaming service. I installed the 'download service' on my Dad's Vista PC - and the only joy I got was a 3Kbps download rate. It was to watch the Top Gear Polar Special.

Using the streaming service on my ubuntu laptop, I watched the whole show (albeit with a couple of buffering issues) - and went back to check on the download. A whole 3% was downloaded.

I must highlight that this is over the same internet connection through a Netgear Router - both computers are cabled to the router (via the Dinovo HomePlug).

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Ian

the streaming option had already been in development for months

So why not just release it, rather than continuing to pour money, boo-style, down a black hole that hasn't even achieved boo-style market share? Why on earth would anyone want to download a time-bombed copy which will then be uploaded using your own bandwidth, when you can just watch it with a flash player? There are no imaginable scenarios, given the requirement not to just offer mp4s for download (which I contest, but that's a distinct story), in which the download version is more useful than the Flash version. Flash works on OSX, Windows various, Linux and probably Solaris (I haven't checked on one of my VM instances). It doesn't work on my AppleTV. The download version is the same, except it only works on one platform, steals my bandwidth, and costs a fortune to develop.

But that's the joy of working for the BBC: you can spend public money unaccountably, and then respond to the government saying ``hold on!'' by threatening to dig up the Blue Peter garden.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Smug, cynical, ill-informed and spiteful.

Hi,

My job, as well as well as 'reflecting actuality' is to view the public statements of self-interested parties, such as BBC management, with skepticism and cynicism, and weigh them against evidence.

If you want to read the happy-clappy version of the iPlayer story I suggest you stick to reports in the Telegraph, which - funnily enough - is a commercial partner.

The impression I have comes from speaking to several people who have worked on iPlayer. As a mere journalist I'm afraid I lack the imagination to invent such a improbably poorly-run development.

"Various flavours of iPlayer were in discussion up until at least half way through 2007, before the form it would take for a formal launch was finalised." Erm...so we're agreed.

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@Vulpes x 2

Curious. Your rebuttal doesn't appear to contradict anything in the story. What part of what you quoted do you think you have just denied? It is perfectly possible for action to bring forward a streaming version was forced by pressure from the Trust - and indeed the Trust was public in its application of pressure. And the current PR line from the BBC is indeed quite a recently minted one - they made very little mention of streaming in the past.

So what exactly was it you were trying to say?

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Gold badge
Gates Horns

I second that Suprise!

I too spent a merry ten minutes installing the P2P version and a very unmerry couple of hours getting the bloody useless malware-underpinned POS off again.

The only interesting thing about that 8 to 1 statistic is that it proves that there's 1 gullible sod prepared to have any old crud on their machine to every 7 people with enough basic smarts to spot shit when it's served up in front of them. Must cheer the bum-sucking scrotes who make a nefarious living preying on stupid users immensely.

Bill Gates does quite well out of stupid users I believe - hence the icon.

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Flame

streaming is only dominant because ...

There is no cross platform download option.

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Avi

@Vulpes & @Ian

"... the streaming option had already been in development for months..... Various flavours of iPlayer were in discussion up until at least half way through 2007, before the form it would take for a formal launch was finalised."

I don't suppose you know why the P2P option was chosen, do you? I'm not meaning to be sarcastic, it just seems an odd idea given the popularity of YouTube etc.

Ian: Solaris 10 does flash. Being commercial software, it ships with it.

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Alert

Mr Vulpes

Can you explain to us EXACTLY how the streaming version of"iPlayer" differs from the streaming Real and WMV that the BBC has been delivering for the past decade? Besides using an even poxier format, obviously.

Incidentally, did any one of your hated 'boffins' suggest a FUCKING MPEG4 BASED SYSTEM?

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Thumb Up

How much money was wasted on the P2P development?

Presumably the development of the Flash version has had nothing to do with the original P2P client and so I am left wondering how much was wasted on its development?

But big thumbs up for the new version. My only criticism is that seems to have quite a low frame rate, although that could have just been my connection.

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Ian

There is no cross platform download option.

Really? You mean using http to download mp4 or h264 encoded files isn't cross-platform? What platforms won't that work on?

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@Duncan Hothersall

I don't recall really attempting to rebutt anything in particular, rather to accuse the writer of seeming to have an axe to grind, an impression that lowers one's propensity to believe that all that is written has not been spun in some way.

For example, "Pressure from Downing Street" sounds very dramatic, but signifies nothing. Using such a phrase is more like inventing a piece of a story than a report of the truth, and is a microcosm of what has sadly been the style of a lot of rather bitter commentary on the iPlayer saga.

I took exception to the tone of the piece, hence the title I gave to my comment.

Oh, and the download version is NOT the same. The wmv files are of a significantly higher quality than the streams, and if you wish to play them back on anything much larger than the average monitor that fact becomes very obvious. Hence the option to download the file and watch it in your living room, rather than via "one of your VM instances".

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Bronze badge

More stream than download

more can stream than can download.

No relation surely?

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Hey Frank

you should have used the Thumbs Up icon, surely?

I believe the MPEG4 option would have introduced problems with kit compatibility, and I think some degree of commonality of approach to the transcoding pipeline was sought (avoiding too many simultaneous transcodes), in the knowledge that the same content would likely be offered via cable IPTV options in the near future.

Of course, if you shout and swear enough, I'm sure the BBC will spend another £4.5M knocking up another option to suit you.

And who said the boffins were "hated"? Yet another invented piece of the story it seems. Sigh.

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Ian

Living Room? Cobblers?

``Hence the option to download the file and watch it in your living room''

For the 0.1% of the population that have attached a networked computer running XP to a living-room sized television. Perhaps the BBC might try developing for the world as it is, rather than the world they had sold to them by some Microsoft rejects. Connecting a computer to a TV is hard work unless you happen to have a VGA input on the telly --- extremely unusual --- or want to mess about with weird graphics cards and cables. Which is why no-one does it. Media Centre PCs? Yes, if only someone had actually bought one outside the people who buy `Stuff' and `T3' to tuck their copy of Razzle in.

If the BBC's argument against the Mac and Linux community was that they were a numerically small part of their audience (although, shades of boo, that assuming that their audience is homologous with the population at large: Hoxton media types aren't), I'd be prepared to bet that people who want to watch TV on their Powerbooks massively outnumber those who are in a position to watch WMV files on a living room TV.

I've got a networked computer attached to my TV, by the way, at 720p to boot. It's an AppleTV. I'd even go so far as to bet there are more of those hooked to living room TVs than there are Media Centre PCs.

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Anonymous Coward

Streaming is dominant because??

Sorry but any one who thinks streaming is dominant because its multiplatform is deluded. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the machine types that connected to the iplayer streaming server but I would be amazed if it was significantly different to the breakdown of connected computers in the country, i.e. a large majority will be windows PC's anyway.

Streaming is dominant because its instantaneous and there is no 'hassle' barrier to overcome to view the programs. Would youtube be the phenomenon it has been if people had to download the clips and then view them?

It appears obvious to me that someone decided that people would prefer quality and longer 'keep' times over convenience so pushed on with the p2p player. What the results show now is that that judgement call was probably wrong.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Streaming is dominant because??

"Streaming is dominant because its instantaneous and there is no 'hassle' barrier to overcome to view the programs. Would youtube be the phenomenon it has been if people had to download the clips and then view them?

"It appears obvious to me that someone decided that people would prefer quality and longer 'keep' times over convenience so pushed on with the p2p player. What the results show now is that that judgement call was probably wrong."

Spot on.

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W00t flash

Flash is the best thing that happened to the iPlayer

Just I wish they could let us have it as a floating window and resizable.

I dont want it full screen as I use Messenger and whatnot at the same time!!

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Hey Ian

The XBox 360 seems to have sold quite well. Oooops, it's a Microsoft product, sorry about that, I'll do two Hail Steves and promise not to mention it again.

Sorry you can't cope with cables.No need for "weird graphics cards" when cables are so simple. My TV is a JVC, about 5 years old, so nothing outlandish or weird there either. Remember this magic word for future reference: Maplins.

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Anonymous Coward

BBC P2P is a huge success...

...Just not via iPlayer!

What did they think they'd get when they DRM'd it, making it unplayable on anything other than a PC? If you're watching it on a PC, you may aswell watch it on flash. You're sitting at the PC, you don't want to sit there forever waiting for the program, and you aren't going to plan an evening of watching BBC TV around your PC.

They could have pubished their programs on torrents with an IP filter to filter out non UK IP addresses and they'd have a successful p2p distribution channel too.

What on earth possessed them to DRM it up like that?

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Paris Hilton

Living Room.. Yes Please @Ian

Cough Cough... PS3, Xbox360.??. they can already stream movies! So you are right in that who bothers connecting a PC/Linux/Apple etc to their TV. But for those that have one of the above game consoles already connected, the lack of a Flash player is highly annoying and therefore have to download first and then stream via various means.

Unlucky with the 720p Apple, should have bought a PS3, HDMI'ed at 1080p and fibred into a DTS surround system :)

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Anonymous Coward

Don't think so...

"It's an AppleTV. I'd even go so far as to bet there are more of those hooked to living room TVs than there are Media Centre PCs."

I personally would finds that very hard to believe.

Firstly you probably underestimate the lead of media centre PC's had over AppleTV in terms of release time.

Secondly I suspect you overestimate how many appleTV's there are in use.

Thirdly you probably ignored the number of people, myself and coincidentally the person sitting behind me, who have made their own TV connected PC's.

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Bronze badge
Paris Hilton

Smug, cynical, ill-informed and spiteful.

Smug = middle class or just well educated?

Cynical = experienced in working for British management.

Ill-informed = modern journalism.

Spiteful = uncouth but honest?

What I want to know is what the flip one can spend 25 minutes usefully watching on the BBC that you can't get in 2 minutes online elsewhere. OK DIY tips are likely to be text only and holiday programmes aren't going to be much more than adverts.

That just leaves East Enders and quiz programmes.

Who needs it? Paris Hilton?

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Heart

@Vulpes Vulpes

Hmm. You quoted two remarks and described them as "sarcastic and innaccurate". (Incidentally, I love that sort of sub-editor fun - it's like complaining about "bad speling", or "inappropriate apostrophe's".)

Anyway, you claimed the two statements ("recently-minted corporate line" and "the BBC was forced to act swiftly under pressure from its own Trust and Downing Street") were "sarcastic and innaccurate": .

I pointed out that they in fact appeared to be entirely accurate. Your response was to say that it was in fact the tone of the article you objected to. Perhaps, if that was the case, you should have said so, rather than claiming "innaccuracy". Do you see?

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@Ian

"For the 0.1% of the population that have attached a networked computer running XP to a living-room sized television."

Or the much larger percentage of the population that has an MP3 player capable of video playback and a lead to attach it to the TV, as I do. Still small, but with far more growth potential than those actually willing to permanently connect their computer to their TV. I'm assuming that stuff downloaded from iPlayer can be transferred, which it may not be.

Completely off-topic, did anyone watch City of Vice on Channel 4 last night? That is what television people outside the BBC believe quality programming is, judging by the hype and the conceit. The worst pile of badly written, badly acted and badly directed shite I have had the misfortune to see since... well, actually I can't remember turning on the TV at 9pm and ever seeing such a shocking waste of everyone's time in my entire life. And it's a series. Thank God for the BBC.

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Pirate

Re-Cap

"you should have used the Thumbs Up icon, surely?"

Truth be told, I'm not much of a fan of El Reg's premoticon system.

"I believe the MPEG4 option would have introduced problems with kit compatibility, and I think some degree of commonality of approach to the transcoding pipeline was sought (avoiding too many simultaneous transcodes), in the knowledge that the same content would likely be offered via cable IPTV options in the near future."

Absolute horseshit. You'll never guess what industry I work in and what I do on a daily basis. Have a try.

"Of course, if you shout and swear enough, I'm sure the BBC will spend another £4.5M knocking up another option to suit you."

Can you shout in plain text? As for swearing, I love it, don't take it away from me.

"And who said the boffins were "hated"?"

You certainly demeaned them, as is usual practice i most industries.

"Yet another invented piece of the story it seems."

OK, let's review the plot one more time, then, just to be sure:

1. BBC establishes need/desire to deliver programmes via internet platform.

2. Commercial interests get wind of this, attach suckers to host.

3. Obvious solutions, both standards based and in-house, sidelined in favour of technically inferior, corrupting, proprietary system based on off-the-shelf malware.

4. Money drain enormous, inexplicable, frightening, noticed.

5. Justification for money drain begins - claims of complex in-house development (lie) touted, no need to look behind curtain as it's all so very technical.

6. During comically lengthy gestation, YouTube comes to prominence, Real and WMV streaming continues as per usual at bbc.co.uk.

7. Beta launched, bewildered howls of protest issue forth from the CLIENTS.

8. Hasty, Flash-streamed back-tracking begins.

9. CLIENTS look at the bill, look at the Flash streams and start to get REALLY FUCKING ANGRY.

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@Chris Williams

I'm with Vlpes Vulpes on this. For some reason you seem to have an attitude problem. Basically in each and every article you've written about the iPlayer so far (maybe with the exception of this one) you've asked for the download version to actually be pulled. WTF would be the point in doing that? You seem to act like some spoilt kid who hasn't got a football, so he goes over and robs someone else's football so they can't play with it - it's pathetic.

The download version of the iPlayer provides higher picture and audio quality than the streaming version, doesn't harm any Linux or Mac users, by defintion won't have any buffering problems, it benefits from scale rather than being hindered by it, and there'll be a long wait for streamed HD content whereas it's feasible today on the download version.

It is COMPLEMENTARY TO the streaming version of the iPlayer, it is not an either or situation, but for some fking reason you've got a chip on your shoulder and you actually want it to be taken away from people who want to use it rather than the streaming version.

And not content with wanting something useful to be taken away from people who use it, you come out with a load of nonsense to back up your bias. Yesterday you wrote that the spike in traffic to the iPlayer website was DUE TO the release of the streaming version, which shows you have zero understanding of the reason for advertising and why TV advertising campaigns cost millions of pounds. And in a reply to a previous article you claimed that multicast could be used for the streaming version of the iPlayer to make it more efficient in bandwidth terms, when in reality multicast is a LIVE streaming technology, so cannot be used with on-demand streams - that was just one of a number of inaccuracies.

If I were you I'd concentrate less on bias, and just get your facts right and stop trying to be a smart arse.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: @Chris Williams

"Basically in each and every article you've written about the iPlayer so far (maybe with the exception of this one) you've asked for the download version to actually be pulled. WTF would be the point in doing that?"

Not in each and evey one to be fair. It's an opinion I arrived at relatively recently, after covering the story for several months.

The point of it would be to save the fees paid to Microsoft in WMV licensing and Verisign in Kontiki licensing, and the public money that'll be wasted by maintaining and updating the client for a small portion of the people who'll use and pay for iPlayer.

iPlayer is meant to complement the TV service, not different implementations of itself, and the Flash version does that just fine - and is much more popular.

Bias is a much abused word. Having an opinion is not synonymous with bias. I believe I arrived at my opinion objectively and based on the evidence. You arrived at a different opinion, but that's fine.

Regards multicast, here it is from the horse's mouth: http://support.bbc.co.uk/multicast/

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Tsk Tsk Frank

There you go, shouting and swearing again. Take the blue pills and lie down in the dark somewhere.

Flagrant use of emotive terms for effect - CHECK

Uncorroborated allegations - CHECK

Guesswork passed off as fact - CHECK

Repeating other peoples' lies - CHECK (show me the "demeaning" quote, you IDIOT)

oops, sorry, I think whatever you have must be contagious!!!

My guess is you work in the journalism industry.

I've included a little nod to punctuational inaccuracy for Duncan's benefit.:)

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MPEG-4

Does anyone actually know for sure that MPEG-4 isn't being used on the streaming version of the iPlayer? Flash added MPEG H.264 for video and HE-AAC for audio just before the streaming version of the iPlayer launched, and I've read elsewhere that the streaming version was going to use H.264.

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Linux

What about...

"BBC was forced to act swiftly under pressure from its own Trust and Downing Street"

Pressure put upon the trust and the government by the Open Rights Group, the Open Source Consortium and a whole host of other people that believe that DRM etc. is generally a Bad Thing (TM).

On the whole, Mr Williams, a good article, however maybe next time the organisations behind it could have a bit more credit?

M.

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Re: @Chris Williams

Firstly, you've never mentioned (to my knowledge, and I read all articles about the iPlayer) that what motivates your dislike of the download version is the licensing costs issue - my impression has been that you jumped on the anti feeling towards it due to it being Microsoft and it not supporting Linux and the Mac. (for the record, I'd prefer it if the download version supported Linux and Mac, but it's no reason to stop Windows users from using it)

Secondly, have you actually looked into the issue of licensing costs? Licensing costs saved on the download version is extra licensing costs paid for the streaming version to Adobe for Flash and licensing costs for the use of whichever codecs the streaming version is using, probably MPEG-4 H.264 and HE-AAC.

Also, because Microsoft wants people to use WM it provides cheap licensing terms - it gives WMV encoders away to broadcasters, for example, so that it can keep people using WM, and there was a load of arguing about the licensing cost of H.264 a couple of years ago after Microsoft lowered the licensing costs to use WMV to very low levels - a sort of loss leader type affair. So I'm not convinced that the licensing costs would be any lower for the streaming version than for the download version. Also, Internet bandwidth costs for the BBC will obviously be far, far lower for the P2P version than for streaming, because users are providing the bandwidth rather than the BBC having to - and it ain't half lavishing bandwidth on this streaming version, because I'd imagine they're providing about 10 - 20 Gbps of bandwidth for it, which ain't free.

As for the use of the word "bias", I'm sorry but I think it's self-evident that you're biased against the P2P version - if you don't think you are, try re-reading some of your previous articles with an open mind, and then tell me that I'm wrong.

As for multicast, I repeat that it cannot be used for the streaming version of the iPlayer, because it is a live streaming technology - that';s why the BBC is trialing it at the moment with all the live streams for the TV channels and radio stations. Multicast only makes things more efficient because different people are watching the same stream. But people don't watch the same stream on the iPlayer - if someone starts watching Eastenders say 5 milliseconds later than someone else watches it the two streams are completely different, so unicast *has to* be used. Ironically, the way to make live streams more efficient is to use P2P!

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Multicast

Referring to:

http://support.bbc.co.uk/multicast/

"The trial is still running but as a closed user group (password to access available on request, at our discretion) whilst we prepare for the next phase - inclusion of the live, multicast, channels in iPlayer (working title)."

That's referring to the live multicast streams of the BBC TV channels and the national radio stations that are expected to launch later this year, and will be included under the umbrella of the iPlayer. See:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/multicast/

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Coat

Smells Like Fox Piss

"I witnessed dmonstrations of various technical solutions from oddly attired boffins released for the day from the secret underground facility at Kingswood Warren."

This ISN'T demeaning?

Do you know what? When the final iPlayer reckoning is made, the politics won't matter, the money won't matter, even the technical details won't matter. What WILL matter is the bare fact that the BBC will be offering a genuinely poor quality product. If that doesn't depress everyone, then clearly the BBC is no longer the standard bearer it once was nor it believes itself to still be.

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Thumb Down

Steve,

h.264/AAC delivered via Flash is no good, at least until such time as Flash (swf, flv, whatever) is made an MPEG standard.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: @Chris Williams

Hi Steve,

My motivations against the download client are based on thinking about how people are using internet video, not interoperability itself. The licensing costs and waste are the upshot of my conclusion that the P2P app it won't be used much.

"I'm not convinced that the licensing costs would be any lower for the streaming version than for the download version." I don't know. It would be less than the sum of both though.

I reported on the open source complaints because Reg readers are interested. As far as I'm concerned, interoperabilty for the desktop application just raises the waste levels. The BBC has pledged to port it to Mac and Linux within two years, which'll cost man hours and TV licence fees.

I can't find the article you refer to about multicast and iPlayer. The only one comes up with and "iplayer" and "multicast" search is this http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/08/14/bbc_iplayer_isp_analysis/ which I didn't write. I certainly don't recall making statements on it, but I write a lot so it's possible I forgot. If you have a link please oblige.

Just as a point of interest regards: "Ironically, the way to make live streams more efficient is to use P2P". The Beeb building its own Content Delivery Network with Cache Logic. The most popular streams will be cached in local exchanges, which its hoping will relieve some pressure on ISPs. Seems like they're expecting the Flash player to continue to dominate.

And for the record, I have nothing against P2P technology itself (that would be pretty damn weird), I just think the BBC got it wrong on this one.

Anyhow, enough. For you everyone else who has an interest in the issues, I'm meeting Anthony Rose, the former Kazaa CTO who's now in charge of iPlayer development, next week. If there's any questions people would particularly like me to put to him, please click on my byline in the article and let me know. Cheers,

- Chris

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Of more interest to me...

...would be the ability to listen to BBC Radio streaming online without having to soil my system with RealPlayer. As Clarkson, Hammond and May are often heard to say: "how hard *can* it be?"

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Hi Frank,

No, it isn't demeaning.

If you can't recognise a fond reference to the Kingswood Warren guys with a whimsical tease about their furtive experiments, that's your problem.

Having rubbed shoulders with a few of them on odd occasions, I admire them and their technical skills hugely.

Please elucidate as to why my suspicions about MPEG4 expressed above are "absolute horseshit". I was under the impression that UK set-top boxes can't do H264, which is why the current iPlayer stream is good old MPEG2, as this allows set-top boxes to read it when the same files are made available over cable IPTV. Kindly correct me if I am wrong.

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Hi Duncan

"Anyway, you claimed the two statements ("recently-minted corporate line" and "the BBC was forced to act swiftly under pressure from its own Trust and Downing Street") were "sarcastic and innaccurate": I pointed out that they in fact appeared to be entirely accurate. "

But I still don't think they are honest statements. They are not accurate, they are loaded in a way that suggests, to me, a sarcastic, sneering attitude, which is why I titled my comments as I did.

Using the description "recently minted" is a deliberate ploy to make it sound as if the BBC statement about streaming being platform agnostic is a last minute weasely spin to pacify the Mac and Linux fans. My reply was to say that streaming had been on the cards since before the PVT and the Trust pronouncements, and that therefore "recently minted corporate line" was "sarcastic and innaccurate".

Saying that the "BBC was forced to act swiftly" is a deliberate journalistic ploy to make it seem as if the BBC originally had no intention of ever doing anything as a result of the Trust's pronouncements following the PVT, and were somehow panicked into action by the valiant efforts of the Trust and intervention from Number 10. This suggestion is, quite frankly, absolute horseshit (copyright F Bough), and therefore I maintain that this statement is also "sarcastic and innaccurate".

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"There is no cross platform download option"

Mininova.

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Paris Hilton

As Confused As Paris

"I was under the impression that UK set-top boxes can't do H264, which is why the current iPlayer stream is good old MPEG2, as this allows set-top boxes to read it when the same files are made available over cable IPTV. Kindly correct me if I am wrong."

MPEG2 has to be encoded for a wide variety of reasons anyway - Sky and Freeview among them, it simply has no bearing on the matter. In what sense is the "current iPlayer stream.. good old MPEG2" exactly? If the iPlayer encoders aren't being fed at least at SDI level, then the incompetence runs even deeper than I suspected. As for STBs not handling MPEG4, well, what do you think Sky broadcast their HD services in? How about the BT Vision STB? That supports MPEG4 and MPEG2 at various profiles and with various audio options (including HE-AAC) assuming it's a non-crippled Philips DIT9719. Doesn't seem to support Windows Media or Flash, though...

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MPEG-2 vs MPEG-4

It can't be MPEG-2 because they're using a bit rate of 550 kbps altogether for the video and audio, and at those bit rates it would look worse than the worst YouTube video you've ever seen if they were using MPEG-2. They're definitely using highly efficient codecs for both video and audio, so I reckon it's very likely that they're using H.264 video and HE-AAC audio - both of these codecs were added to Flash last August, see: http://tinyurl.com/2l9n5q.

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Re: @Chris Williams

Chris,

I'll admit that you've been proved right and I've been wrong regarding how the public has used streaming vs downloading. In my defence though, I was assuming that the picture quality of the streaming version would be a lot worse than it actually is - the reason I thought it would be crap was due to the fact that the BBC has recently increased the bit rates of its live radio station and Listen Again streams to 64 kbps (using the ancient ATRAC3 codec) and they sound diabolical, so I wasn't expecting the BBC would lavish so much bandwidth on the TV streams, to be honest.

If the picture quality were the same on both the streaming and download versions and there were absolutely no problems with stream buffering then I think it's pretty obvious that everybody would use streaming because it avoids having to wait for the programme to download.

However, I still think that the download version is complementary to the streaming version, and I'm completely against your proposals that it should be scrapped. It does provide higher picture and audio quality than the streaming version, and it always should do because it costs the BBC far less in bandwidth terms - I'd bet that 95%+ of people don't realise that the quality is better on the downloading version. It also avoids the problem of buffering, and on a number of occasions when I've tried it the streaming version has suffered horrendously from buffering. I don't think it will be feasible to stream HD content for a few years yet, whereas it could be offered on the P2P version today if they wanted to. And the speed of downloading programmes should also improve over time as more people install the download app so the number of people sourcing programme files will increase.

For the reasons of better quality and the avoidance of buffering, I will always favour downloading over streaming, so I'm completely against your proposal that the download version should be scrapped.

I also think that your dislike of the download version was at least in part due to it being Windows-only, and you were therefore sticking up for the smallish minority of people using Linux and Mac, so I don't think it's fair for you to now say that you're against the download version because only a smallish minority of people are using it - if you're going to stick up for one minority then you should stick up for minorities full stop. The BBC is a public service broadcaster, so it should provide for what everybody wants, not just the majority - if you're a Linux user, say, you shouldn't need to be told this!

Interesting news about the BBC building a Content Delivery Network.

I have a couple of questions for this Anthony Rose bod: when are the multicast TV and radio station streams going to launch? And when is the BBC going to change from using the prehistoric ATRAC3 audio codec for the live and on-demand radio streams?

Cheers,

Steve

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Re: Smug, cynical, ill-informed and spiteful.

Well you can't spell 'sceptical' or is it a necessary requirement for tech-savvy-cool-as-you-like-journos to spell like a cool-dude-californian-surfer-king?

Anyway, I'm sure the beeb have their own preference as to what player they want Joe Public to adopt, so they would naturally ensure things go in that direction.

BTW, £4.5 million! Drop in the ocean these days old boy.

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also it is the defult

it could be to do with the fact that when I went to check out the iplayer when I went to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/ it was the flash verson poped up nothing on the page sugested I should downlaod anything

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Linux

Connecting computers and TVs

"Connecting a computer to a TV is hard work unless you happen to have a VGA input on the telly --- extremely unusual --- or want to mess about with weird graphics cards and cables. Which is why no-one does it."

Have you looked at NEW TVs lately? Okay, there's still a lot of old ones floating about, but I recently bought a new TV and it's actually quite hard to find a flat-panel TV that *doesn't* have a VGA port these days.

Oh - and I thought many video cards today had HDMI ports (don't know - mines a Matrox G550 and I have no plans to upgrade... :-)

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Alert

The principle

First, the fact that there are "few" Mac and Linux users is irrelevant. It is the principle that count. Tying to a vendor is unacceptable. And you forget that there are more Unix variants and even other OSes out there, one of which I am a user of.

Second, Flash is NOT a solution for the vendor-tying problem, since it ties you to Adobe. Flash is not an open standard. There is only Flash for systems that it amuses Adobe to provide implementations for. There is no Flash version for my system. Now if it were an open standard, I could make one myself.

So even Flash doesn't solve the problem (apart from the fact that Flash is unpleasant because it makes all those horrible advertisements).

The only solution is to use open standards for everything.

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