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back to article BBC iPlayer boss: smart TVs not sufficiently simple

Telly makers have been told to simplify the smart TV experience if they want more punters to take the internet-connected tech on board. Daniel Danker, who runs the BBC's iPlayer operation, told an audience at the Digital TV Group (DTG) Summit in London today that connect TVs need to become less complicated. Hooking the things …

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Say what?

>Hooking the things up is hard enough, he reckons, and even then "audiences are presented with a list of choices that boggles the mind".

My Samsung only needs a power cable and a wifi connection. You press the "smart" button on the remote, then pick iplayer.

I realise some makes may be slightly more complicated, but come on, let's not dumb things down too much. Or is he angling for an "iplayer" specific remote button?

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JDX
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Re: Say what?

Don't you have to tell the telly which network to use, give it a password, and perhaps even whitelist the TV's MAC on your router?

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Paris Hilton

Re: Say what?

No. Run a cat5e cable to your telly & forget the above nonsense.

Cat5e cable = <£2, Samsung WiFi adaptor >£40

I've got a gen 6 Samsung gogglebox & it's fantastic, the built in iPlayer displays better quality TV than broadcast (not HD, obviously) & a doddle to use :-).

If I watched itv or 4 I'd be disappointed at the lack of 4od or itvplayer on the gogglebox, but I don't, so I'm not.. Job done.

Paris; as I'm sure she'd like a light touch with the cat5e cable....

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Sensible Friday?

Is this Sensible Friday or something?

Simplify consumer kit so it works easily and setup is quick? Pah! That's not the computer way. You should *require* a degree is something technical to be able to figure out which of the identical sockets you need to connect using cables that neither the TV manufacturer nor the Set Top Box manufacturer included in the package.

Next, it should be as hard as possible to do anything on the user interface other than watch streamed adverts. All users appreciate shiny flashy things trying to sell them stuff when all they want to do is something quite simple and specific, therefore these functions should be hidden and visually clouded as much as possible by advertising. All the better if the user can be given a cheap rectangular infra-red remote that barely works from 3' away and even then has a 1 second latency on anything happening in response to a button press. Old people? If they can't get with the times then they aren't worthy of modern TV and therefore shouldn't be permitted to use it.

</sarcasm>

Seriously though, most TV interfaces I've come across are terrible and while, being technical, I can cope with them (despite wanting to frequently throw the remote at the set), elderly people such as grand parents tend to have an awful time with them. It's not just the cheap freeview boxes than are like this either, many of the more pricey boxes confound all non-technical users.

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Anonymous Coward

iPlayer is the broken bit

My Samsung has wires for mains, antenna, satellite dish (ready for F1 on RTL!), connection to sound box/BlueRay, Sky+ box, disk drive and a single ethernet cable. Even without network connectivity, most people will have a large proportion of those if the TV supports it!

What would really help would be the TV companies to sort out a common way of viewing all their online offerings - at present I have iPlayer, but last time I tried to use it it crashed the whole TV! There's nothing for ITV, CH4 or CH5 let alone SkyPlayer.... Some people want to watch things that don't originate on the BEEB... LoveFilm seems to work perfectly. I gather the NetFlix app required the recent firmware update...

On the iPlayer front, Samsung respond to support queries but say its the BBC's problem and the BBC just ignore approaches for support (their contact for support pages don't even offer TV as a platform for iPlayer!).

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JDX
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Re: iPlayer is the broken bit

And who would you like to pay for a cross-channel service?

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Re: iPlayer is the broken bit

Noone, I'll take YouView.

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Anonymous Coward

What's YouView then?

I mean obviously You know, I've heard of it, but an article (and most of the comments) on the very topic that YouView is meant to address, covering a speech from one of the primary YouView participants, doesn't even mention it? What gives?

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Re: iPlayer is the broken bit

iPlayer works perfectly on my Sammy BD-D8500M, as does every other app, including Love Film. Funny how the majority of apps are ones you have to pay to use and they can get them to work just fine.....

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Anonymous Coward

Simplicity

I was looking around for an ipTV the other weekend when I saw this monster and turned pale.

http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&identifier=S_SonyInternetTV

Thankfully I started laughing at it soon afterwards. It didn't help that it was from Sony either

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Simplicity

Having followed the link, and seen the picture of the remote that comes with it - shudder...

How the heck does stuff like this ever get to market?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Simplicity

It was the remote that made me turn pale...

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Re: Simplicity

Shoot me down if you will but I actually quite like the remote - for use with a smart TV at least.

I have a 37" and a 40" Sony KDLEX403 in my house and I am quite happy with them - I liked the bedroom one so much I bought another for the dining room!* The only downfall is when using Youtube having to use the number keys to type in search terms like you would when texting on a mobile phone a few years ago - annoying and slow! This type of remote makes sense for a smart TV doesn't it?

Or have I missed something here?

*By the way, no I do not work for have any connection with Sony!

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FAIL

Re: Simplicity

You can use iPhone or Android remote control apps to type into the 2011 Sony TV's although the EX403 was the 2010 model. Worth using the for YouTube searches if you have the newer model.

iPlayer itself is quite clunky because it doesn't use the standard text input and it doesn't accept from the phone apps.

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Anonymous Coward

People in glass houses...

I for one find the iPlayer UI to be horrible to use - I give up on it when it showed me that a program would be available for x weeks after broadcast but when I actually opened the page it said not available because the series had ended, despite me being within x weeks. By contrast I use a load of other such services from other providers and have never had much of a problem with any of them. Perhaps he needs to get his own house in order before telling TV manufacturers where they're going wrong?

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Ru
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Meh

The hypocrisy is irrelevant

His comments still have merit, regardly of how awful his own employer's offerings are.

Seriously, life is too short to hunt down a paragon of UI engineering to act as a mouthpiece every time someone sees a bit of UI design that is frankful atrocious.

iPlayer is fugly, blah blah blah. Why is that relevant to smart TV interfaces?

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Re: The hypocrisy is irrelevant

@ru

Well duh! It's relevant because he's probably using iplayer on a smart tv or stb or console - therefore the ui requirements are the same.

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Latency/slowness is a big problem, methinks

Even when linked up to ethernet, the lack of responsiveness is a big part of making people feel out of control. It gets a bit like using WAP sometimes - terrified of clicking on the wrong button, because you know you'll be stuck for ages waiting for the page to appear before you can press the Back button again.

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Re: Latency/slowness is a big problem, methinks

I have the same dred with my Virgin Media set-top box.

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Anonymous Coward

If it doesn't pass the Mrs Miggins test it's a fail

Mrs Miggins is a technophobe lady somewhere between 40 and 80. She expects stuff to work without having to reason it through. She has a DVD player that she uses occasionally to watch videos of her grandkids and 'nice' films.

It is connected by SCART so, when she turns the player on, her TV switches automatically so she can watch it.

She was given a high definition DVD player withan HDMI connection. If she wants to use that, she has to flick the TV through ATV, AV1, AV2, FrontAV, PC to HDMI.

That is, if she can work out that it's not a numbered button she needs to press it's something called "Source".

Someone wrote it all down for her. She tried once, finding the "source" button and blipping through, but noone told her the set couldn't keep up and she spent the evening staring at a blank screen, wondering what she'd done wrong

She gave it away the following week..

HDMI was just the first step towards smart TVs from thickAsShit(TM) TVs and it was a huge fail for Mrs Miggins.

If the massive step backwards that is HDMI (never mind picture quality) is the best the TV industry can do for punters who are, for the vast majority, techno indifferent, then what the bloody hell can we expect with "smart" TVs?

Programme Guides littered with gratuitous advertising, More "Standards" than you can shake a stick at for online "catchup TV" - iplayer and whatever ITV, Channel4 and Channel 5 call their offereings. Manufacturer's smart TV internet portals offering a "User Experience* much like the dross that is a typical ISP's default homepage - full of tattlebits(TM) featuring photos of B list celebs, some with big tits , some with square chins (and some with both) and "informed" comment headlines. leading to uninformed stories of salacious drivel posing as news.

It makes Web 2.0rhea look like a pinnacle of intellectual achievement.

* An El Reg commentard once observed that a "User Experience" was something he had after 14 pints of larger and a vindaoo. The description seems appropriate for "User Experience" in this context as well,

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Joke

Re: If it doesn't pass the Mrs Miggins test it's a fail

when did you go and visit my mum?

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Unhappy

Broken forums

Dear Elreg please fix it - your minimised comments are not hiding - not on the comments page and not even in this post your own message page

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Re: If it doesn't pass the Mrs Miggins test it's a fail

Most tv's support smart switching on hdmi - it's the other kit that doesn't.

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Boffin

Re: If it doesn't pass the Mrs Miggins test it's a fail

HDMI CEC supports one touch play. Press play on the Blu-ray or put in the disc and the TV auto switches (also the surround amp if you aren't Mrs Miggins).

It also supports passing through commands from the TV remote to the active input.

The problem is that the STBs don't seem to support HDMI CEC although I think most of the main brand Blu-rays etc. do including slim PS3's.

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FAIL

Re: If it doesn't pass the Mrs Miggins test it's a fail

The problem with CEC is that nobody supports it. That's according to several STB manufacturers, who presumably know what they are talking about.

If all your equipment is from the same manufacturer and the same generation, then maybe it works. Otherwise, it basically doesn't.

My STB, DVD player and TV all supposedly support CEC.

Unfortunately, it doesn't actually work. I only had it turned on for a few hours before giving up and turning it off - it felt like each source was grabbing control at random!

I'm sure there was some kind of logic to it, but I couldn't find it and it never got anywhere near matching my expectations.

There's simply almost no interoperability. Abject fail.

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congrats

you broke the forums with your verbosity.

you are Trevor Pott and I claim my £5

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Hmm?

Google said I had been summoned? What's going on in here? What did I break? I don't remember this article at all...

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Panasonic

Several commentards have mentioned thir Samsung machines, so I just thought I'd put a word in for my Panasonic Viera.

Step 1: Cable from ethernet port on the back of the TV into the broadband router

Step 2: Watch IPTV services.

That's it - how hard was that even for a non-techie?

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"Enough with the firmware updates, while you're at it."

Actually, some firmware updates would be lovely.

Since we got our "smart" Toshiba a year ago (simply plug in TV, HDMI and network, switch on, scan DTV, assign names to inputs, enable wired IP - and done in < 5 minutes, easily) there have been no updates, ever. Not OTA updates, not IP updates, nada.

What would be better is if the TV manufacturers opened up their specs. I can see the TV runs Linux and I doubt it's harder to hack than a Dreambox, so why not let the users create their own apps - maybe even have a TV "app store" if the control freaks insist on micromanaging things.

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Anonymous Coward

Eh?

"connect TVs need to become less complicated"

Pretty sure that he didn't say that, not being "hilarious" Harry Enfield character of yore, Stavros.

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Build UIs that work for TV viewers, not ones that emulate PC interfaces, he said.

---

I really hope Microsoft dont read that - otherwise they'll make Windows 9 look like my TV.

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You mean like media centre which has been built into most versions of windows since vista?

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No

I mean replace the start menu with channel up/down...

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Unhappy

Two things I hate.

First, like other have said, they don't make things simple enough. If you're going to have a bunch of inputs, why not make it so we can reach EACH ONE in just one press?

Second, all this talk of ipTV seems to ignore one BIG source of "ipTV": home networks! With all this talk of networked TV, it's hard to find a TV (or even a set-top box) that actually complies with the DLNA standard for home-networked multimedia. Kinda makes a MyBook Live useless without something to play off it. Apart from WD TV, nothing seems to have enough capability (not even Sony boxes, which CLAIM to be DLNA-compliant, but then you read the footnotes and realize they can't do AVC video over the network--(censored)). About the most ubiquitous DLNA-capable devices out there are the gaming consoles (the 360 and PS3 normally, but a Wii can be hacked to do it--sort of), but their interfaces and controls are a hunk of junk. No playlists, no loop support, and navigation is...my PHONE does a better job at handling the files.

Don't just make the TVs simpler, make them better suited for home media. THEN we'll talk.

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Re: Two things I hate.

"Second, all this talk of ipTV seems to ignore one BIG source of "ipTV": home networks!"

The main problem with that, is those who use home networks are usually marketing black holes.

You're never going to get any money out of them - all the media they consume, they've already bought (once only verses the "ideal" pay once per view model) and the ipTV supplier has no chance of getting anything.

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Re: Two things I hate.

Well, they're not getting anything from me NOW since that's my base requirement: support the AVC videos on my network, or no deal.

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Linux

Re: Two things I hate.

My 2011( KDL-xxaXy23) Sony TV plays AVC files just fine over DLNA from my MythTV recorder. I don't believe the Matrovska wrapper is supported but MPEG containers seem to work.

It also supports renderer mode so any DLNA controller (such as a phone app) can push content from any DLNA server to the TV. So if your phone does a better job (not surprising with it's direct manipulation context sensitive inputs) the use that.

My MythTV box and the Sony TV both run Linux hence the penguin icon.

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Pint

Samsung joy

I have a lovely Samsung 32in Smart TV. I'm very pleased with it as a telly. The smart stuff isn't so great, though. Most of it crawls (especially the iPlayer's shiny new interface). And the main menu for the smart features is a mess the likes of which I could best equate with what used to happen when you installed a *lot* of programs onto Windows 3.1 and then tried to find the one you wanted.

Menu design on the Samsung is the best I've seen on a telly. And it's still rubbish. To solve the sluggishness (and obviously not so that I could play games or watch Blu-rays) I got a PS3. A great feature of the Samsung is that it will use HDMI-CEC (which Samsung confusingly calls AnyNet+ or something similarly meaningless) so that the TV remote will control the PS3 playback functions. This works well, except that to get to the DVD control menu on the PS3 once something is playing means going into three levels of submenu on the telly. Consequence? I can do it, but my girlfriend cannot. Because she cannot (and should not need to) be bothered to learn.

The main problem seems to be some seriously 'within the box' thinking. The Samsung Remote app for iPhone is good, but it could be so much better if there was a 'simple remote' view on one screen that still had buttons and labels.

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Re: Samsung joy

Forget the Samsung remote and buy a PS3 dvd remote. iPlayer works perfectly with it (well, as well as iPlayer can work).

In fact... TV makers... please take a look at the PS3 remote.... and realise how much better it is having a remote that doesn't have to be pointed with sniper-style accuracy at some unknown region of the TV and that works when someone is stood between you and the TV (perfect for switching off inappropriate content when a child walks in and stops and stares at the horror film you're watching).

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Different technologies.

The reason the PS3 remote works the way it does is because it isn't infrared. It's in fact a BLUETOOTH device, which has hurdles of its own. Infrared is mostly used because it's cheap, simple, ubiquitous, and generally needs no fiddling around. Pop in the batteries, aim, and go. And while IR remote range varies, most have a decent cone of influence when you press the button. Generally, if you're about 4-5 meters from the set and aim in its general direction, you'll get results. And since the IR receivers on most TVs are off to one side, you can usually get a click in even if the center of the screen is blocked. And, if all else fails, you can always just stand up and walk over (which, in the case of the kid and the horror movie, you'll want to do anyway).

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Re: Samsung joy

It's on order. My point is that these 'neat' little features, that are 95% excellent, are 100% pointless if nobody ever uses them. Samsung could have had me in a one-remote situation, but a bit of interface stupidity means two.

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Thumb Up

Re: Samsung joy

This totally. My PS3 remote is the most responsive thing I have. Works wherever the hell I point it, even if I'm out in the garden. The Samsung remote is AWFUL, only seems to work when perfectly directly pointed at the bottom right of the TV and even then it sometimes doesn't work. And that's with new Duracell batteries inserted.

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FAIL

Re: Different technologies.

Yes, we all know it's bluetooth. You can talk about the technical stuff as much as you like but in the real world, the PS3 Remote works waaaay better than any other remote, especially over IR remotes. There's no need to "generally" point it at a specific area and no need for an "all else fails", it just works, 100% of the time.

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What happens when you have more than one?

Then you have to make sure you keep the remotes identified, or you'll find the remote you're pressing is actually controlling the PS3 upstairs. Like I said, Bluetooth isn't without its faults. And having two PS3s is actually within the realm of reality, depending on the household. Now, if you extend this to TVs in general, it starts getting messy, especially if you have more than one of the same brand of TV both within radio range. I start thinking about those jokes about garage doors being opened by strange things...

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Anonymous Coward

TV BBC iPlayer rubbish, PS3 iPlayer good

The iPlayer on my Samsung TV is pretty awful; clunky slow UI, and you have to have the sound either too loud or too soft, as the volume control is not very granular, which is very annoying. The iPlayer App on the PS3 is much better, so I'm not surprised people are using their consoles more for watching TV/films.

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IPTV through EPG

Connecting to the IPTV services (especially catch-ups like IPlayer) through the EPG is basically what you want. A consistent user experience with just one place to go to look for programmes. If it is on now, switch the tuner over to that channel and watch it. If it is on later, set up a recording. If it was on earlier, stream it over the network.

No need for a huge SLOW website-like interface for old programmes, which looks different from the grid-like interface you use for future programmes, which is hard for mother-in-law to understand, which means phone calls to me. (Basically I measure simplicity - and therefore suitability for public use - on an inverse scale of number of phone calls.)

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Boffin

On then, on now, on later

Who cares?

If the network has it available for people to watch why don't they just let them watch it from when it becomes available up to whenever.

Until they lose the schedules mentality SmartTV will remain as dumb as a bag of spanners

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Complicated

The red cable goes in the red socket. The black cable goes in the black socket. The yellow cable goes in the yellow socket.

Oh, and if you think the content delivered on most 'smart' tv's is valuable, you're too stupid to have one.

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Re: Complicated

"Oh, and if you think the content delivered on most 'smart' tv's is valuable, you're too stupid to have one."

Absobloodylutely

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IT Angle

Device Drivers!

Is it just me, or shouldn't a "smart tv" basically be a linux (android, webos?) box with drivers providing particular hardware acceleration?

What would be handy is a cheap ARM way of transcoding so misc formats can be played.

And enough with the USB sticks already - give me ethernet and nfs & smb clients.

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