back to article Beeb pushes major new iPlayer release

The BBC has made a host of major changes to the iPlayer today, by making some of its programmes available in High Definition (HD) and ending use of its clunky peer-to-peer technology. The Corporation’s future media and technology controller Anthony Rose said the release was the most significant of its kind since iPlayer …


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  1. boltar Silver badge

    What about low powered computers?

    I watch iPlayer on my little netbook , but to be honest the poor thing can just about cope with the small window size iplayer as it is. Full screen is a journey into stop motion animation. If they up the bandwidth the whole thing might become unwatchable on it. I hope they remember we don't all use quad core xeons with a fat pipe connection!

  2. Steven Raith

    Yeah, noticed this...

    Watched some Louis Theroux last night, and when I hit fullscreen, my laptop [Centrino with 845 graphics] ground to a halt.

    Handily however, I ordered the better part of a grands worth of hardware yesterday, which arrived this morning. So I'll plumb that together tonight, and iPlayer problems will be no more. I imagine a 2.4Ghz Core2Quad, 4gb of RAM and a Radeon 3850 should just about cover the requirements for HD-over-flash...

    ...just about.

    What a happy coincidence.

    Steven R

  3. John
    Thumb Up


    But will the Wii be able to take advantage? It makes for an excellent iPlayer box for the TV, except that the quality is a little poor.

  4. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Thumb Up

    Is that another battle starting?

    Hmmm the ISPs are going to love that one! All that data streaming over their already stretched networks, should be intresting when the BBC gets another group of ISPs up in arms about it's customer's demands for more bandwidth.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I like the existing download manager

    It means I don't have to use AIR (which didn't work on any of my computers joined to my home domain), and it also has another benefit on my XP VM.

  6. joe K


    Love them or hate them, from a viewers point of view the BBC do a great job with their online offering. Overseas at the moment, but attempted to watch the FA cup last weekend as streamed by ITV on their website ( using UK office VPN ), and the quality was abysmal! Looking forward to even better iPlayer performance.

  7. DJGM

    WMV format is still available.

    Thankfully, they've retained the option to download standard WMV files,

    within the "More Downloads" dropdown. Pity the hi-def downloads are

    only available with the MP4 files that require too much pi**ing about!

  8. Andrew Barratt

    go beeb!

    About time. Has anyone tested this to see if it does actually work with Linux

  9. keith

    Clunky peer to peer?

    Well it was a load faster than this new service!

  10. Peter Hewitt

    Bandwidth caps

    The service itself is stunning, I was amazed at the quality and am impressed at the new resize button - the way they've implemented it is far better than the way it was in Labs.

    It'll be intersting to see how this will play out with the ISPs. Playing with the service last night I noticed that Robin Hood had a download size of 900Mb. Therefore once you watch three HD shows in a month you'll be well over the cap level of the smaller broadband services. Even on Virgin you'd likely hit the limit with two shows in an afternoon.

    Waits for Daily Mail: "BBC WANTS PEOPLE TO PAY TWICE TO WATCH SHOWS??!!!!" in a week.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    suddenly my 5gb cap looks small

    ... and although virgin are constantly telling they have fiber to my door, i have a sneaky feeling their throttling would hurt my viewing.

    I normally have very little time for the BBC (and its tax on hardware), but i think this project and Mr Rose are good. Well done beeb.

  12. karl
    Thumb Down

    aggressive letters

    The reason the BBC want us to use iPlayer and other multi media devices to view them, is so they can bring in a PC & Phone tax!.

    They don't care if they are killing the UK's internet bandwidth, or that they used loads of "TV tax" payers money making the thing.

    ...THEM "Have you a PC?" ... YOU "Yes" ... THEM "then you need to pay a tax to us"

    ... YOU "But my PC cant pick up the TV :/ " ... THEM "Well it can now m8, so hand the cash over or we will send you very aggressive letters, and then come in to your home and interview you under caution!.

  13. James Pickett (Jp)

    Virgin Media Finally Gets Me

    Thought I'd try downloading Jonathan Ross to check out the HD quality after having watched it on BBC HD on Friday night. Unfortunately I've been immediately hit by Virgin's traffic management so it's going to take hours now!

    Does this mean if I attempted to stream it, I'd be 'traffic managed' part way through and would have to switch to SD???

    Now I know why people get so upset...

  14. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    No thanks.

    BBC-TV crap is still crap, even in HD.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Almost there...

    ...they just need to drop RealPlayer from their audio service so people like me who are abroad a good deal don't have to put up with 64k streams, and it'll be a great service!

  16. Neil Greatorex
    Thumb Up

    Excellent news & a jolly good show from the BBC.

    I now rarely sit in front of the TV or record stuff, as the BBC iPlayer is the dogs bollocks. I did look at ITV once, but the stupid stiffs are using Silverlight. What's that all about then?

    Silverlight, like Quicktime & iTunes is coming nowhere near my bloody PC.

    Watching iPlayer streaming in the new high res at 3AM (I work shifts) is marvellous, long may it continue.

  17. Martin Ward
    Thumb Down


    So far so pants, 12kbs - 13.03 hours left for a half hour viewing - need I say more ?????

  18. Anonymous Coward

    death of P2P?

    hmmm, looks like quite a few companies are moving from P2P model to adaptive direct streaming...possibly because they've seen how poor the general infrastructure is at the end - want your service to look ropey because of the generally poor upload speeds of most providers (hint, when your uplink gets swamped ALL your networking gets sluggish)

  19. Pondule

    I wanted to watch a program tonight

    I suppose I have to cough up for a new computer since this doesn't work at all on my current one at home.

    At least we won't have to cough up for a TV licence for work now though just in case someone accidentally clicks on a "watch live" link on the BBC websites.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Interesting.. the flash video player's framerates are a tad lower windowed (even on beasting machines). However, it's silky smooth fullscreen. Looks lovely on the LED backlit panel on my laptop (though the damn thing gets a bit hot after streaming HD for a couple of hours).

    Still though, nice one beeb, looking good!

  21. Charles King
    Dead Vulture

    Get a proper ISP and stop whining

    Another nail in the coffin of the fantasy that El Reg is read by people who know something about tech.

    Anyone with any sense would have nothing to do with Virgin, which is only interested in competing with the dregs for the rank of worst UK ISP. There are a raft of decent Internet companies around, and I'm loving the new streams. I wouldn't call 832x468 @1.5Mbps 'HD' though - that's a bit of false advertising.

  22. Neil Stansbury
    Thumb Up

    Oooh do love aunty

    Haven't watched the BBC "on air" for ages now - just adore the iPlayer.

    For those who critique them, if you've used 4OD, ITV et al you'll know what abject garbage they are compared to the iPlayer.

    My only gripe - can we have shows for longer than 7 days please, remembering to download the latest episode of x, y or z is a real pain, I missed the last episode of "Grow your own drugs" because the iDesktop isn't clever enough to pick it up for me.

    Also, when are they going to start flogging this service to non-UK households - the Beeb could generate so much revenue by exposing itself to a pay-to-view international audience.

  23. Jules

    ISPS will like this

    The removal of the peer to peer aspect should please the isps. Requests for large static files from a central location can easily be handled by cache servers within the ISPs own network.

    The previous P2P system where user on ISP A could easily be uploading a file to user on ISP B probably cost them more money for external bandwidth..

  24. Danny Silver badge

    Still blocking

    They are still blocking mobile access (from TMobile at least). I know some muppets wont understand data caps but why is that BBC's concern? If I want to watch a news article on my mobile then thats my business :(

  25. alan lovedog

    3.2mbit SD would be nice too

    using the h264 codec and 3.2mbit for sd would definitely give iplayer quality equal to broadcast quality - that would be worthwhile

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Disruptive in a wonderful sort of way!

    This baby will quickly show us the following, none of which are in the interim Digital Britain report,

    1) UK Bandwidth charges are about twice what they are in the US. This is for the peak hour per kilo-bit second prices. These are probably related to the cost of phone calls carrying capacity of old.

    2) No matter what speed package your on, the average peak hour allocation per user is 30Kbps on the backhaul.

    3) UK Interenet is not engineered to stream this baby, and neither is most of our attached kit.

    So Digital Britain

    That £24bn 3G heist money is needed back from the government so our Digital Commons can cope with this! 21CN is still written around maintaining and preserving the PSTN service. We get ADSL 2 but it is not ready for HD content of any sort.

    Thank you Beeb for showing us.

  27. Mick
    Thumb Down

    Bad move

    I've been trialling the Linux beta on labs. My netbook can't cope with the 1500Kbps, and it's a standard Atom machine, like most of the others on the market. Surely the Beeb realise that the offline mode is often used to watch when there's no Internet connection, like on the train? I bought my netbook because it's convenient for the train - no other reason.

    Also, there were install issues on Linux the last time I looked, because the app doesn't ask for rights elevation when installing or updating.

    Why don't they just offer two or three different quality levels for offline download??

  28. Sooty

    iplayer & virgin

    should not be an issue at all, the numpties at virgin are worse than i thought if it is.

    Virgin host iplayer for their own tv based video on deman service, so it should never have to go outside of virgin's own network no matter how many people are using it, if they do their job properly

  29. Greg
    Thumb Up

    Linux version works well here

    Ubuntu 9.04, installed it last night and it worked perfectly. Haven't messed with the HD stuff yet mind, just did a quick download and play to make sure it worked.

  30. Justabloke

    Companion Of Honour

    sadly, the beeb's offline videos are the only ones that won't stream to the media player hooked up to my telly downstairs :( all other DRM'd media plays perfectly.

    I've never seen the point in watching TV on my desktop PC upstairs when I could be crashed on the sofa in front of the idiot box :)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...and ending use of its clunky peer-to-peer technology"

    Does this mean that KService is no longer installed when you install the iPlayer s/w?

  32. Mike Holden

    Other alternatives

    Check out "get_iplayer" as a download mechanism. Allows downloading of content to a local file for viewing later, as well as running via cron to get your weekly / daily etc download requirements.

    Check out Nvidia's VDPAU new output mechanism under Linux for decent HD output with minimal CPU usage. Only works with certain Nvidia cards, primarily 8000 and 9000 series cards though. Already incorporated into released versions of mplayer etc, and is in the current dev version of MythTV (as well as some unofficial backports to the curernt release version 0.21). The Linux community are raving about this!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Old hardware can still view HD OK

    @Steven Raith, I managed to download and watch 'Dr Who' after downloading this HD stream with get_iplayer (oddly enough on the 16th April even before the HD service was launched by the BBC!) adn it played just fine on my 3GHz celeron with G400 Matrox card and full res. So there *is* hope for old hardware as long as you don't try to view these monsters through the web browser (or AIR).

  34. Anonymous Coward

    VDPAU - who needs it?

    mike: you shouldn't need VDPAU to play back even the HD versions, unless you're using a really weedy PC. (Now, Atom-based netbooks will probably struggle with it - but they don't have VDPAU-capable graphics anyway.) Where it's really needed is playing back over-the-air HD, particularly BBC HD.

  35. Mike Holden


    Well I subscribe to the MythTV mailing list, and they are raving about VDPAU.

    Not everyone has a beefy PC in use for watching TV, where it may be part of a media centre, and needs to be small and quiet. Both small and quiet mean lower airflow and more heat, and thus a lot of people go with far lower spec PCs for connecting to the TV to keep the noise and heat down.

    By contrast, the MythTV setup is often split between the frontend (see above) and a backend, which does all the recording and storing of programs. Because this is often in an office or basement, it can be far beefier, but often isn't used for viewing content.

    I have a split setup, but my frontend, built before VDPAU came about, is plenty powerful enough without VDPAU.

    Just mentioned it as maybe of interest for someone with older kit that may be struggling otherwise. A video card upgrade for 15-20 quid will give you HD playback on a CPU that isn't capable on its own.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So how do I remove the DRM now?

    well - I could with the old WMV-based version - anyone know if the H264 can be cracked?

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