back to article BBC clamps down on ILLICIT iPlayer watchers

A gang of British licence fee payers have grabbed their virtual pitchforks and marched on the Beeb in protest against its decision to ban iPlayer RSS feeds. The changes are designed to stop naughty viewers from using third-party clients to watch the Beeb. Several Register readers have contacted us and complained about the …

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illicit viewers?

Yes because you're not using a BBC manufactured TV you can't view our online content.

I wonder how long it will take for nitro to be used by the likes of get_iplayer - since it is plugin based I reckon a few hours should do it...

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Re: illicit viewers?

I don't understand? The beeb didn't make my TV, I can still enjoy the free back catalogue of programmes online?

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Re: illicit viewers?

Indeed. I can't really see the BBC being able to argue in court that the licence to view the materials online extends only to BBC-approved clients.

And of course, it would be possible to replicate much of the functionality of get_iplayer by screenscraping the programme catalogue from the iPlayer website. At least get_iplayer played nice and cached the information for 24 hours - I suspect the author of the next hack to come along won't bother.

And, incidentally, it appears Nitro will have an API key (like Google Maps), so anticipate that as soon as anyone comes up with a useful app their key will immediately be revoked.

Back to vdr it is, then... They haven't yet worked out how to prevent us capturing the off-air signal, but I'm sure some "creative" is working on the idea at this moment...

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Re: illicit viewers?

Quite a while I would think. The important point that is missing in this article is that Nitro is NOT available yet. Even then, it's going to be problematic since nitro requires an API key. Obviously, if get_iplayer embeds one of these in its code base, it will be freely available.

It's sad and unfortunate, really. The BBCs viewer runs like a pig on stilts on my TV replacement machine, so I download and use VLC instead which works well. Of course, the BBC are deliberately choosing to make this harder. Shame.

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Re: illicit viewers?

get_iplayer can't use nitro (yet) as the BBC are only releasing API keys to nitro to BBC employees at the moment. However I'm told that there is a fix (not downloaded it yet to try it).

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Re: illicit viewers?

The beeb are trying to restrict the online catalogue to BBC only devices.

This will inevitably hit those with "smart" TVs, because the likelihood of "updated" firmware being available is, um... small.

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Re: illicit viewers?

What about us legal license payers? I use XBMC hooked up to my TV because it's better quality and larger screen size than watching it on my computer.

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Re: illicit viewers?

there is already an alternate plugin available that works. Plus if you need your own nitro API key then I can assume future plugins will simply need people to generate their own nitro APIs. A little more of a mess about but still doable (if they allow regular joes to generate their own keys). If not, it wont take long to leverage someone elses key etc.

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Re: illicit viewers?

"Indeed. I can't really see the BBC being able to argue in court that the licence to view the materials online extends only to BBC-approved clients."

Apple get away with it?

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Boffin

Re: illicit viewers?

Kodi works fine.

There is a userscript patch that helps g*player but meta-information is not possible without a more invasive hack.

P.

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Re: illicit viewers?

"Back to vdr it is, then... They haven't yet worked out how to prevent us capturing the off-air signal, but I'm sure some "creative" is working on the idea at this moment..."

Well..... the HD channels on Freeview all have the copy protection flag set to on permanently so devices that play nice with the rules have been hampered already. My Panasonic freeview box will happily let me watch stuff it has recorded over the network, and by extension using something like MediaMonkey I can download said content. But it refuses to let me watch anything remotely that was recorded from a HD channel.

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Re: illicit viewers?

I have a Philips Blu-Ray player that adds "Smart TV" functionality to my (older and not very smart) TV. Just about the most useful function of this player was that it ran an iPlayer app. However, a month or two back it stopped working and I started receiving "iPlayer is not supported by your device" errors instead. This is. well, annoying, as I now need to find another way to stream iPlayer to my TV.

Is the explanation given in this article why it no longer works?

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Re: illicit viewers?

"um... small"

Please don't overstate your case on a tech site.

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Re: illicit viewers?

@Michael Jennings:

The BBC recently retired what they called 'Big-Screen iPlayer' - source http://www.a516digital.com/2014/08/bbc-to-retire-bigscreen-iplayer-as-new.html

The BBC list the supported Philips models at http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/information/philips

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Re: illicit viewers?

You can still download referencing the PID contained within the iplayer URL for a given programme. Removal of the index just means you can't schedule downloads and search them within the get_iplayer client.

I'm sure the BBC will close the DRM free feed that get_iplayer utilises soon enough, then there's going to be problems!

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Re: illicit viewers?

"The beeb are trying to restrict the online catalogue to BBC only devices."

In what way is my x86 machine with Firefox installed a "BBC only device"?

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Re: illicit viewers?

No doubt this posting will feature on a future Dave Gorman show

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Re: illicit viewers?

I have a 'SmartTV' with iPlayer. Generally the entire TV now crashes after watching one HD programme. Sometimes it crashes before watching any. That's when I have had to resort to watching iPlayer via XBMC.

Looks like they're determined to reduce the number of iPlayer users.

(Also, encrypting/protecting the feed, like encrypting the DVB-T2 version of the programme guide - I assume it's just a management "hack" because they were told not to DRM the video itself?)

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Re: illicit viewers?

"Indeed. I can't really see the BBC being able to argue in court that the licence to view the materials online extends only to BBC-approved clients."

"Apple get away with it?"

Apple isn't a national Public Service Broadcaster.

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Re: illicit viewers?

"In what way is my x86 machine with Firefox installed a "BBC only device"?

You are thinking hardware, the BBC device is a software device (formerly known as a programme ).

It is a method of locking in the user by not having open standards. It forces licience payers to use BBC manufactured devices (software). This is exactly analogous to forcing everybody in the 1950's to use a TV manufactured by the Beeb (because the transmission format is secret and restricted by law) and not one by Echo, Murphy, Bush etc. It kills inovation and freedom of choice. It stops you building your own TV. It is a monopoly. It is wrong.

You will, in the future, give up your soul by agreeing to the T's & C's to receive the benifits (Apple, Google) - and thus become a serf. You will also give up the souls of your friends by registering (and you didn't ask your friends permission), this happens now, try registering to anything using facebook.

Nothing wrong with that ! ! (Irony)

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Mushroom

Oh jesus feck BBC....

...I am an avid user of XBMC (now "Kodi") as it is *the best* media front-end bar none. Why don't I use a browser? Because a browser on the TV is feckin' crap, that's why!

Why don't I use the "Smart" features of my TV? I don't have a "Smart" TV, but even if I did I would still use XBMC as it link to the other content on my network.

Why don't I use iPlayer on the set-top box? Because for some STUPID reason, it doesn't allow me to watch films.

Do I download videos via the iPlayer plug-in? No, I just watch 'em and move one.

If you are upset with "get_iplayer" etc, why not take some of the energies you just wasted in going and write something better for XBMC et al.

edit: There are workarounds it seems. Hopefully the community will deliver what the BBC refuses to (despite the BBC being paid millions to provide a service).

I wonder when the BBC will start trying to detect VPN usage....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh jesus feck BBC....

I've already had at least one vpn exit point in the UK not work.

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Re: Oh jesus feck BBC....

What about Plex and Chromecast?

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Re: Oh jesus feck BBC....

Everything that relied on the RSS feeds is broken. Everything. Your set-top box, your brand new Smart TV. Everything.

get_iplayer has been patched. Dunno about anything else.

https://github.com/dinkypumpkin/get_iplayer/releases

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Anonymous Coward

Get_iplayer still working here

Just need to use the URL from the iplayer entry for the program.

My Samsung recorder iplayer app also flipped out over the weekend, but it's OK now

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get_iplayer still working here

Good to know. I only use get_iplayer to download audio streams (mostly plays and spoken books) so that I can store them for long car journeys. It will be a pain if I have to go back to the old model of streaming them in realtime and recording them 'live'.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get_iplayer still working here

Sorry, at the moment I can't get the radio feeds to work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get_iplayer still working here

This.

I use[d] it extensively so I could listen to my favourite shows on car journeys rather than when they're broadcast (usually when I'm at work or asleep, or not on a long car journey!). And no, streaming to the car is not an option..

Screw you BBC, we paid for those shows, why can't we listen to them in the way we choose?

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Re: Get_iplayer still working here

The BBC iPlayer will support offline listening to radio - some time in summer 2015.

Perhaps all BBC employees have continuous unlimited data 3g streaming to listen on the site when they are commuting.

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Unhappy

Re: Get_iplayer still working here

The BBC iPlayer will support offline listening to radio - some time in summer 2015.

But presumably only for 30 days after the most recent broadcast?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get_iplayer still working here

The get_iplayer repo* was updated 2 hours ago (at lunchtime) and the TV listings work fine again now. That really didn't take long.

* https://github.com/dinkypumpkin/get_iplayer

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Re: Get_iplayer still working here

Radio downloads working OK now

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Unhappy

Still available

get_iplayer still works but the search and PVR functions are broken. If you want to access iPlayer programmes you now have to manually search iPlayer and plug the resulting pid code into get-iplayer. It's a fiddly workaround but it works.

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Re: Still available

You can actually just do the following. The program is smart enough to extract the PID itself.

get_iplayer --get url_to_appropriate_iplayer_page

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Re: Still available

I use get_iplayer --get --pid="url_to_appropriate_iplayer_page", which also still works

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Smart TVs too

I'm a get_iplayer user and, to be honest, I don't expect much sympathy from the BBC but it's wider than that, they've hit people with smart TVs too as this post to their site acknowledges:

"We are aware of reports that some viewers are encountering problems playing programmes on their Smart TV or connected device. We understand that some of the reports refer to the service not loading or the buffering ‘circle’ being displayed on-screen.

"This is currently under investigation and we’ll update this FAQ once we have further information."

-- http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/tv/smart_tvs_connected_nov2014

Apparently it may be possible to fix some TVs by upgrading the firmware ... which is fine if you understand the concept of "upgrading the firmware" and have the means (PC, memory stick) to do so, but lots of users will be completely baffled. BBC shooting themselves in the foot I fear.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Smart TVs too

You'd think they'd have worked out by now some way to update TV firmware over-the-air.

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Re: Smart TVs too

The answer is simple: buy a new TV.

Welcome to the future, please ensure your wallet it open and ready to be emptied.

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Re: Smart TVs too

The Beeb ended support for the "Bigscreen" Iplayer that was used in a number of consumer media products (including a number of Sony Bluray players) in September, citing a low usage and the fact that the product was 5 years old. However, the Sony models affected are from 2010 and 2011, so buyers would have had access to the advertised-on-the-box feature for perhaps only 3 years or less.

The BBC keeps saying it doesn't have the engineering resources to support all these different devices (that doesn't stop it launching services on these devices and then abandoning them), but steadfastly refuses to produce a stable API that would allow connected device manufacturers (and everyone else) to build and maintain their own clients at their own expense.

But, the general advice to everyone buying "smart" anything is to get a throwaway separate box - anything built-in will be useless long before the device into which it's built stops working.

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Re: Smart TVs too

I have an early (2010 or 2011 model) Toshiba "smart" TV - it was never that smart but did have a iPlayer and youtube apps.

Recently the BBC discontinued the iPlayer service that was used by my TV so the app no longer works.

Toshiba have had no updated firmware available since I bought the TV in 2011 - I guess once they've sold the TV, they aren't interested any more.

So, for now we need to use a laptop to get iPlayer through the TV, and the "smart" TV is basically "dumb" again.

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Re: Smart TVs too

I wonder if this is a related or just co-indicental issue. FWIW both my PS3 and NowTV box iPlayer's have packed up over the weekend. :-(

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Re: Smart TVs too

"but steadfastly refuses to produce a stable API that would allow connected device manufacturers (and everyone else) to build and maintain their own clients at their own expense."

Because the BBC is run by technology ignorant middle managers who are only interested in expanding their fiefdoms than providing an actual service to the public.

iPlayer could become a reference implementation and the community could pick up the slack. This would allow any OS, any device to be supported that the community saw fit.

As to unflashable TVs...that's a matter for OEMs. Consumers can help by simply not buying a TV that they can't upgrade or install new software on. Which is all of them at the moment!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Smart TVs too

"The BBC keeps saying it doesn't have the engineering resources to support all these different devices"

If they've told you that, they're lying.

They need to get rid of all middle managers who cannot come up with a meaningful answer to "what did you do, today, to make things better for licence fee payers"; when i worked there fifteen years ago we could have taken a support/development team of forty to fifty, stripped out the dead wood, and been left with the eight or nine who actually did anything, and not one person would have noticed or cared (apart from the dead wood, the fungi growing on the dead wood, and things living off the fungi, etc).

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Re: Smart TVs too

My supposedly 'smart' Toshiba (about a year old, though admittedly end-of-line at the time) which was sold with BBC/iPlayer logos plastered all over its box, stickers and paperwork, now seems unable to digest the new iPlayer format using its inbuilt app, and just hangs on its loading page. No sign of a firmware update on the manufacturers support website, and given their past record, I don't particularly hold much hope for one. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence in iPlayer-on-a-device. Interestingly, both Netflix and Youtube HAVE managed to maintain compatibility with this model despite significant revisions to their own offerings.

Happily, it's only just occurred to me that the Sky+ HD box has an iPlayer client, which I've never got around to firing up...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Smart TVs too

"Seat polishers" we used to call them. They'd have meetings about meetings. The actual techy people used to be the best in the business but as time went on they couldn't even pass wind without 3 meetings and a load of interference. It's probably got even worse in the 10 years since I cut and ran.

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Re: Smart TVs too

Apparently it may be possible to fix some TVs by upgrading the firmware ... which is fine if you understand the concept of "upgrading the firmware" and have the means (PC, memory stick) to do so, but lots of users will be completely baffled.

I consider myself a geek and recently tried to upgrade the firmware on my TV. I followed the manufacturer's instructions closely and it failed every time.

Once I ignored the manufacturer's instructions and engaged my geek brain, I got the firmware to update.

Unless it's a simple "Press GO" over-the-air (or over-the-net for connected TVs) it's going to be too difficult (or too easy to get wrong) for many people. And as my experience shows, even the manufacturer can get it wrong.

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Re: Smart TVs too

The thing is, they killed the RSS index feed. The actual URLs used still work, it is the index people cannot get anymore. I cant imagine an RSS index feed needing huge amount of resources to keep going so this is just a shit trick to kill those who don't pay for "nitro keys"

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Re: Smart TVs too

"You'd think they'd have worked out by now some way to update TV firmware over-the-air."

Sarcasm? They already have.

http://www.dtg.org.uk/work/download_schedule.php

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Re: Smart TVs too

One would hope that enough people within their warranty period for "advertised as works with iPlayer" devices will lug them back to the retailers and the advertising standards folk.

Money talks etc. And if retailers/manufacturers start getting enough of a chunk of inventory back, they'll be asking questions of the BBC Board.

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