back to article BBC iPlayer continues platform sluttiness with Virgin Media launch

The BBC's streaming iPlayer is now available to three and a half million Virgin Media cable TV customers via their set top box. The plans have been known for several weeks, and the implementation has been delivered on time by the pair. iPlayer is delivered over VM's cable TV platform rather than broadband, and is accessible …


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  1. Paul


    Sky subscribers are going to turn rather blue if they hold their breath for the full iplayer as the technology is not there in terms of both the bandwidth to individual users and the return path to do anything like what is possible on Cable.

    It will be interesting to see what is in HD for those of us with HD boxes. Will it just be those programs broadcast on BBC HD or will it be others where the source may be in HD but has been broadcast on an normal non HD channel?

  2. Scott Alexander
    Jobs Halo

    Come on Apple

    What I really want to see is the iPlayer on my AppleTv.

  3. Craig

    Sky Anytime

    Sky already do the iplayer-esque Anytime service, which uses the box's hard drive to save overnight streams of programmes for a psuedo on-demand service. It's entirely feasible to get something similar for the BBC on the go, but probably not for *every* programme.

    There's always the ethernet port on the back of Sky boxes that could be used... Despite how much Sky don't like the bbc/iplayer, getting it on their platform would still be good for them.

  4. Mike Brown

    on time?

    its an entire month early!!! technically......... VM promised it in may, this is still april!! Woop woop!!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Freeview first

    Before Sky and any mac crap.


  6. David Evans
    Jobs Horns

    @Scott Alexander

    You and the other 3 people in the UK with Apple TV...

    NB. What's the difference between the TV Replay service on BT Vision and iPlayer? It's certainly the same content as iPlayer and 40D...

  7. Neil Greatorex

    Come on BBC

    I want the iPlayer on my telly. Oh wait...

    Why watch repeats of repeats of repeats? :-)

    Seriously though, the streaming version is more than adequate for the little tv I actually watch.

  8. Mark

    Why use DRM for downloads?

    In the UK it is illegal to keep a recording from TV for more than a certain amount of time. However, there's nothing in ANY VCR that will cause a tape to self destruct after thirty days.

    So why does there need to be DRM to delete downloaded TV recordings in the UK?

  9. carl jung

    The big deal?

    Anyone's whose ever felt the pulse of the recent ISP v iPlayer will be aware of the BBC who were inching ever closer for a major battle with ISPs over bandwidth conjestion. That was yesterday (figure of speech) a deals been worked with Virgin (an ISP provider).

    Generally speaking, we are now witnessing a massive shift in viewing habits - not just the new generation but quite literally everyone - resulting in a sharp decline in television audience and a substantial increase in online 'viewing'.

    So I'm sure you are catching my drift here - Virgin needs a boost in its television viewing audience - BBC can make that happen, and in return want Virgin on their side as far as the ISP problem is concerned.

    Where does Sky fit in all this? Anyone's guess is that Sky is fuelled by ads - BBC does not do ads - so sour deal - the Murdoch kid gets all whiny and lashes out in frustration. However, it is only a matter of time before the BBC approves the incorporation of ads (which they are lobbying for in Parliament) - and Sky will get in bed with them and make out.

    But for now Sky has lost a major ally in their ISP war against the iPlayer.

    Whats abt BT? BT is losing out anyway. With a lot of cheaper providers - their telephony market is in decline. Thanks to some brilliant mind keen to impress top management responsible for all their "Customer Services" outsourcing to India and god-knows-where-else, they can kiss their shares in the broadband market goodbye. And besides according to independent surveys, a majority of BT customers are generally unhappy anyway with the services they recieve with respect to the cost of such services.

    In other words - BT's luck has run out. I smell Chinese investors sniffing around.

    So Virgin's in bed with BBC. And if the BBC isn't happy, Virgin gets her revenge by siding with Sky.

  10. steogede


    >> Sky already do the iplayer-esque Anytime service, which uses the box's hard drive

    >> to save overnight streams of programmes for a psuedo on-demand service.

    Anytime is already reaching almost reaching it's limit, with only the current crap that they already put on their.

    >> It's entirely feasible to get something similar for the BBC on the go, but

    >> probably not for *every* programme.

    As things stand there isn't even enough capacity to have the system that VM have had ages (where you get a few programmes a day for each of the channels.

    >> There's always the ethernet port on the back of Sky boxes that could be used...

    >> Despite how much Sky don't like the bbc/iplayer, getting it on their platform

    >> would still be good for them.

    There is an ethernet port, but if that is feasible with the current boxes, the question remains - why haven't they used it yet? After Sky's Anytime on PC service is much more comprehensive than regular Anytime (though still not as good as VM). The fact that Sky have chose to ignore the port implies that they are a long way off supplying this to mass market.

    Sky will won't be able to keep up with VM if they stick to a satellite only service. What they need to do (and seem to be doing) is get as many people on their cheap unbundled broadband, until they have a big enough network, then implement multicast-IP broadcasting. Technologically VM has a massive advantage, if they invested more they could really wipe the floor with Sky.

  11. Shady
    Thumb Down

    Via the RED button?

    I sincerely hope not, I have a V+ box and the infamous red button has never, *ever* failed to completely crash it.

    Every single time.

    On the occasions I want red button interactivity I have to flick over to freeview on the telly itself.

  12. Robert Long

    Screw Sky

    Murdoch can start talking when he starts paying his taxes. Why do we have to fork out to support Sky TV even when we don't watch it? At least with the Beeb you can simply not have a telly and not have to pay.

  13. David Shepherd

    Isn't it just a new name for existing Virgin catchup TV

    For some time (probably 2 years or so) Virgin have had their catchup TV system where via the STB menu you can replay progs from a handful of channels (BBC, CH4 + a couple of others) from the past week. Apart from giving it the "iPlayer" brand and perhaps tinkering with the interface (I believe we're eventually going to get it as a "channel" rather than via menus) I can't see whats all that different from what they were doing.

    When I first read that Virgin we going to be doing a version of iPlayer I'd assumed that since they already had catchup-TV on the STB this must be something different so I'd hoped it was some improved broadband streaming system where they'd be able to tune the streaming distibution/bandwidth over their cable network ... however it just seems to be a new name for something that we already had ... sounds par for the course for the current BBC given their current big deal over the News rebranding

  14. Lee Sexton
    Thumb Down


    Iplayer schmyplayer. I just want to see the bbc put their money where their mouth is when they claim that the bbc is oh so popular. When the digital switchover happens theres absolutely *NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER* for having the bbc encrypt their signal and go to subscription based viewing instead of taxing people who actually think the bbc has degraded in quality so much (so much that even the news is ridiculously biased) as to not be worth watching, even though I'm having to pay for it. I've looked at iplayer, and theres absolutely feck all worth watching!!.

    Get rid of the license fee BBC and show us how popular the beeb really is, it might also give you lot a jolt up the arse and actually have to put something decent on the telly or you get no money instead of having money no matter what s*ite you put on.

  15. 1ders

    Yup - all about the ads

    A couple of people on this forum have been at it - the ads.

    I can't help but notice the connection. Soooo many ads around these days.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but ad revenues determine and therefore are prioritised over programmes (like comedies, documentaries) right? I mean, if the ad slots are not attractive in terms of number of potential viewers, the programme (like comedies, documentaries) gets killed right?

    I realise that ads keep Sky, Virgin and others alive, and that the BBC is on public funds...what I don't get is this: The nature of this Virgin-BBC deal.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a strange thing to do...

    ...given that VM already offers a catch up on demand service for most of the BBC's programmes, along with everyone elses.

    VM's catch-up service for C4 programmes is just a TV-based 4oD, it even says "You're watching 4oD" before it starts.

    Their TV iPlayer, however, still seems to be separate from VM's own catch-up service, which works by badly snipping clips out of the broadcast, so you get half the trailer before, etc. You don't get this on their iPlayer, though. So why not combine the two like they did with 4oD? Seems odd having two almost identical services running in parallel.

    It seems to work well enough, though, apart from the way all the menus are just translucent enough to make them really hard to read.

    Also strange given that I am a VM customer and I had to find out about this from El Reg. Given that hardly ever press the red button (what's the point anymore?) I might never have found this.

  17. Frank Bowles

    Already on BT Vision

    As with VM, the BBC catch-up service is on BT Vision too... isn't this just a rebranding?

  18. Stuart Finlayson

    Advance over current Virgin On Demand?

    The old Virgin catchup TV service is limited and badly-implemented. It often cuts off the first few seconds of programs, and offers less choice than the iPlayer. If the new system works properly it'll be a major improvement. If it works the same as Virgin's current offering, not so good.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    This is just the soft launch. Eventually it will be combined with the On-Demand menus.

  20. David Horton

    HD for all?

    How about a HD option on the P2P service? Why is it whenever convenience improves quality suffers? iPlayer is great but even on P2P the quality is not quite as good as the good old terrestrial analogue system.

    Come on BBC I want HD without having to fork out for a Sky box!

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Anonymous Coward


    Maybe VM won't have to roll out the even more draconian and confusing STM system currently in trail then. So I won't be capped for 5 hours every 30 minutes!

    Fat chance ;)

  23. Anonymous Coward


    Correct! The BBC is 'trading' off its reputation from years ago, nothing in the last 5-10 years has been anything but a degregation of its former self.

    I was talking to an ex-BBC employee recently who commented that alot of people, particular producers, who leave the BBC cant cut it with commercial media companies.

    The success of iPlayer and the foray into commercial deals like this one could be interesting as it could pave the way for the commercialisation of the BBC, which i for one welcome if it means we can stop the TV tax that is the license.

  24. Anonymous Coward



    how the hell can they comment, they're the M$ of the British broadcasting world. The EU competition commissioner should have a very close look at your rum lot.

    Do Sky actually make any programs or is it just manure TV ?

    FU Murdoch - get back to Botany Bay

  25. Tom Chiverton


    It has been flaky in the past, but I've noticed a couple of updates over the last few months and just tried to from News 24 - and it works fine.

    But yes, it's just NTL rebranding their existing catchup service as 'iPlayer'.

  26. Ed


    I'd buy an AppleTV if it had the iPlayer on it...

  27. Shaun


    I've just got it up and running on my XBOX and now it's on the telly anyway!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns


    It's a bit pointless, just the same as the ondemand service which asks an upstream server to send the data.

    Instead of pressing Home, then ondemand, you press red and iPlayer and get the stream. The design of the interface is good and works fast, so good job on the implementation, just bad job by the ideas guys.

  29. Kelvin Clements

    iPlayer NOT

    I looked for this on my set top box last night, and couldn't find it, it this only available to V+ boxes?

  30. Christy A

    Red button? Riiiight...

    Content to be delivered via the red button? You mean the "please crash my box entirely and force me to unplug the thing from the wall in order to reset it" button?

    I can't see this going well. Virgin Media customers have been quite effectively trained NOT to venture anywhere near the red button, and for good reason. I've never seen it work once.

  31. paul


    Which xbox? I've not tried it on my original black box with XBMC.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    @ carl jung

    "However, it is only a matter of time before the BBC approves the incorporation of ads (which they are lobbying for in Parliament)"


  33. Vince

    Sky don't care because it doesn't matter

    I suspect sky don't care because the majority of people using iplayer etc do so because they don't have Sky+ or similar.

    If they did, they probably wouldn't care anymore, because they already have the programs they care about recorded up

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