New iPlayer revamp for TV and set top boxes

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The BBC unveil the revamped interface for the iPlayer on TV’s and set top boxes. Launching first on Sony’s PS3 it should filter through soon for compatible TV’s, set top boxes (Freesat?) and suitably equiped DVD and Blu Ray players.


iPlayer For Freesat Imminent

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There are, believe it or not 600,000 Freesat users in the United Kingdom. In the run up to Xmas there will be a renewed awareness campaign for the free-to-air satellite cousin of Freeview (the free-to-air via your TV aerial digital service).

Xmas Bonus

Freesat owners will be getting an early Xmas present with the arrival of the BBC iPlayer service for Freesat boxes that can connect to the Internet. Mostly this tends to be for HD boxes that already have the requisite ethernet socket.
Also a small number of (OK two) locations will be enabling HD content for Freeview itself as the first generation HD capable Freeview boxes go on sale. Expect to see existing non HD set top boxes and PVRs drop in price as old stock is cleared.

Blank Canvas

Meanwhile the BBC trust has been told that Project Canvas, the joint venture between BBC,ITV, Five and BT to bring on demand content to viewers via  suitably enabled TV sets and Internet enabled set top boxes will likely cost more than £115 million in the first fours years of its operation with £17 million recouped via revues the service will bring in at the end of this period. Questions remain as to what extent ITV and Five would be in a sound financial position to afford the estimated £25 million a piece that they’d be required to put into the funding pot.

Project Canvas has been a contentious undertaking in that it allows non-public service broadcasters to become partners with the bbc which was not the case when originally conceived. BSkyB would be welcome to provide services on the platform but cannot become a partner in the project.

Kangaroo Court

Canvas also has to walk carefully in the shadow of the now defunct Project Kangaroo which proposed a consolidated video on demand (VOD) platform with content from BBC Worldwide, and Channel 4’s 4OD which was planned to launch in 2008 but was eventually blocked by the competition commission this year.

BBC iPlayer Going HD

The BBC iPlayer is tentatively preparing to offer high definition streams and downloads.It will be interesting to bbchdiplayersee how UK ISP’s react to the increased load HD material may  bring to their infrastructures as many of them already impose bandwidth throttling techniques for users who consumer too much data during certain time of the day.

An Internet bandwidth test will determine the best quality available to each iPlayer user.

HD material is expected  to later be added to Virgin media boxes , playstation 3 and Freesat at some time in the future.

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BBC iPlayer Download For Mac (And Linux) At Last


Despite the success of the streaming version of the BBC iPlayer which was introduced in order to allow Mac & linux users access to the BBC’s TV & radio catch up content the BBC was still under pressure to level the playing field with a version that allowed  downloading of content such as was available to Windows users.

Adobe Air

On the same day that Adobe announced that Adobe Air for linux was to move out of beta we find a decidedly low key introduction of an Adobe Air based download service for Mac users (and presumably linux and Windows users too as Air is a cross platform technology).

The first challenge is to actually find the download link for the air application which is deeply hidden within the iPlayer labs section of the iPlayer site (you must be signed up to iPlayer labs to use this new download application). You then have to set an appropriate download location and allocate some of your hard drive space. I allocated 5GB which apparently reserves me up to 22.5 hours of download content.

Hide And Seek

iplayerdownloadThe next trick is to actually find content that is available to download. We still use the web browser based iPlayer but keep our eyes peeled for an additional ‘download’ option next to an individual programmes iPlayer page.

Picture Quality Impressions

The slightly disappointing first impression of two programmes downloaded is that the quality appears to be inferior to the streaming version. Certainly a download equivalent of the high quality streaming option does not currently seem to be available which makes full screen playback of downloaded content a huge let down (is rubbish quality the ultimate DRM?)

Help For ISPs

Meanwhile the BBC is taking steps to head off continuing disquiet from British ISPs concerning their worries over how much the iPlayer is putting a strain on their available infrastructure as the popularity of the Internet service increases. The BBC has offered to make available specific iPlayer content caching servers to be installed by the ISPs into their own distribution networks. Whether this will quell some ISPs demands for payment subsidy for carrying the bandwidth intensive content remains to be seen.

The BBC iPlayer Air application can be downloaded here

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iPlayer Unification Imminent

BBC iPlayerThe BBC’s iPlayer is to soon incorporate its radio player content in a unification of its TV & radio catch up on-line services.In addition the ability to personalise the player to your own tastes will be possible & the player will be able to recommend upcoming programmes based on your preferences (which sounds almost Tivo-esque).

The new combined TV & radio iPlayer is expected to launch within weeks whilst personalisation features are still some months away following testing.

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Mac iPlayer Download Soon

The BBC has announced that a download version of its iPlayer software will be available for Mac users by the end of 2008. Currently only Windows users can use the download version whilst a hastily launched by more widely used streaming service became available in November 2007 which enabled Mac and Linux and Windows users to watch streamed content on-line.

This may or may not open the door to downloadable HD content or at least slightly better quality than the flash encoded streaming content that Mac users currently have access to.

There’s no word on whether this will leave Linux users left using the streaming option of whether the new solution will be available to them also or at a later date.

It is possible that the Mac download content would be available the separate  Apple TV unit also with on demand access for cable customers and via new  enabled Freeview boxes with Internet connection in the future.

The current download version is based around Windows media player and uses point to point technology to speed up downloads to users who typically have 7 days to watch the content on their computers.

UPDATE: Adobe Air based iPlayer for Mac & Linux

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1 Million Use iPlayer Since Xmas

The iPlayerThe BBC has revealed that more than a million people have used their on-line iPlayer since December 25th with more than 3.5 million programmes watched on-line.

Streaming Option Popularity
The interesting nugget of information is that the number of people streaming content outnumbers those downloading by a ration of 8:1.

The streaming option was only added shortly before Xmas as a way of including Mac and linux users who were unable to use the iPlayer service due to the BBC’s choice of partnering with Microsoft and putting windows media player at the heart of the then download only iPlayer service. Microsoft does not make the digital rights management player available to Mac and Linux users and so the service was available to the majority windows users only.

ITV and Channel 4
One wonders if ITV and channel 4 will take note of these figures and offer up a streaming service for their own online content which like the original iPlayer can currently only be viewed by windows users.
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