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BBC launches new iPlayer beta

BBC launches new iPlayer beta

The BBC's new iPlayer site adds social networking features to the broadcaster's video on demand service.

The BBC has gone live with a public beta of the next generation of its iPlayer video on demand service - and it's already causing stirs in the marketplace.

The new iPlayer - announced in a blog posting by the BBC's Erik Huggers - introduces some neat new features into the platform, including a tighter integration with social networking sites, which Huggers describes as allowing "audiences to interact with each other around our content."

The social integration takes the form of a new BBC iD, which iPlayer users register for and which then identifies them uniquely when using the service. This ID can then be tied to social networking accounts, including support for Facebook and Twitter - and with the promise of other social network sites and microblogging services to follow.

The integration works in both directions: a 'Recommend' button allows viewers to instantly alert their social network friends that there's something worth watching, while clicking on the included link in the tweet or Facebook posting will give UK-based viewers immediate access to the same show.

Chat integration also makes an appearance in the beta, with a Windows Live Messenger widget being made available which provides chat users with information on what programme their contact is watching and even how far along they've got - and, again, the BBC has promised that other chat services will be added soon.

The use of a uniquely identifying login for iPlayer access has also allowed the BBC to bring some customisation features to the platform, including the ability to add favourites so you don't miss new episodes and a personalised homepage should you choose to sign up.

A full list of the shiny new features - including details of the new adaptive bitrate system which the BBC hopes will improve picture quality for those on good connections without sacrificing smoothness for those with slower access - can be found on the BBC Internet Blog - but not everyone is happy with the new iPlayer.

The Guardian is reporting that rival broadcaster BSkyB is claiming that the BBC's plans to add links to content from other channels' video on demand services - including Channel 4, ITV, and Channel 5 - to iPlayer represents an attempt to create "an online aggregator [...] without appropriate regulatory review." Accordingly, the broadcaster will be asking communications watchdog Ofcom to investigate the BBC's plans.

The as-yet unlaunched third-party aggregation mode aside, all the new features of iPlayer are available to try over on the official iPlayer Beta site - so long as you're located in the UK, that is.

Are you impressed with the new-look iPlayer, or does the BBC need to look at ditching Flash before you'll consider it worth a look-in? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

32 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
lacuna 27th May 2010, 12:05 Quote
Not really interested in any kind of social networking crap they're attaching to it but so long as it still works fine on PS3 I will be happy
LeMaltor 27th May 2010, 12:05 Quote
I was going to rant about SN, but then I noticed I could share this news story, facebook like it or retweet it, it's not cool anymore when it fracking everywhere ;(
Xir 27th May 2010, 12:06 Quote
Do you NEED to register to watch? or just for the social-networking part?
(not that I could watch it here...unless someone knows a fast enough UK Proxy)
Gareth Halfacree 27th May 2010, 12:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xir
Do you NEED to register to watch? or just for the social-networking part?
Just the social networking aspects (plus things like the customised homepage and favourites lists) - normal viewing won't require a login.
capnPedro 27th May 2010, 12:21 Quote
I hate social networking and I hate how iPlayer closed their API.That was the only thing of interest to me - pulling the video streams into another program but you can't do that any more.

You're dead to me, iPlayer!

I should also not that I think sticking i- in front of a name is dumb. just like in the 90's when it was e- everything.
yakyb 27th May 2010, 12:27 Quote
mi1ez 27th May 2010, 12:39 Quote
I don't want to chat while I watch iplayer! might be interesting to see what people watch though...
NuTech 27th May 2010, 12:44 Quote
Is there a higher quality stream than 368kbps? No matter what I do that is the maximum I get, which gives a highly compressed picture.
Leitchy 27th May 2010, 13:05 Quote
Loving it personally. Don't mind a bit of social integration and the new look is great! It's one thing I'm pleased with in regards to the TV license I pay. THe other channels players fail in comparison (Although, when Channel 4 and 5 started releasing there programs onto Youtube, that was good!).
StoneyMahoney 27th May 2010, 13:11 Quote
@yakyb - Content providers pressured the Beeb into doing this. You remember them, right? The people who still bother to encrypt DVDs with an algorithm that's less protective than the paper bag the DVD came in?

@NuTech - What are you watching that on? Sounds like you're getting the iPhone stream.
NuTech 27th May 2010, 13:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by StoneyMahoney
@yakyb - Content providers pressured the Beeb into doing this. You remember them, right? The people who still bother to encrypt DVDs with an algorithm that's less protective than the paper bag the DVD came in?

@NuTech - What are you watching that on? Sounds like you're getting the iPhone stream.
Windows 7 Desktop PC with a 50mb net connection. Tried using Firefox, Chrome and IE. All receives the same poor quality stream.

http://forums.bit-tech.net/picture.php?albumid=606&pictureid=10758
GravitySmacked 27th May 2010, 13:26 Quote
Why does everything have to have social networking intergrated?
bob 27th May 2010, 13:49 Quote
Hmm so I'm not the only one who dislikes social networking integrated into everything. Supposedly in Starcraft 2 you have to use Facebook to add friends in game!
tristanperry 27th May 2010, 13:52 Quote
Ugh. I dislike when companies and softwares add 'social networking' (or 'Web 2.0') just for the heck of it.

Just seems a bit pointless sometimes.

At least we hopefully won't need to register to view videos.
NethLyn 27th May 2010, 14:47 Quote
Change for the sake of it when it already works well enough as it is, if people like to use the SN stuff then fair play to them, but I'll stick to TV and Radio as designed.
capnPedro 27th May 2010, 14:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by bob
Hmm so I'm not the only one who dislikes social networking integrated into everything. Supposedly in Starcraft 2 you have to use Facebook to add friends in game!

I doubt that's true. How big is FB in Korea?
Tanacel 27th May 2010, 16:11 Quote
Does it integrate seamlessly into windows 7 media center? No? Back to the development room Mr BBC...
Tokukachi 27th May 2010, 16:17 Quote
Move away from flash please Mr BBC so it runs on my netbook and iphone :)
NuTech 27th May 2010, 16:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neat69
Move away from flash please Mr BBC so it runs on my netbook and iphone :)
Nothing they can really do at the moment, outside of creating a dedicated iPhone app (which might violate their program licensing agreements).

And IIRC HTML5 video doesn't yet support any type of DRM or stream protection, so that's out of the question.

Am I forgetting any other technologies?
Cupboard 27th May 2010, 17:54 Quote
Well I was happy with it before but so long as it isn't compulsory or horrendous I guess I can ignore it if I want to.

A really helpful thing to add along with the "I think x is really good. Watch it" feature would be to get stuff on iPlayer more quickly. I can't see why some things take so long to get up there or why they can't let me start watching something after it has started.

If I was watching, say, the last episode of Ashes to Ashes, posted to Facebook that I was loving it and one of my friends saw it and though "oh, I'd like to watch that too", they currently would have to start half way through.
frontline 27th May 2010, 18:39 Quote
Anything that gets under the skin of Murdoch and his empire has got to be a good thing.
l3v1ck 27th May 2010, 19:20 Quote
Quote:
The Guardian is reporting that rival broadcaster BSkyB is claiming that the BBC's plans to add links to content from other channels' video on demand services - including Channel 4, ITV, and Channel 5 - to iPlayer represents an attempt to create "an online aggregator [...] without appropriate regulatory review." Accordingly, the broadcaster will be asking communications watchdog Ofcom to investigate the BBC's plans.
Oh didums. Sky isn't happy that it may not be the all dominating force in British media. My heart bleeds [/sarcasm]
lacuna 27th May 2010, 22:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neat69
Move away from flash please Mr BBC so it runs on my netbook and iphone :)


It works fine on my iphone, whats wrong with yours?
Doglobster 28th May 2010, 06:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by lacuna
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neat69
Move away from flash please Mr BBC so it runs on my netbook and iphone :)


It works fine on my iphone, whats wrong with yours?

Ditto, no probs watching on my iPhone.
Aragon Speed 28th May 2010, 07:50 Quote
Hmm, not a fan of SN at any time. TBH I would rather they spent a little more time sorting out their program listings than wasting it on SN. I'm sick and tired of only seeing the first three episodes of a series, or only the last one...

Unless you want to watch cr*p like Eastenders, getting a full series of programs is a real PITA.
phantombudgie 28th May 2010, 11:39 Quote
Noooooooo!

Before you know it, iPlayer will turn into a version of youtube, with inane moronic commenters defacing the site with offensive stupidity and off-topic troll-flamer interactions.

This is a mistake. Maybe add a button to reccomend to others (via email, for example) but DO NOT let people add comments!
leexgx 28th May 2010, 19:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by NuTech
Windows 7 Desktop PC with a 50mb net connection. Tried using Firefox, Chrome and IE. All receives the same poor quality stream.

http://forums.bit-tech.net/picture.php?albumid=606&pictureid=10758

press the <> thats at the top right of the video (i guess most users do not know what it is) to make it turn to the higher stream, it used to be an button that sayed higher Quality, if you want higher then that use the HD one if there is one (3.5mb/s)

but be warned the Stream server is buggy some times and sends the stream at 3.4mb/s not 3.5mb/s so it runs out of buffer (need to report that to BBC this issue is with the L3 Virgin BBC stream server with HD) temp fix for that is to pause it for 20 secs or longer (untill it stops downloading) then play it

it does also depend on what you are watching post the bbc iplayer link see if it does the same here (as even on, Low 480kb, Normal 796kb, High 1500kb) http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00sm675/Question_Time_27_05_2010/


ok ignore the above Your Watching an live stream........ 368kb would be correct as its comming directly form BBC servers not from L3 server
NuTech 28th May 2010, 19:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by leexgx
press the <> thats at the top right of the video (i guess most users do not know what it is) to make it turn to the higher stream, it used to be an button that sayed higher Quality, if you want higher then that use the HD one if there is one (3.5mb/s)

but be warned the Stream server is buggy some times and sends the stream at 3.4mb/s not 3.5mb/s so it runs out of buffer (need to report that to BBC this issue is with the L3 Virgin BBC stream server with HD) temp fix for that is to pause it for 20 secs or longer (untill it stops downloading) then play it
Thanks, but that screenshot is with the <> button pressed. I'm talking about live TV here, not a on-demand program.

As far as I can tell there are no HD streams of Live TV (am I wrong??).

What is the maximum quality I should be receiving from BBC News live?
leexgx 28th May 2010, 20:14 Quote
368kb (keeps bandwidth use down)

on-demand programs are norm served by L3 servers that ISPs have inside there network as your on virgin cable on-demand programs would come at best bit-stream (when selected), Live streams come from BBC them selfs normally (incudeing Live TV program watching before it come onto on-demand)

i can not find news live on bbc iplayer on on http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7459669.stm
NuTech 28th May 2010, 20:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by leexgx
368kb (keeps bandwidth use down)

on-demand programs are norm served by L3 servers that ISPs have inside there network as your on virgin cable on-demand programs would come at best bit-stream (when selected), Live streams come from BBC them selfs normally (incudeing Live TV program watching before it come onto on-demand)

i can not find news live on bbc iplayer on on http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7459669.stm
I use this live stream.

So 368Kb/sec is the maximum live stream? That's a shame.

Thanks for the help dude.
Cupboard 28th May 2010, 23:53 Quote
Oh! I wonder why the live stream was always worse quality! Thanks :)

And that streaming at less than it needs makes sense too, I do sometimes get a problem where I can't stream anything but can happily download the file at 5-6Mbps
leexgx 29th May 2010, 03:12 Quote
just pause it or use Chrome as it seems to handle it better for some reason (not always)

the pause works for me (issue only seems to be with HD streaming at .1mb/s slower then it needs to),

live streams could be higher then 368kb but it depends on what it is as they need a lot of bandwidth the higher it goes,
thats why L3 servers for ISP are good as the ISP gets all the on demand stuff from BBC then its streamed from inside works very well for the ISP as it keeps cost down for them, if your ISP lacks L3 the stream bit rate be lower normally

Peercache that failed in the end would of been very good as p2p traffic would of been cached at ISP level but i think only 2-3 ISPs every used used and most clients droped it in the end
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