Greetings.

You may have noticed that Google launched a new device in the UK today called Chromecast. I've been working with the team that has added support for this platform to BBC iPlayer and I wanted to tell you a little a bit about it and what we have planned.

What is Chromecast?

Chromecast is an HDMI dongle that you plug into your TV. It has a Wi-Fi chip built into it, not much memory, and can run simple web apps and stream media.

It allows you to find content on your mobile phone or tablet and play that content on your TV. In a way, it is similar to what you can do right now with BBC iPlayer using a technology called AirPlay if you have an iPhone or an iPad, and an Apple TV.

The BBC iPlayer app, in the case of these technologies, works not by physically streaming the content from your mobile to your TV, but by sending a message from your mobile to, for example, the Chromecast dongle to tell it to request a piece of content directly from a BBC server and play it on your TV. From this point on, the Chromecast dongle does all the heavy lifting of decoding and playing the video stream. Your mobile device works more like a remote control and just sends and receives messages from the Chromecast about what is playing. This is much easier on your device's battery and much more efficient in terms of the number of bytes zipping back and forth across your network.

How Chromecast links up with BBC iPlayer and other services

One of the reasons we decided to support Chromecast was that Apple TV currently works only with Apple devices. Chromecast has SDKs available for a number of different platforms including iOS, Android, and the Chrome browser for laptop and desktop computers. Today we've added support to the latest versions of both the Android and iOS versions of BBC iPlayer. Soon, we will also be adding support for the Chrome web browser on Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS desktop and laptop computers for the new web version of iPlayer.

By the way, one platform that Chromecast cannot currently support is the Amazon Kindle. This is because some of the key libraries needed to support Chromecast on Android are included as part of Google Play Services. These are not part of the Kindle OS (which is built on top of Android, but is not exactly the same as Android). We recognize that the Kindle is an important device for BBC iPlayer in terms of usage and we have, on behalf of our users, asked Google to do what they can to support this platform.

Streaming details

One benefit of having Chromecast manage the video streams playing on the television is that we can provide bitrates and video profiles that are more suitable for a big screen than a small screen. We constantly re-evaluate our video and device profiles in the BBC and may change these profiles in the future, but these are what we're using today for our on-demand content:

796 kbps at a resolution of 640 x 360

1500 kbps at a resolution of 832 x 468

2800 kbps at a resolution of 1280 x 720

We start playback at 1500 kbps and switch up or down based on how well the network can handle the stream. This happens continuously while the stream is playing. All of this should be invisible to the user but should mean the stream starts quickly, plays at the best quality possible, and buffers only when network conditions are truly dire.

One capability that won't be there at launch is the ability to play audio-only streams, such as BBC radio programmes. This is something we will be working on in the future.

Future Plans

Chromecast is a new technology. As with all new technology, there are bound to be things we don't get quite right at first or weren't able to fit in in time for launch. We're already planning the next release of BBC iPlayer with Chromecast. One of the things I'm very keen to get right is to make sure we take full advantage of the accessibility features that the Android and iOS platforms afford us. This is something the team is working on right now and you can expect to see this greatly improved in the next few weeks.

This will mean that users who have difficulty interacting with or reading television EPGs (Electronic Program Guides) or remote controls should be able to use the familiar interfaces on their mobile devices to interact with content on their television.

I've already mentioned that the BBC will be enabling Chromecast support for the Chrome web browser on Mac, Windows, Linux, and ChromeOS desktop and laptop computers for the new web version of BBC iPlayer, and that we will be looking at adding support for audio-only streams. Aside from this and making tweaks and improvements to the existing BBC iPlayer application, we will also be working with other development teams in the BBC to add Chromecast support to other apps like the BBC Sport app.

We will also continue to keep an eye on other similar technologies. There is a lot of activity in this space and some of the more interesting possibilities aren't just about moving simple video playback from one screen to another but are more about experiences that stretch across multiple screens.

I’d love to hear what you think about this new technology and we hope that it works well for you.

Chris Yanda is Executive Product Manager, Mobile Platforms, BBC Future Media

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  • Comment number 76. Posted by Terryblom

    on 16 Apr 2014 19:06

    Been living in France for a while. Will the Global iplayer be updated for Chromecast?

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  • Comment number 75. Posted by Adrian Polglase

    on 15 Apr 2014 15:18

    Surely the Apple TV excuse is rather poor? Don't get me wrong, kudos on the quick release for Chromecast, but 'Apple TV currently works only with Apple devices'? It's a standalone product that works with any TV with an HDMI port without the need for any third party product to control it - exactly the same as the Xbox 360, PS3, etc - and they have iPlayer.

    I have to admit, this seems a rather bizarre reason for not offering iPlayer directly on the Apple TV...

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  • Comment number 74. Posted by JamesStGeorge

    on 11 Apr 2014 12:26

    The technology sounds stupid and pointless. I do hope this is not annother BBC tech spend waste of money. Might it be a better idea to wait and see if anyone much ever bothers with these devices? Surely most watch on line video on a proper PC screen, or tablet on the lap.

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  • Comment number 73. Posted by Nathan Lock

    on 11 Apr 2014 08:03

    @Chris Yanda, thanks for the reply, it is a shame that this was developed for a product not even available in the uk, before DIAL protocol support for freesat freetime boxes that are all ready available and in approx, 1 million homes. is there much difference between the use of DIAL in chromecast and DIAL used by youtube leanback on the freesat boxes, would it take much to port this?

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  • Comment number 72. Posted by Eponymous Cowherd

    on 8 Apr 2014 15:54

    @68 Chris Yanda.

    I have had to reboot the Chromecast a couple of times. The Chromecast Icon does not appear on iPlayer on any device (all Android) until it has been rebooted. Other castable apps do not appear to be affected.

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  • Comment number 71. Posted by julie

    on 8 Apr 2014 11:15

    Getting the weather report for the next day on my home location is impossible. Sort it out BBC. I do not want the future forecasts for a city that is 15 miles away!

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  • Comment number 70. Posted by Nick Reynolds

    on 4 Apr 2014 08:28

    People reading Chris's post may also be interested in David Colter's post about how BBCiPlayer was tested for Chromecast.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 69. Posted by CRJ343

    on 3 Apr 2014 06:08

    Thanks Chris - I was using the new version of BBC iPlayer, but note the "old" version allowed me to "cast" the whole browser screen BUT the new version didn't show a Chromecast extension in the bottom right of the player and using the browser "Cast" button (top RHS of browser) simply blanked the TV screen which then reverted to show the Chromecast "background" picture. Was the fact that I was running Windows XP significant ? I also assume that by "Chromecast" extension you meant "Google Cast" extension.

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  • Comment number 68. Posted by Chris Yanda

    on 2 Apr 2014 14:21

    Greetings. I just wanted to let you know that, as of this morning, BBC IPlayer now supports Chromecast from the new preview version of BBC IPlayer on desktop and laptop computers from the Chrome browser.

    Find a programme you want to play at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer using the Chrome browser on your desktop or laptop computer. Make sure the Chromecast extension is enabled in the browser and hit the play button in BBC IPlayer. Once the programme is playing on your laptop, a Chromecast icon will appear in the control bar to the bottom right of the player. Tap this to bring up the Chromecast menu and allow you to begin playback on your TV via your Chromecast dongle.

    For more information, see our FAQ page: http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/about_bbc_iplayer/chromecast

    In addition, today we released new versions of BBC IPlayer on Android and IOS. The big changes for Chromecast in these versions are improved support for accessibility features and improvements in the way we keep track of how much of a programme you've watched when you switch between watching on Chromecast and watching locally on your phone or tablet.

    @52. Mike - Did you ever get this problem sorted? If BBC iPlayer and BBC Media Player aren't showing up in Google Play on your device, that sounds like there may be some separate underlying problem, possibly involving your device somehow identifying itself as being outside the UK.

    @53. Nathan Lock - DIAL support is something that we are looking into. Sorry that I can't promise at this time when we will have someting publicly supported.

    @55, @66. DDBsDad and Brian_NE37 - Thanks for your feedback. We are considering how we might stream downloaded files to Chromecast.

    @56. Rogeragz - Sorry to hear you are having problems. Try getting in contact with us via our FAQ page. Right now, I have no advice I can offer.

    @58. Marc - Thanks. We are planning on adding Chromecast support to a number of BBC apps. I'll keep your suggestions in mind.

    @59. Eponymous Cowherd. Sorry to hear you are having proglems. Have you had to reboot your device more than once? I can understand that one reboot may have been needed to prod the Chromecast into updating to a more recent firmware version, but if you are having to reboot every time you try to use the device, this is not behaviour we would expect or have encountered.

    The other problem you mention about closing the device screen also sounds very odd. I'm not aware of a situation which would result in such options. If, for example, your device was to lose connection to your WiFi you would get an option to go to the downloads section of the app. Does this dialogue appear within the BBC iPlayer app?

    @60. Eboracum2 - Currently, downloaded programmes are not supported.

    @63. KDCOLLINS - Glad to hear you got Chromecast working with your iPad and HTC Desire. We just added support for laptops this morning. Hopefully, this will now work for you as well.

    @64. Robinpop - Sorry to hear you are having problems with your Nexus 7. Please have a look at our FAQ page. As we find out more about any issues we find, we will update this page.

    @67. CRJ343 - Yes, casting from BBC iPlayer on your laptop should now work. Note that you will need to be using the new preview version of BBC iPlayer and using the Chrome browser with the Chromecast extension installed. If the version of BBC iPlayer you are using has a banner at the top which reads, "Try the new BBC iPlayer Now", you are on the old version which doesn't support Chromecast.

  • Comment number 67. Posted by CRJ343

    on 2 Apr 2014 13:44

    The latest iPlayer help implies that Chromecast now works with laptops with the Chrome browser installed. Is this now true ? I am able to get the "old" version of iPlayer to work but this is streaming from the browser directly (i.e. using the "Chromecast" button on browser ribbon) rather than instigating the direct router --> Chromecast link and I can't see the "Chromecast" button on the iPlayer window as I can using my Android tablet.

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