New BBC iPlayer comes to Windows Phones 8

Tuesday 27 May 2014, 11:31

Navin Nair Navin Nair Business Analyst

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Hi, I’m Navin Nair, a Business Analyst in the BBC iPlayer team.

Almost exactly a year ago, we brought BBC iPlayer to Windows Phone 8 devices for the first time. Today I’m pleased to announce a major update to the app bringing the benefits of the new BBC iPlayer to Windows Phone 8 devices, making it easier to catch up on your favourite programmes as well as discover new content.

You can read more about the new BBC iPlayer here, but in this post I’m going to focus on the features which are making their debut on Windows Phone 8. First, we’ve overhauled the viewing experience, switching to an adaptive bitrate media player. This means those of you with poorer internet connections will still be able to watch content while those with faster connections will get the best playback quality available. You can also watch programmes with subtitles, delivering on the BBC’s commitment to accessible content for all. But wait, there’s more! We’ve also added live TV, so you can keep up with any BBC channel on the go.

windows 8 master 1.jpg Home page, channel page and category page

As well as new features, we’ve put a lot of effort into improving the general app experience. This update is far more stable and is expected to work with a wider range of Windows Phones. We know this was one of the main gripes with the original app and we’re keen to do more for a steadily growing user base. We would love to add features like downloads once the market share increases to the point we can justify the additional development and infrastructure costs.

windows 8 master 2.jpg

Once you update the app, you will notice that Radio content is no longer available. This was a difficult decision, but it allows us to focus on offering the best TV viewing experience in iPlayer. I do appreciate that this leaves some without a way to enjoy radio content but we really believe that the experience of the new BBC iPlayer is a huge leap forward and worth taking now. The iPlayer Radio team are currently working on a similar app with an optimised listening experience so stay tuned for more news on this.

The updated app is available now via the Windows Phone Store; I encourage you to download it and try out the new BBC iPlayer experience for Windows Phone 8. We’re keen to hear what you think: rate the app, leave comments or complete the online survey. We’re always looking to improve the product and keep bringing you the best viewing experience we can. I hope you enjoy using the new app!

Navin Nair is Business Analyst, BBC iPlayer in BBC Future Media

Update 8th July 2014. The BBCiPlayer Radio app is now available for Windows 8 phones. Please read Daniel Bean's post for more details. Thanks.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Thanks for this welcome update. Live TV, the new UI and subtitles are very welcome improvements and are working nicely!

    Some thoughts and queries:

    1. ITV/C4/C5/STV all have native WP8 apps, but the BBC's is a web wrapper on your new responsive site. This means your competitors' apps run much faster and more smoothly than yours. Why is this?

    2. Related to the above, since the app is a wrapper on your responsive website why is it so slow? The previous version was slow and the new version is even slower. Even on a strong WiFi connection going from page to page is so slow and shows the loading bar.

    3. You mention downloads might come "once the market share increases to the point we can justify the additional development and infrastructure costs". For the past 10 months WP market share in the UK has hovered around the 10% mark which represents around 1 in 10 smartphone users. This is a sizeable number and no doubt most of these people also pay the licence fee. Understandably development is expensive but what market share would be "enough" for you to invest these resources for WP users?

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    Comment number 2.

    I'd love to know how a download is significantly more expensive than a stream. Surely both options serve roughly the same amount of data? And even if it wasn't then the numbers you're talking about would be a very small overall increase.

    I'm staggered you've actually removed features without a ready replacement. Will it be another three years before the radio "team" produce an app?

    Saying that features that have been standard on other platforms long before they had 10% of market share will come when WP has more than 10% doesn't make much sense. The BBC fell over itself to provide an iPhone app long before it had anything like 10% userbase, so why is WP being forced to meet a higher requirement?

    Even today iOS only has 30% userbase in the UK yet it's showered with features and updates.

    Basing customer service on audience size? Way to completely miss the point of the BBC, Navin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Right.... So an 'update' that removes all the functionality I used on a daily basis? Great work!

    I don't seem to be alone in not being able to listen again through my browser. Would it not have made sense to launch the rumoured radio app simultaneously? Or are we all to borrow iPhones in the meantime? I trust this won't be too long.... Now have no way to listen to my favourite shows. Thanks for that.

    Will the argument for only investing in mass audiences start trickling into programming too? As I dread to think how many programmes don't have the same audience figures as those people with windows phones...

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I am disgusted. Only this morning I was using this app to listen to radio programmes - now you have killed this service completely. You say you are working on a replacement for this - why withdraw the existing service when the replacement is not ready?
    If I have to put up with this reduction in service can I have a reduction in my licence fee please? No, I didn't think so, - you are very pleased with your fancy new app but you don't give a hoot about your listeners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    It is nice to note the new BBC iPlayer down-grade has been foisted onto the Windows Phone 8 users. Welcome aboard - welcome to the other smart phone, tablet style, PC and TV users that now have to suffer the 'benefits' of lower expectations, reduced functionality and a painful interface.

    The last paragraph in the article above should read: -

    The updated app is available, Try it etc…etc……
    We're keen to ignore any negative feedback, or any comments that are not extremely positive, and don't bother to rate it or complete the online survey it just wastes your time and ours. We're not looking to improve the product any more than it is at present but we may try to include some of the lost or reduced functions sometime next year, if we remember.
    At this time we are only seeking a few positives that can be used to prove to our superiors how well we are performing.

    I hope you enjoy using the new app!

    But probably not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    The 10% number is of sales in the UK, not percentage of people using a windows phone which would be less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    @4: With due respect I don't recall you paying an increase in your licence fee when the iPlayer was launched on Windows phones a year ago.

    I suspect it all relates to the announcement a couple year ago of being focused on '10 products' across '4 screens'. One of those products was "TV & iPlayer" whilst another was "Radio & Music", which is why radio is no longer part of the main iPlayer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The availability of an iPlayer radio app was one of the factors that has made me switch to a Windows phone. Now you've removed this excellent facility, in order to add no more than frills. Really clever decision-making ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    @1. Al – Thanks for your feedback. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the new features. Some answers to your queries: We are currently in the process of consolidating the number of separate iPlayer codebases we develop and maintain in order to provide the best value for money from our fixed funding. For example, prior to the launch of the new iPlayer, we were maintaining 3 separate codebases for computer browsers, tablet browsers and mobile browsers – we now have a single responsive codebase that serves all browsers. Similarly, in the TV domain, we are consolidating around a single HTML codebase. In the mobile apps domain, we have 2 codebases – one for Android devices, one for iOS devices. The market share of Windows Phone 8 doesn’t yet justify the cost of a developing and maintaining a full native app (as @DBOne mentions this isn’t just about current share of handset sales). We have however, been able to update the previous Windows Phone 8 wrapper app (which wrapped the old iPlayer mobile web site) to window the new responsive iPlayer. This means that Windows Phone 8 users immediately benefit from any updates to the responsive iPlayer (and we’ve got lots up updates planned in the coming months!). Whilst some of the other video on demand services you mention do offer native Windows Phone 8 apps, they don’t necessarily provide the features that the iPlayer Windows Phone 8 app offers such as live TV, streaming over 3G/4G and subtitles. This is the first release of the new iPlayer on Windows Phone 8 and we’re looking to further improve performance and reduce loading times with subsequent releases.

    @2. Paul R – The cost of delivering downloads to a new platform or operating system isn’t primarily about the cost of serving the media. Rather it is the cost of developing the download functionality in the first place. Having developed this functionality for both Android and Apple devices, we know the cost and complexity involved in implementing downloads on mobile devices. It is worth noting that none of the other video on demand Windows Phone 8 apps mentioned by @Al currently offer downloads.

    @3. DavidPL & @4. golux – I’m sorry to hear that the temporary loss of radio has left you without a way to listen to your favourite radio shows on your phone. Our ideal would have been to launch iPlayer Radio for Windows Phone 8 at the same time as the updated iPlayer app but unfortunately it wasn’t quite ready in time. We knew from app store comments that a number of users were experiencing issues launching the previous iPlayer app and so we took the difficult decision to launch the new iPlayer sooner rather than later in order to address these issues. Rest assured our colleagues in radio are working hard to deliver an iPlayer Radio experience for Windows Phone 8 and are hoping to launch in a matter of weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Thanks for your detailed response Navin. It is worth noting that many of the features you mentioned are on the other apps e.g. ITV has live TV, Demand 5/STV offer subtitles etc. The two main issues with having a web wrapper app are:

    1. The slowness of the app. Pressing anything loads the screen with the iPlayer logo and the pink loading dots. Even pressing back involves reloading the page with this loading screen. This is a very poor app experience. Can you improve this?

    2. You lack features that make using the app quicker and easier to use. For example, a native app would allow you to pin BBC1 to your Start screen so you can quickly load up live TV or find a specific programme that you know was on BBC1. Similarly you could pin your favourite programme so you come right to it. Currently it takes a lot of presses (and time) to actually load up the live TV. (I'd expect you could actually implement this functionality with the current format since these pages are just URLs which you could link to and open directly from a tile on the Start screen.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Totally frustrated to find the part of this app I used (the radio) has been removed. If only I had not "upgraded". Can you give us the old one back please as a legacy option until the functionality is replaced?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I am furious. I have never before been prompted to comment on a site of this kind. But this decision has made me really angry.

    Think. about it. In order to improve the ability to watch tv programmes on a phone, you have removed the ability to listen to radio programmes. For how many hours per day does the average person watch tv on their phone, compared with the number of hours per day they listen to radio content on it? These are mobile devices with small screens, which lend themselves to being used while you are doing something else.

    I used to listen to Radio 4 and Radio 4 extra programmes on my phone for several hours a day while doing other things – running, visiting the gym, doing the housework or gardening. I cannot watch tv while I am doing these things. I am sure many other windows phone users used the iplayer in the same way. You have removed the function that I used all the time, allegedly to improve a function I seldom use.

    Is there any way I can get the old iplayer back on my phone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    It is very frustrating that the update has removed radio functionality. I believe the update should not have been issued unless existing radio functionality was maintained or there was an option to revert to the earlier version.This reflects very badly on the BBC iPlayer team. Please reconsider your decision. Please can you provide details on how users can lodge a formal complaint - perhaps Radio 4 Feedback prorgramme could run an item on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    The prevous version of the iplayer seemed to work just fine on my windows phone, for both TV and radio content. I usually used it to timeshift radio programmes. I blithely installed the latest "update", foolishly thinking it to be an "improvement". Where's my radio gone? whoops! Can I downgrade again to get it back - can I hell. So I get to miss out on all but live radio until the BBC's software designers finish contemplating their navals and produce a new app, just so some technology wonks can have their "slightly-more-wizzy-TV-app" NOW. And someone in charge thought this was a good idea?
    Please can the old iplayer app for windows phone be made available again (under a different name if necessary) until the new "slightly-more-wizzy-radio-app" is ready, it would cheer up some very annoyed (would-be) listeners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I am in total agreement with Sara, smf BL1 et al. The ability to listen to radio programs from the past seven days was probably one of the iPlayers most used features. In fact it was the only thing I used the iPlayer for, probably around 2 hours listening per day. I have NEVER used the TV viewing side of the iPlayer, and I have a Nokia 1320 with 6 inch screen! I reckon a straw pole of a dozen Windows Phone/iPlayer users would have demonstrated that the radio capabilities were a key feature NEVER to be made unavailable. BBC just admit it, you got this update wrong!...

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    PLUS! Why does the update lose your existing favourites list? Surely it's not rocket science to carry that forward during an "update"!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    still a long way to go but thanks for adding live tv.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Another user who solely used the app to listen to iplayer radio. There is now no (direct) way for me to access non-live bbc radio output on my phone, unless I resort to ripping iplayer streams as mp3s via a computer, then listening to them at a later date, which I'm sure you're keen to avoid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Am so upset that I can no longer the listen to the radio on my phone. I have pretty much never watched TV on my phone - quite frankly your day has got to suck if you have to resort to watching a programme on a 6" screen of a phone. However I used my phone to listen to BBC radio every single day. Is this decision down to pandering to 15 to 23 year olds who you believe will be watching endless iPlayer shows? I doubt these guys even pay a TV licence.
    If you are not capable of reinstating the previous functionality or putting together a radio app quickly then farm this business out to someone else....there are enough developers in the industry who could get it up and running very Microsoft!! It is shameful that you have totally disregarded a chunk of your radio listeners with no thought whatsoever. At least have the decency to acknowledge and apologise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    There is a great alternative to iPlayer for radio. It's free, simple to use and very quick. It's called 'Listen Again'.


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