BBC iPlayer on mobile

Tuesday 5 March 2013, 09:39

Dave Price Dave Price Head of BBC iPlayer

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I'm Dave Price, head of BBC iPlayer.

Last month I wrote about iPlayer’s record breaking festive period with incredible performance driven by new mobile and tablets unwrapped on Christmas Day.

And it seems even with a return to work and school, these new devices have yet to be put down.


Last week we published the iPlayer performance pack for January which proved to be an exceptional month for TV programmes on iPlayer with 212 million requests across all devices and platforms, up +46% year on year.

However, it was TV requests from mobiles and tablet devices that rocketed in January, up +32% in just one month from December.

Popular programmes in January included Africa with 2.2 million requests for the first episode together with the return of Top Gear and Miranda with 1.8 million requests for some episodes.

And interestingly, for the first time ever we saw CBBC programmes regularly topping the daily most watched list with The Dumping Ground proving hugely appealing.

To date the BBC iPlayer app has been installed almost 15 million times on mobile and tablet devices.

With this many installs, it is no surprise that the growth in TV viewing in iPlayer has been driven by incredible tablet usage. Or should I say ‘phablets’?

And usage didn’t just peak over the festive period as can often be the case. Requests from devices with seven-inch screens such as the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, Samsung Galaxy Tab and iPad Mini have continued to rise dramatically throughout January.

These stats reinforce the fact that mobile and tablets are hugely important platforms for iPlayer – ensuring you can watch and catch-up on your favourite BBC programmes whenever and wherever you are.

But while we can often use the same technologies to power a large number of devices, some older devices require specific implementations which have an on-going cost.

That said, we want to make our services available to as many people as possible so there’s always a balancing act.

With this in mind we have decommissioned iPlayer on a number of older devices which last week represented 0.17% of our total iPlayer use on mobile.

The full list can be found on the BBC iPlayer FAQ pages but include older Blackberry, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and other mobile phones.

Equally we are always looking at new devices we can bring iPlayer to and I have good news! Earlier this month we added support to the iPlayer mobile web site for the new Blackberry Z10.

I am also thrilled to announce that we have also been working with Microsoft and within the next few months we'll be enabling the same mobile site for devices running Windows Phone 7.5 and 8.

My colleague Cyrus talks about this in his post.

This is really exciting news and I’m looking forward to sharing more with you at launch. In the meantime it’s always great here from you, so please share your thoughts and comments below.

Dave Price is the head of BBC iPlayer, Programmes and On Demand, BBC Future Media.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Here's my thought. Still no Android downloads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Yet another post crowing about how great iPlayer on mobile devices is. Do you people not look at the ratings and reviews on Google Play?

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    Comment number 3.

    Since either the last update to Chrome for Android or the last update to the BBC Media Player app, I can no longer use iPlayer via the mobile website - it keeps prompting me to install the media player app, even though I have it installed. Please fix this, or even better, update to iPlayer android app to properly support large screen tablets like the Nexus 10, which seems sensible since you talk about the growth in tablet usage in this blog!

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    Comment number 4.

    An update on Android downloads would be appreciated please. This seems to have been progressively demoted from 'soon' (when the functionality was released for the iPhone), to 'early 2013', to 'some months away', to 'we are working hard to determine when this can be included'.

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    Comment number 5.

    This is a really surprising blog entry indeed.

    If you look at the comments in Google Playstore, you'll see from the 6200 and rising one-star reviews that the Feb 14 update to iPlayer broke many, many devices completely. Typically, as for me on a Nexus 7, the app force closes as soon as the 'play' button is tapped.

    The app was working before; the update broke it utterly.

    But you don't mention this at all! I'd getbthe impression from your post that everything is wonderful and all is going to plan. Not a mention that now the app doesn't actually work and has all the marks of having shipped with minimal testing.

    You've not acknowledged any comments in the Google Playstore, either.

    None of this bears out your blog entry at the end of last year about significantly improving Android support, I fear.

    I think many, many people would like to hear when the Feb 14 issues are going to fixed, in preference to promises of future goodies. I'd felt you were making excellent progress in the update before that, but now I don't think you have any adequate QA in place.

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    Comment number 6.

    @5 Alan Phillips:-

    Nor does it bear out the article promising more "transparency" on the Internet Blog. More of the same "keep 'em in the dark and feed 'em on you-know-what"

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    Comment number 7.

    Android downloads? A distant dream. Feature parity? I'd settle for a single feature.

    I have owned 3 different Android devices running every single version right up to the very latest just downloaded. 17 total combinations of device and version if you count each time I've updated. Number of combinations that have been supported by your "app": None. Zero. Zip. Bupkiss. And its not like these are obscure devices made by random companies. Two have Google in big letters printed on them.

    On my phones this does not bother me so much. But my Sony Tablet S? Why not support it? I can use the website well enough. I can use FilmOn and watch all UK channels from anywhere in the world. I can use TuneIn for all the radio channels on the planet and even listen to this week's Radio 4 comedy on demand.

    I don't care about an update for feature parity. I want:
    - a ondemand radio app that works with the screen off
    - a ondemand tv app that just supports my devices.

    That's it. Just that. Just turn all combinations on and let us deal with what works, ok?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    So you've chosen to disenfranchise users with older BacBerrys. This despite the fact that BBC iplayer worked well on these models. Your explanation leaves me cold and extremely cross. I doubt I am alone in feeling this. As a license fee payer, I see no reason for the BBC to behave towards me in such ahigh-handed manner.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Can we have volume on the iplayer apps back on ios.
    Not sure why it was removed.
    All video apps I know have, except BBC have an app volume control. Hate using the device volume control.

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    Comment number 11.

    Interesting numbers this month, especially the CBBC stats. Would you ever consider showing the percentage of CBBC/CBeebies prog requests split out from the overall prog requests? Given that the children are highly unlikely to have bought the tablets/mobile devices themselves it would be an interesting note to the differing ways we use or promote screens at home and how it might change consumption/prog discovery going forward.

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    Comment number 12.

    Great news on the BBC iPlayer for Windows Phone but no mention of Windows RT. I realise that iOS is a simpler platform to develop for as there are limited devices but with the iPhone 3, 3G, 4, 4S and 5 as well as iPad 2, 3, 3.5 etc all having different resolutions and processors it must be just as difficult to test for them as it would be for the 5 or 6 Windows Phone 8 handsets?

    I think the BBC, like Sky, concentrate on the Apple platform because it is easier to deal with and has a large market share and for Sky that is fine and dandy, but not for the BBC. You are a publiclly funded enterprise and answer to the license fee payers i.e., me. I and several million other Windows Phone 8 users would like a native application with the same functionality as the iOS app and I would have thought that Microsoft's closed ecosystem would help with that.

    Great start in getting us access to the website though, hopefully as you see the stats of which users are accessing the services this will improve the chances of a native app.

    As for excuses for Android, surely you just develop for whatever version of Android is available and pick a set resolution - if

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Quite so. The BBC can't just pick & choose between proprietary systems on the basis of perceived 'cool'.

    Factually Android devices are much more popular than iOS ones, yet Android is still the poor relation. I'd like to know what, if any, rationale actually applies to the decision to develop, or not to develop a proper (or at least properly working) "App" for any given platform.

    As a Windows Phone & Windows8 user I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival of a proper native "App" for both of these platforms instead of the rubbishy kludge we have to endure at present. Perhaps you need to re-evaluate your much-vaunted partnership with Adobe?

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    Comment number 14.

    @Stretch - I'm afraid you have just buried your own argument and shown exactly why the BBC hasn't bothered. The BBC won't feel comfortable with a below par viewing experience for users. They would prefer you to have no access rather that being able to access the service and have choppy playback, sound issues or resolution problems. If companies like HTC and Samsung didn't insist on sticking their own overlays on top of native Android it might help but as I mentioned above, testing for iOS requires about 8 devices, Windows Phone 8 would be about 6 and Android about 345. Who is running Jelly Bean and who has Ice Cream Sandwich? Is someone else still on Gingerbread? What about HTC Sense, does that interfere? What about the processor, the S4 works fine, does the S3 handle playback, how about devices with only 512 MB of RAM vs those with 1GB etc etc etc. As much as I agree with you and it would be better to just allow everything and let users decide that would be against the brand image. Trying to test on all the available handsets and configurations just isn't possible.

    Windows Phone 8 is closer to iOS in that Microsoft define minimum standards that their OS will run on and hence developing for that shouldn't be as difficult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    You're quite right about Android fragmentation making things very, very hard for demanding applications. There are hundreds of combinations, and adding in the instabilities that other apps introduce only makes it worse. The BBC do have a difficult problem, and Adobe pulling Flash from JB has really made things messy. I'm a Windows dev by trade, and even the limited combinations you get there can be a challenge.

    *BUT* the BBC seem to be doing much worse at this than anyone else. Other apps can stream video across Android devices, so it can be done.

    As a customer watching from outside, I do feel there is a disconnect between the promises (and I'm happy to believe, the wishes) and the reality. Two examples: the iPlayer in January would not install on Nexus 7. Someone had forgotten to define the application as compatible with that screen geometry. A simple mistake - but it followed a blog that told us how important the Nexus 7 was tothe BBC, as one of the top selling devices. So no-one did a test that the app would install on it?

    The February release, as I mentioned earlier, broke lots of devices totally. A few people have logged comments that it works nicely, but hundreds and hundreds of one-star reviews reporting total failure, rare working or poor video quality don't seem good to me. As a dev, I'd be doing something about that pretty soon, even if only to put out a "sorry, folks, we're working on it". Customers canbe understanding if you actually tell them what's going on.

    And the final point: poor quality is actually what the BBC is delivering.Video quality over 3G connections is laughable (on builds that work). 10 inch tablets aren't supported at all.

    Now, lack of iPlayer doesn't impact me too much. I know how to side-load Flash on JellyBean. I know how to trick the Dolphin browser into enabling it. I can use the Flash-based web site. But someone who goes out and buys a shiny new top of the range tablset because she's heard of all the great things it can do? Sorry, should have bought an iPad.

    What to do, then? I think the BBC have to up their game in quality assessment a lot. I have no idea how many devs they have, but it doesn't seem enough. And they need to get a closed beta tester group so they can get RC builds tried out in the real world, on rooted devices, with wierd configs and apps and all sizes of memory.

    I'd really like to see iPlayer get going on Android. I think it's the key to a radical change in video consumption and in education. I don't think the BBC is able to do it as it stands, which is a big, big shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I have a BlackBerry PlayBook and Z10 which I am extremely pleased that BBC IPlayer was supported from launch as it is the most commonly used app in my household.

    I am surprised that you have withdrawn support for some of the older bb devices as these are not that old... In fact they were the higher end BlackBerry's until just over a month ago.

    I also hope that your devs look to build a native app for BB10 with additional features. I get frustrated with the perceived degree of apple loving, particularly from an organisation that is part funded by the public.

    I understand the need to appeal to the largest audience first by launching new functionality on the most popular platform, but then resources need to be diverted to releases on the other platforms before additional features are rolled out again.... Or just make the IPlayer API open source so 3rd party developers can fill in the gaps where the BBC is failing.

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    Comment number 17.

    @16 toffeetaffy:-

    But IOS isn't the most popular platform, Android is, and by quite a margin. I quite agree that publishing an open API would be a better solution, and is what I would expect from a publicly funded organisation like the BBC, but until the "rights holders" of the programmes get over their absurd fixation on trying to "protect" content that has already be made available unencrypted, the the current ridiculous situation will persist.

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    Comment number 18.

    I note that streaming has been removed for phones like the Nokia 808 but downloads (which I use daily on the train) are still currently live. Will downloads continue or have they just not been decommissioned yet?

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    Comment number 19.

    I see that the rating for iPlayer on Google Play has dropped from 2.9/5 to 2.8/5 since the Feb update. This update clearly broke iPlayer on many devices (mine included). Is there any chance of an explanation?

    And how do you justify making a blog post about iPlayer mobile without mentioning this? Surely you must know there is a serious problem? When will it be addressed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Eponymous Cowherd # 2 & and Alan Phillips # 5. Android remains a key priority for the iPlayer team. I can assure you we maintain a close eye on the Google Play reviews, and the 1 star reviews certainly don't go unnoticed. We have more releases planned to further improve playback on the most popular Android devices, and as previously mentioned on this blog we are working hard to introduce mobile downloads functionality.

    Alex #3. Thanks for your feedback, we are currently investigating.

    Marion # 8. BBC iPlayer did indeed work well on these devices, however, the service was based on a legacy technology and used by small (and rapidly declining) number of people. Unfortunately, it was necessary for the team to withdraw the service on these devices as the underlying technology was in need of further investment, sadly given the low usage this couldn't be justified.

    lettice # 10. The initial removal of the volume feature was driven by audiences telling us that the setting was superfluous given the presence of hardware volume buttons but we will consider this in future releases.

    Grantijj # 11. Unfortunately we don't release channel viewing figures. I can confirm we witness strong performance across CBBC and Cbeebies programmes in iPlayer, not least during January The Dumping Ground was a standout hit.


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