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iPlayer Radio: Buffering & Programme Availability Update

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James Cridland James Cridland | 15:27 UK time, Tuesday, 26 August 2008

bbc_radio.pngWith over 57 different radio stations (and goodness knows how many radio programmes), moving radio over to the BBC iPlayer was always going to be a big piece of work.

By and large, it's working very well - we've a ton of interesting statistics which we're poring over. We'll make some available on this blog at some point in the next few months.

iplayer_sitcoms.png

We've successfully delivered a good improvement in audio quality for Listen Again content within the UK, as well as a much more sophisticated user interface, allowing you to view by category, by schedule, or by station.

peterallen.pngRadio now comes with pictures (so that's what BBC Radio 5 live's Peter Allen looks like). If the doorbell rings or Windows decides to reboot again, you can start listening again from where you left off.

floggits.jpg

And the search functionality in iPlayer is really good. It's a tremendous step forward from the old BBC Radio Player.

But inevitably, some things haven't worked perfectly.

Currently, we're seeing two issues which I want to be open about, and wanted to let you know we're working on.

The audio for a small amount of programmes was occasionally unavailable - and the problem was worse if you were outside the UK, or using a wifi radio. We found the problem late last week, related to a few upload problems we've been having, and hope that we have now fixed this issue. Incidentally, almost all of these programmes would still have been missing had we been running the old Radio Player; our fancy new interface isn't to blame.

Secondly, we're getting a some reports of excessive "buffering", where the audio stops while your internet connection catches up.

For those of you in the UK, you'll spot a "modem users" link that we've added, which gives you a version of the feed which is lower bitrate (and thus should cope just fine), but I'd be very interested to hear from people for whom the audio is buffering - particularly if you can watch the TV content within iPlayer without being interrupted by buffering. Feel free to comment here with your, er, comments. Higher bitrate is something many are asking for; but excessive buffering isn't a side-effect anyone wants.

Whether it's the new BBC homepage, last.fm or Facebook, it's clear that there's a small number of people who find changes to the look and feel of familiar websites upsetting. When it doesn't work as perfectly as you'd expect, it's doubly irritating.

I could, accurately, defend iPlayer's radio section for being much more reliable than the old BBC Radio Player which it replaced, not to mention the additional functionality we have been able to introduce - but I know that if you can't get your favourite programme, that's all that really matters.

So instead, please simply accept my apologies if you're one of the few that has been affected, and know that we're working on it.

James Cridland is Head of Future Media & Technology for BBC Audio & Music Interactive.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    There are always people who are in some way frightened of change. The new homepage is brilliant, but the change to it would have been quite a jump for some people.

    I have never understood the criticism about the iPlayer radio. The listen again feature is great, and is very easy to find things. But i never used the old Listen again feature, i don't fully know what that was.

    Now i listen to so much more stuff than before.

  • Comment number 2.

    For what it's worth I find problems with listen again regardless of whether I'm using the old player or listening directly through Real Player (yea, I scraped out the direct URL for some programs and play them in a player, even on those you don't want played in a player).

    Listening to say Dance Anthems, I'll go about 12 minutes then a major pause--say in terms of a minute. Then another 6 minutes and a delay of a couple of minutes (yea, minutes) then it starts again. Then I'll get a few more minutes and then just a flat out pause for 10 minutes or so followed by a death message.

    This has been going on for months or so

    Same happens in the old player or Real Player. Will try it in the new iPlayer to see how it works.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi, I use the iPhone version of iplayer and really enjoy the service, however I don't think I can get live streams on for radio on iPhone and was wondering if there is a reason (maybe something for Anthony to answer) ?

  • Comment number 4.

    It would be nice if the iPhone version of iPlayer allowed radio streaming too.

    The one thing missing on the all singing all dancing phone is BBC radio now (well along with all the normal iPhone gripes).

    Keep up the good work

  • Comment number 5.

    As above, please have standard mp3/aac streams!
    I would love to listen to listen again BBC radio on my iPhone, and also would love it if I cold have the streams in iTunes so that I can play them around my house to the multiple of speakers i have dotted around teh place.

    It woulds seem a shame to buy an internet radio just to receive the streams when I have an iPhone, and a multiroom media center!

    Im even thinking I may give in and get a Logitech squeezebox, but even that only has a third party workaround solution, and with these new BBC changes, it may even stop working.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi James,

    I've been experiencing the buffering problem for a couple of days now on iPlayer radio (non-BBC radio stations are fine)...but the TV iPlayer is fine.

    Regards

  • Comment number 7.

    It'll be nice when it's finished! Will you be offering radio downloads in the same way as TV programmes?

    Unfortunately, the changes seem to have been particularly upsetting to some local radio programmes - like Radio Ulster's "Sunday Sequence" - which didn't seem to appear for listen again at all one week - and this morning's show is still unavailable.

    Is there a greater delay in getting radio shows up online through the new workflow than the old (and at times unreliable too) Listen Again?

  • Comment number 8.

    What is going on with the Radio Four 'listen again' facility?

    Nothing has been uploaded or updated since Thursday! No Archers, Gardeners Question Time, News, iPM or other popular programmes transmitted since Thursday. All we see is "xxxx is not available at this time"

    Since the Radio Four 'listen again' player changed to the BBC iplayer I have noticed a much longer delay in making programmes available to listen again, often several hours rather than the 5-10 minutes previously but this is ridiculous!

    The programmes play ok if one goes through all the palaver of opening BBC iPlayer main page then clicking through all the links: Radio> Radio4> Genre> Programme title> Programme date> Programme> Pop-out iPlayer.

    I make that 6-7 clicks when the Radio 4 website offers the links with one click. When they work that is! They were working up until 6 days ago.

    Does anyone else have this problem listening via the Radio 4 website to recent content?

  • Comment number 9.

    joolzred - the problem you mentioned was resolved by Monday morning and the programmes you list should all be available.

    Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC Internet blog).

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi - I'm currently in correspondence with Alan Ogilvie about BBC wma streaming / buffering problems in connection my Sagem MyDualRadio700 wifi radio.

    There's a half-inference in your blog that the problem might have been resolved.

    If you are referring in your post to the difficulties I highlighted, I have to tell you, sadly, that that's not the case.

    Sorry!

  • Comment number 11.

    Proms 65: repeated signal drop out in exactly same places each time. so, it's not my connection, and its doesn't sound like buffering. What I can hear of the Shostakovich is terrific. IS BBC working on fixes?

  • Comment number 12.

    The new iPlayer is basically flawed by trying to be all things to all people. For those with a dial-up modem connection the old Radio Player was, and still is, the best solution. For broadband users there is a totally new set of issues to be resolved. So let's have two versions side by side. A couple of problems with the new listen again: firstly, there is no 'go back to where you were when you stopped' feature . This is a big problem if the internet connection is lost as when you re-connect you don't know where you were. Second when experiencing sudden loss of sound (buffering ?) with the old Radio Player it always picked up where it stopped so nothing was lost - not even a syllable, but with the new iPlayer several seconds or minutes of audio are lost whenever a silent period occurs. I repeat what others have remarked all the pictorial content is completely inappropriate for a 56kb/s dial up modem connection as it takes minutes to load and is no value whatsoever.

  • Comment number 13.

    Chris
    There are always people who are in some way frightened of change. The new homepage is brilliant, but the change to it would have been quite a jump for some people.

    Of course Chris maybe because it doesnt work at all. Since iplayer arrived we cannot listen the majority of programs in radio 4 that usually were easy to listen along the week.
    Nobody explains why this if it will be forever or while you are installing iplayer (since 4-6 months)??
    Could anyone explain something? It is very annoying.

  • Comment number 14.

    It is 8th September now, and the problems with Listen Again for Radio 4 in the iPlayer for people listening via Real Audio are worse than ever. I've read various complacent BBC blogs at various times saying "it's fixed", but it never has been, it's been deteriorating since the introduction of the iPlayer, which, from what I gather, is fine for television watchers but a pain in the posterior for radio listeners.
    I may be a Luddite, but I loved the simplicity of the old BBC Radio player, which had far fewer problems both with drop out in live streaming (what's with *that*, nowadays? It's getting worse, too.) and Listen Again, which seems to be virtually non-existent at the moment.
    All the best,
    Anne in Geneva.

  • Comment number 15.

    Listen Live hasn't worked properly since the iPlayer switchover. It's *not* a buffering issue, the whole signal drops out for 1-5 seconds typically, and the missing content has disappeared.

    I have a 2Mb connection (in UK), and can watch TV on iPlayer no problem, but can no longer listen to Radio4, because I'm missing crucial parts of programmes. I regularly download large files from ftp sites with no problems or interruptions.

    Teething troubles with Listen Again seem to have been more or less fixed as far I'm concerned, but still I have to echo other posters in saying that the iPlayer is a backward step for radio listeners.

  • Comment number 16.

    it's been two weeks since James' post and as far as I can tell, despite what Nick claims in Post #9, the problems with 'Listen Again' have NOT been fixed:

    the first episode of 'Edge Falls' from last Tuesday was never available via the iPlayer... though you still have a few hours until the 7-day rights period is fully expired...

    and the audio drop-out problem is worse than ever... try listening to this week's 'Just A Minute', there are so many drop-outs, the program is unlistenable...

    so, I don't know what James and Nick are thinking but things are NOT good with BBC Radio via the web...

  • Comment number 17.

    James darls, may I to draw your attention to the fact that since your August 26th post NONE of the listen again issues in the ongoing disastrous transfer over to the iPlayer system have been sorted in the case of radio and it is now September 11. The situation just gets worse by the day.

    It'd be really cool, and perhaps reassure us as to the management nouse upstairs, if a schedule detailing the technical problems with the deadlines for solving them could be posted. In cases where there's no budget to do so, say so. If such a schedule could be displayed and adhered to, and widely cross linked from your various internet sites then perhaps audiences might feel a better about this "transition" situation. The said schedule should be updated and commented daily showing concrete proof of progress (any?) made.

  • Comment number 18.

    I don't understand what's happening with iplayer Radio at the moment!
    All was fine and rosy in the world of listen again, until you introduced the new iplayer interface. What was wrong with the link just having the iplayer page open up the real player file as had been done previously? It worked fine, and still continues to do so with BBC7 programs.
    I often work late, and consequently miss the comedy on at 6.30 (JAM, Hut33, Armando Ianucci etc), and so I use listen again regularly - it's been incredibly frustrating trying to listen to those shows over the past couple of weeks, and having the sound keep dropping out.
    It's not a buffering issue - I am on a 100Mbit/s connection at work, and BBC7, Radio 5 etc all work fine - it's just radio 4. Plus if it was a buffering issue, then the sound would not drop out at the same point on the program every time I try to listen to it - at different locations (home and work) and at different times after turning off the computer (so the buffer should be refreshed.
    Can we have the old service back whilst you fix the bugs please?
    And while you're at it, could you re-post all the programs that I've endured rather than enjoyed over the past month or so?

  • Comment number 19.

    Buffering? Don't get me started. I'm one of the apparent legion of Mac users who finds that buffering is what the iPlayer does best of all, for both TV *and* radio. I was never a big fan of your RealPlayer implementation but at least it worked.

    I have Mac OSX 10.4 and a very stable and uncongested ADSL service that reliably gives me 2meg.

    I have posted about this in more detail in your 12 August entry discussing H.264 and I'd appreciate your comments on this, either against that entry or this one.

  • Comment number 20.

    Sorry, but you have made a retrograde step. I have to agree with post 19 and as a fellow Mac user witha good and reliable ISP, it used to work fine. It doesn't now. James Cridland's article just glosses over this.

  • Comment number 21.

    I`m having a problem listening to live radio shows on my iplayer. When I play recorder t.v. & radio shows everything works fine. However when I go to play live Radio shows the click to play icon does not show in the screen & I am unable to listen to the shows.

  • Comment number 22.

    glynanthony - please try the BBC iPlayer messageboards as people there may be able to help you.

  • Comment number 23.

    Very nice thank you very much..http://www.birsesver.com

 

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