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Introducing BBC iPlayer Desktop for Mac, Linux and PC

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Anthony Rose Anthony Rose | 12:59 UK time, Friday, 19 December 2008

When we launched BBC iPlayer back in Dec 2007, it has been available for streaming on Window, Mac and Linux computers. But if you wanted to download our TV programmes, well, that was PC only. Obviously that wasn't a satisfactory arrangement, and making our downloads available on Mac and Linux has been a major priority for us.

Today, we're really pleased to announce that BBC iPlayer downloads are now available for Mac and Linux as well, thanks to our new Adobe AIR-powered download manager, which we've named BBC iPlayer Desktop.

DownloadQueue

NowPlaying

(click images to enlarge)

To the best of my knowledge we're the first major content provider in the world to offer DRM downloads to PC, Mac and Linux platforms. Getting there has been quite a journey - here's the story...

Why do we need DRM?

In the past we've been criticised for using DRM. Surely a public service broadcaster has a duty to make its content available for free, forever, without rights restrictions, to all UK users. Unfortunately, much as we share those aspirations, the reality is that we have to use DRM, for two reasons:

1. As part of the Public Value Test undertaken by the BBC Trust, a decision was made by the Trust that the BBC could only make iPlayer content available for 7 days after broadcast, or, if you downloaded a programme, that you could keep it for up to 30 days, or 7 days after first playback. This was in response to industry concern that allowing people to keep programmes forever would lead to a reduction in sales of DVDs, etc. The ability to provide this 'timed availability' for downloaded programmes requires Digital Rights Management - i.e. DRM. So, for this reason alone, any download solution that we provide requires DRM.

2. Our rights holders require that we protect their content, at least one reason for which is to allow them to sell that content in other markets. For example, BBC Worldwide generates around one billion pounds in revenue annually, much of which is from sales of BBC programming in other territories, on DVD, etc. Some of that revenue flows back to the BBC public service, offsetting license fee requirements. Additionally, US movie studios often mandate use of particular DRM technologies as a condition for licensing their content. Accordingly, making our content available without any rights restrictions, freely downloadable worldwide, would affect the ability of those rights holders to monetise their content in other markets, hence an additional requirement for DRM.

Which DRM?

The BBC was widely criticised for choosing Microsoft DRM, which we chose for the initial iPlayer launch, and have been using since. Various conspiracy theories abounded, but the simple fact was that at the time Windows Media DRM was the only viable digital rights management solution around. It was sufficiently robust, accepted by rights holders, free (some DRM solutions have hefty license fees), fairly easy to use, and worked on 90% of computers.

Since then, we've embarked on a long and arduous journey to find the perfect DRM solution, one that would work on all computers, would be easy to install, would be supported by a reputable vendor, would be acceptable to rights holders, that wouldn't incur significant costs to us, and that could form the basis for a next-gen download manager platform that will in due course, well, keep reading...

We evaluated a large number of DRM solutions, including some open and open-source solutions. Some offered Mac support but not Linux, others required that we make our content available in their store rather than in our web site, other (sometimes open-source) solutions appeared attractive and low cost, but require extensive development to create a tamper-resistant player and would have incurred hefty MPEG licensing fees for playback of H.264 content.

Ultimately, we chose Adobe AIR and Adobe rights management (FMRMS) as our preferred solution for our next-gen BBC iPlayer Desktop application.

So, have we 'switched' to Adobe DRM? Not quite. We continue to use Windows Media DRM for downloads to Windows Media-compatible portable media players, we Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) DRM for downloads to Nokia mobile phones, we use Adobe DRM for downloads to PC, Mac and Linux computers, and we may support other DRM technologies for playback on set top boxes and future IP-connected TV devices.

Although it would be nice to have to support just a single digital rights technology, the reality is that when you look across mobile, PC and TV platforms there's no 'one size fits all' solution, and so we end up supporting a range of content protection technologies.

Of course none of this is of interest to the user - you just want to watch your favourite programme with as little fuss as possible - and we think that our new BBC iPlayer Desktop has gotten us a huge step closer.

No more P2P

Another big change we made is that our new BBC iPlayer Desktop no longer uses P2P. Downloads now come directly from our servers, as direct HTTP downloads.

Why the move away from P2P?

Three reasons:

1. When the BBC chose P2P for downloads over two years ago, bandwidth was really expensive, and so P2P was seen as the only way of providing a download service at a sustainable distribution cost. But over the past year the cost of bandwidth has decreased by 90%, making direct HTTP downloads a viable alternative.

2. Some users told us that they didn't like P2P - it used their CPU, used their upload bandwidth, slowed their computer. Our new solution should not have those issues.

3. In the UK, some ISPs count both download and upload internet traffic in their usage calculations, which means that some users were hitting their monthly usage caps more quickly because of P2P upload traffic. Our new solution doesn't have that issue (of course if you download lots of stuff you may still hit you monthly ISP limits - but that applies not just to iPlayer content).

It should be noted that in the technology world nothing stays still for long, and by choosing to not use P2P today we're not making a statement that P2P is either good or bad - we're simply saying that the cost/benefit right now is in favour of direct HTTP downloads, perhaps in due course served from edge caching servers deep in ISP networks. However, in the future new requirements and new P2P technologies (e.g. P2P streaming) may lead to a re-evaluation of our preferred delivery options.

The timing

Months ago we promised that we'd have BBC iPlayer programmes available for download to Mac and Linux computers before the end of 2008, and we made it... just.

Getting a solution out that worked on Mac was the easy part... having a solution that worked on Linux as well was somewhat harder. It's no coincidence that BBC iPlayer was released on the same day that AIR 1.5 for Linux was released by Adobe, as this is the first AIR release that provides DRM support on Linux platforms.

Available today to Labs users

The version of BBC iPlayer that's out today is very much a beta product, with a number of known issues that we'll be working hard to fix right after the Christmas break.

For those users who have our existing Download Manager installed, we don't want to break something that's working really well, and so we've introducing our new BBC iPlayer Desktop in Labs first. That means that it's available to anyone who has signed up as a Labs user - to do so, simply head over to BBC iPlayer Labs.

We expect to move BBC iPlayer Desktop out of Labs and make it our mainstream download manager application in February.

Upcoming developments

Right now BBC iPlayer Desktop makes use of the same 800Kbps H.264 content that's used for our High Quality streaming option. We're working on improving that, to provide 1500Kbps H.264 content that should be close to television quality. So, starting around February, we expect to deliver substantially better quality for downloads (these 1500Kbps streams will also be offered for streaming, providing near TV quality in iPlayer).

After that, we plan to use our new Adobe AIR platform to provide a range of features that will, we think, produce a really seamless online/offline, browser/desktop experience. Key features that are coming up include:

- being able to download radio podcasts
- being able to pre-book download of your favourite programmes, including whole series
- getting a popup system tray alert when your favourite programmes become available
- on-demand an live radio streaming, on your desktop.

Basically, we're looking to use this new platform to bring BBC content much closer to your desktop... which is why we called it BBC iPlayer Desktop.

Anthony Rose is Head of Online Media Group, BBC Future Media and Technology.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Looking good! I'll have to try this out later tonight :)

    On a side note, are there any plans to put the BBC software in distro repositories?

  • Comment number 2.

    Great.

    So what is now stopping you making iPlayer available for AppleTV?

    It was announced you were considering doing this last January. I have been able to watch YouTube on this device since June, I look forward to the iPlayer being available soon.

  • Comment number 3.

    Once I've downloaded using this new product, can I side-load to my N95?

  • Comment number 4.

    "...Click the install button and follow the on screen prompts...."

    Er... which install button is that? I don't see one.

  • Comment number 5.

    ... and the link to iPlayer Labs is 404.

  • Comment number 6.

    +1 for gromit1704's mention (#2) of AppleTV support. Time to get iPlayer working on home media devices as well as the plethora of gaming and mobile devices that have come online over the last year.

    A highlight of yesterday's launch was the incredibly smooth installation process (for me on a PC and Mac anyway) - particularly when compared to the initial iPlayer Beta process in Autumn 2007.

    But a lowlight was the lack of content to download. Never Mind the Buzzcocks being the notable exception.


    Any idea when the majority of content (including non-network from nations and regions) will become available for download on the new iPlayer Desktop?


    Interested to read too about the move away from P2P and back to direct download from the BBC and any edge cache servers ISPs may wish to employ.

    It was only at lunchtime today that I was applauding the fact that a 30 minute episode of Screenwipe downloaded (old PC client) in less than 10 minutes the other night - which was so much faster than a few months ago, and faster than many 4oD downloads too - as if critical mass had been reached to make P2P really viable and efficient!

  • Comment number 7.

    I've downloaded and installed iPlayer Desktop and managed to download one programme (the only one I could find with a download link available).

    As this is beta (and "labs") software, I'm surprised there isn't some obvious way for us to send feedback to the BBC. Such a feature could be built-in to the application, but in the meantime, where is the link to the people in the BBC who need to know what issues users are having?

  • Comment number 8.

    Took me all day to work throug the muddled and confused process of installing on linux. When I finally managed to download some programs they would not play as they were unavailable. How can something on my computer be unavailable.

    The iPlayer and its instructions and help are scattered all over your site. I suggest you streamline everything and make it more accessible.

  • Comment number 9.

    I fail to see why the BBC are creating this player at all. Essentially, while claiming to be public service and open, the BBC are embracing a proprietary technology (Air) and stifling competition by creating a closed player.
    Imagine if the broadcast division used a non-standard broadcast standard and produced their own Set Top Box for watching it. Quite rightly, that would be condemmed - yet when it comes to software, it is supported.
    This is quite simply wrong. By all means support broadcasting on the Internet, but do it by publishing your formats - even if you do have to support DRM.
    I, as a software developer, should have the option to create a player for BBC net content, exactly the same as I, as a hardware developer, am free to create a TV.
    I view this as especially bad that the BBC have invested considerable money in order to support less than 5% of PC users. I appreciate that Mac/Linux users make 90% of the noise, but that should not bother the BBC as a public service organisation.

  • Comment number 10.

    iPlayer is fantastic, and keeps getting better and better. Very much looking forward to the update in February to see what new features you can roll out. Us linux users are used to software that is constantly being developed and it's great to finally see iPlayer on my laptop, even in a Beta state.

    There's so much potential for the software to really take off and change the nature of television completely.

    BagEmk makes valid points about using closed-source and proprietary software, but I suppose the nature of DRM means it has to be done. I'm sure lots of iPlayer users are looking forward to the day we can download all of the BBC's past and present TV content completely DRM-free; after all, we do pay a £150 a year 'subscription'.

  • Comment number 11.

    " Some users told us that they didn't like P2P - it used their CPU, used their upload bandwidth, slowed their computer." My complaint precisely and I wrote to draw it to your attention. Whilst I am sure that a single voice did not sway your decision (rater than economics) I am still thankful, as I am for your adoption of platform neutrality. Not completely satisfied though, when will HD be available?

  • Comment number 12.

    Excellent news. Would everyone stop whining.

  • Comment number 13.

    Excellent work, and I do second the comment about whining.

    Any news on an Android implementation ? With 48 firms now signed up to the Open Handset Alliance an Android implementation could potentially have the widest reach on to mobile devices.

    The fact that I have a Google G1 is by the by !

  • Comment number 14.

    Excellent News! Have installed the BBC Iplayer Desktop and look forward to its development - glad you have made the switch from P2P which I found a bit painful on the Windows Platform.
    Running this on a MAC and glad youre working on so many options.
    Keep up the good and innovative work youre doing.

  • Comment number 15.

    All good... but why did you have to use the word "gotten"? Caused me shivers of annoyance before I've even had a coffee.

  • Comment number 16.

    It's all looking good - once the majority of shows are saved to the servers with the right keys for Mac/Linux downloads it'll be fab.

    So, higher resolution in time, which is nice. How about allowing we Mac users download in formats suitable for iPods? Other portable devices are supported, I note, so I'm hoping it'll just be a matter of time.


  • Comment number 17.

    BagEmk: I'm afraid your free software dogma is blinding you to the possibilities of pragmatism - so often the way.

    'stifling competition': Is there much demand to create competing and entirely different players and user experiences for iPlayer content? I don't think so. Who would that benefit, apart from the few software engineers who have the spare time to tinker with it?

    'I, as a software developer, should have the option to create a player for BBC net content, exactly the same as I, as a hardware developer, am free to create a TV' - You're comparing apples and oranges I'm afraid.

    And again - who would this benefit, apart from yourself and a few of your mates? Try and think about the several million license fee payers who don't know the first thing about MPEG4 containers and long GOP codecs and just want their online video to work, consistently, first time.

    The BBC appear to have made a pragmatic decision to utilise the only broadly cross-platform runtime solution to deliver its promise to support workable downloads for the vast majority of license fee payers where it is feasible, all whilst balancing the requirements of the content owners with DRM, and have gone out to the market to supply the underpinning technology that rather than spending millions of pounds of license fee money on reinventing the wheel. A sound decision in my view.

  • Comment number 18.

    The Iplayer seems to be a great start, I'm quite into this RIA malarky that seems to be almost all the rage at the moment...

    However, being the fussy customer that I am, I'd like an option to run the application alwaysInFront of other windows - so that I can watch and work at the same time!

    Also, it would be cool to be able to browse for content directly in the iplayer desktop application - also, and why not add streaming as well as downloading :)

    One negative point for me is that resizing the app when viewing video is slightly annoying.. I don't want it to snap the size of the application window to the width and height of the video!!

    Oh, resizing the video makes the video look pretty bad too, does it have video.smoothing = true ? (add an option in settings maybe?)

    Other than this - Cool, thanks!!

  • Comment number 19.

    When you say PC don't you mean Windows?

  • Comment number 20.

    Hmm. There is some interesting feedback to my comments.
    Let's be clear, I'm NOT in favour of the free software religion. I believe on this one it is the BBC that preach "free software". However, for them it means "supporting the Linux/Mac" - not supporting open source. At that point, the BBC become hypocritical and offer us a closed system.
    As a result, we're stuck with "The BBC iPlayer". No choices. No alternative interfaces. No support on any platform other than those the BBC decide are worthwhile.... and I think the BBC make those choices based upon very flawed criteria.
    Take the iPhone for example: they had support as soon as the iPhone launched in the UK. Why? There wasn't exactly a market. Even today, iPhone sales in the UK are pittifully small compared to anything else.
    Providing Linux support is all well and good, but it shouldn't be through this method. Linux guys promote open-source - then give them an Open Source solution.
    Public money should not be used to subsidise the minorities in this way. Sure provide a reference implementation on the most popular platform (Windows). But then stop.
    If this happened, and the BBC published protocols, then by now we'd have iPlayer content in Windows Media Centre, MythTV, on every PDA or smartphone... And we'd have a decent UI option that doesn't look like it was designed by a "fit as much on the screen" techie.
    We'd probably even have TVs and STB offering iPlayer services built in. Today, that can only happen with the BBC approval and as far as I know, only Virgin has that.
    Another concern is that this is going to get worse: the BBC now want to hook ITV, C4 etc into the same system.
    Choice? Fair use of public funds... Clearly not.

  • Comment number 21.

    Before, I complain I have been looking forward to this for ages.

    Sadly, yes you knew it was coming, I don't bleeding work.

    First, I am signed up for Labs, and I have the tech spec. The download of Air was damaged so I get a message, in essence, saying 'Sorry, it doesn't work. Find it somewhere else.' No link, nothing. Not an issue but for those doing this sort of thing for the first time it may be an issue.
    I download Air. Fine. Seems to be OK. Back to iP. Download the player. Seems to be OK.
    Not a bit of it. Total failure. Screen loads, but simply links to a blank screen.

    Uninstall. Download. Try again. No.

    I accept downloading can be go wrong, but the lack of info provided is rubbish if a user (viewer - what are we now?) was unsure of what to do. The Help page is not much help either.

    Off to try again. I know it is in Beta, but surely this has been tested beyond the MS beta (lack of) standard?

    I love iPlayer (can't remember the last time I used my TV for BBC1 and BBC2 as the reception is rubbish). Please fix it.

    By the by the way No 15. See Sat's Times for the background on gotten. Entirely useable.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hurrah. On the third download it seems to work. Downloading QI and listening to it (I would be watching but typing this.)
    As I said before, I love iPlayer.

  • Comment number 23.

    No. It downloads, but does not work - a comment I have read many time on forums this evening. will try again. It is a Beta... but seemingly not a very Beta Beta.

  • Comment number 24.

    A much more elegant solution using the excellent Adobe Air. I gave up using the download option because of the Windows Media format and the horrid P2P Kontiki client. I am however using this, and the future claims of downloading radio, favourites and pre-bookings are very welcome. I would love to see advanced features, such as signing in with your BBC account on a remote device such as a phone or a PC at work and enqueing it to download to your computer at home (push style) or maybe even registering your phone number with your BBC account, so you could display a code to text during a trailer for a show, that enqueues it to your PC there and then, or next time you open iPlayer Desktop.

    Whilst I don't like DRM, I realise without it, the license fee may double, and its an evil the BBC are trying their best to work around.

    However I would hope the TV guide will soon be accessible from inside the iPlayer Desktop App, maybe pre-caching so you can choose the show even when offline, and then download it when online again, instead of having to go to a web browser in order to find content. Rather large oversight for me, this one.

  • Comment number 25.

    Oh, and another feature to suggest.

    How about an option to open videos in a slimly chromed seperate window that can be left always on top? Many people will be watching content whilst working on other things, thats the nature of a multi-tasking PC. I'm having to use Power Menu to let me do this currently, but all the chrome cannot be hidden. Very frustrating.

  • Comment number 26.

    hmm, are you for real Anthony..... i already pay top wack for my VM bandwidth.
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12/23/iplayer_rose_isps/

    ".....
    The comments by the BBC's head of digital media technology Anthony Rose reopen a contentious debate about how to pay for the bandwidth consumed by iPlayer, which ISPs have complained strains their already marginal profit structures.

    Tiscali suggested that the BBC should pay ISPs to carry the traffic, while the Corporation played down the impact of the player's success.

    Now Rose has suggested that further improvements to the current 800Kbit/s top quality iPlayer streams may require ISP customers to pay more as part of a tiered service model.

    Within three months the BBC might offer streams at 1.5Mbit/s, he said, and suggested ISPs should charge customers more to receive them.

    ....."

    BTW , your so called linux Iplayer app DOES NOT work on PPC linux, such as the PS3 can use.....


    your saying we pay upto £10 for the service, we cant use, no way, AFAIK its not legal under Uk consumer contract law to charge for a service the customer cant actually access and use.

  • Comment number 27.

    I've tried the Mac client, and I'm sorry to say that I'll be sticking with… other solutions for downloading for the foreseeable future (and you can question the legality all you like, if I can record a significantly higher-quality stream straight from broadcast with a box sold for the purpose in Dixons, downloading iPlayer stuff is no worse—and that's putting it mildly, and yes, I am a license-fee payer, for what it's worth).

    The Mac client is terrible. No Mac UI guidelines to speak of have been followed. AIR can't upscale to a sensible resolution for toffee (unlike my Apple TV, or indeed QuickTime or VLC when playing back the H.264 versions designed for mobile devices), and in playing anything back it consumes a ridiculous amount of CPU resources.

    If it wasn't for the convenience of certain downloader tools, I'd either be (a) downloading from BitTorrent networks, where much of the interesting stuff is captured from BBC HD, and thus better quality than the broadcasts I receive, or (b) picking up a PVR whose recordings I can easily transcode to H.264.

    In essence, iPlayer downloads for anybody who really *cares* about any of this stuff, are being undersold by a wide margin by both the more illicit sector AND by consumer-grade kit that's been available for years. Hell, a VHS tape offers more flexibility and is arguably better quality than the AIR-based downloads.

    I have to ask, do you really think the iPlayer desktop app passes the "public value test" when it's put in context?

  • Comment number 28.

    I am glad you have moved away from P2P. I insisted on installing the previous download manager in a Virtual Machine because of all the rubbish it installed.

    On the other hand I will miss the Windows Media DRM - because it's Xbox 360 compatible.
    You could download a file, share it using Windows Media Player 11, and watch it on your 32 inch TV. It's great... and a shame it's going away. A great system that meets all the DRM requirements, it's 100% legal, almost "to good to be true" (well, it is now!)

    Without being able to watch downloads on my TV via Xbox, I fail to see the advantage over streaming. The extra quality won't be noticed on my laptop's screen. It's more a convenience option, for when the Net is busy.

    I would like to see some option for streaming/watching content on the 360, after all, Wii owners get this.

    I would also love to see a schedule option, so just like a tape recorder (remember them?), your favourite show will be ready to watch when you are. Many times I go out knowing I will miss a show, and therefore download it when I get home. Having iPlayer go off and fetch it for me would be great.

    So some nice improvements (no more P2P!) but some very sad losses. A mixed bag in my opinion.

  • Comment number 29.

    Still no downloads for us Mac G5 users, only newer Intel machines.

    Shame about that as I would have thought there were more G5 's than Intel Macs in use.

  • Comment number 30.

    blade82:

    Windows Media doesn't really meet the DRM requirements at all (or many other requirements for that matter). It's an entirely proprietary format and CODEC, with an entirely proprietary DRM system, and one which, as DRM schemes, is laughably inadequate (it takes 5 minutes with Google to find utilities which strip the DRM from WMVs successfully).

    On the other hand, you're on the same footing as the rest of us now, I suppose. Just as you can't watch iPlayer downloads on your set-top device (your XBox 360), neither can anybody else.

    The whole DRM thing is a red herring, really. If it was all about the content the BBC doesn't own itself, I'm not sure why it doesn't make the programming that it does available for download for seven days in unencumbered H.264 format—this doesn't give anybody anything they don't have already, aside from a massive amount of convenience (which is kind of the point of iPlayer, isn't it?)

    [Similarly, the "expensive license fees" argument is somewhat moot, as the iPlayer downloads are H.264 anyway, and virtually all modern devices support H.264 playback, including any computer which can run current versions of Flash, QuickTime, or the plethora of open source playback tools]

  • Comment number 31.

    Hi Anthony

    Sorry to hijack the topic, but like pippip99 I'm rather alarmed by your proposal that ISPs should be charging an iplayer fee on top of their standard broadband tariffs.

    Everyone involved is already paying for the bandwidth consumed by iplayer traffic - I pay for mine, my iplayer peers pay for theirs and you (the BBC) presumably pay for yours. ISPs are holding an untenable position: that they should somehow be compensated for the mysterious practice of their customers using the bandwidth that they've purchased.

    This is nonsensical - if I'm paying for 50GB per month my ISP has no grounds for complaining when I use it, whether the majority comes from iplayer, youtube, online gaming or whatever else takes my fancy. If I'm paying for an 'unlimited' connection the ISP had better damn well make sure that the price they charge me reflects the burden I will impose on their infrastructure.

    Bottom line: ISPs in general have created their pricing structures in the expectation that customers will consume far less bandwidth than they're entitled to. Services like iplayer are invalidating these expectations. The solution is not for the BBC or the consumer to pay an additional iplayer tax; the solution is for the ISPs to get their house in order, adjust their business model to fit reality and stop making promises that they can't fulfil.

    (A final thought: in any sane industry, an jump in demand for a service would be cause for celebration and bonuses all round. In the ISP industry it's apparently cause for dismay and demands for recompense. Something here is clearly broken, but it's got nothing to do with iplayer.)

  • Comment number 32.

    "The whole DRM thing is a red herring, really. If it was all about the content the BBC doesn't own itself, I'm not sure why it doesn't make the programming that it does available for download for seven days in unencumbered H.264 format?"

    Because it doesn't own any content entirely at all to all intents and purposes.

    Phazer

  • Comment number 33.

    The_Phazer:

    I'm not sure it's as black-and-white as that. Certainly, BBCW is concerned about other markets, but that's why there are IP restrictions in place (which aren't at all related to the DRM), but my reading of this over the past year or so is that it's the likes of Endemol and Kudos that are demanding the DRM, rather than BBC Worldwide (which I think has the lion's share of content ownership aside from the BBC itself).

    But again, all of the content being 'protected' is freely broadcast in the UK without any protection whatsoever, using formats, protocols and communications architectures which anybody with sufficient skills and money to buy parts can implement—be it analogue or digital, radio or TV. The protection afforded by iPlayer DRM is roughly akin to adding triple-bolts to your front door but having gaping holes where your windows should be; and the latter isn't going to change any time soon, because attempting to restrict who can manufacture TVs and radios would be commercial suicide.

  • Comment number 34.

    "I'm not sure it's as black-and-white as that."

    It really is. Even for in house BBC made shows, a significant chunk of the copyright isn't owned by the BBC. For example, Top Gear - the background music isn't owned by the BBC, it's owned by the music majors. If the BBC want to use it they have to licence it, and if they want that licence to be for permanent copies it'll cost a dozen times what it does now. The copyright in an actor's performance is effectively held in trust by Equity, who want more money for permanent copies (which is why DVD's aren't free). Writers retain their copyright. Programmes using photographs licence them from Corbis et al. The weather data comes from the Met Office, not the BBC.

    This goes on and on and on. The BBC owns 100% of *no* programme it transmits to the nearest percentage point.

    And be careful what you wish for with the "analogue hole" - there is already space in the DVB spec for a do not record flag. It is much more likely this will be turned on than the DRM on iPlayer will ever go anywhere allowing for permanent copies. Much, much more.

    Phazer

  • Comment number 35.

    Having championed P2P for so long, I'll bet the decision to shelve it was tough for you.

    Wishing you well for 2009!

  • Comment number 36.

    The_Phazer:

    You raise some extremely good points, but broadcast television and radio isn't broadcast licensed for permanent copies either, and we all know that flipping the 'do not record' flag would be an utterly worthless exercise (the copyright notice at the end of a programme’s credits has, on balance, more use than the technological methods are ever likely to be).

    In little over a decade, I've watched the web change from something nobody except a select few friends knew about to something where people look at you funny if they think you're not familiar with it. Alongside that, there's been a slow growth in usage of it by broadcasters and content producers as they realise that it could be quite an import medium to them and their consumers.

    As that happened, though, somebody—who was either greedy or not the sharpest tool in the box—had this notion that giving people the same level of access to content via new media as they had come to expect previously would somehow be dangerous, even though these efforts were thoroughly undermined by the rights the consumers had already and by the somewhat nefarious activities of some which had a significant head-start on the legitimate distribution.

    The *big* problem with this is, over time, as new technologies are embraced and older ones are phased out (e.g., VHS), this misguided fear is used as a justification for a trade-off: one bit of new tech gives you higher quality pictures, for example, but sneaks in a do-not-record flag. another lets you encode video in a pretty efficient and standardised way which makes it suitable for mass-distribution to the public, but wraps it up in a DRM scheme which means the whole thing only works if you're running certain bits of proprietary software on certain operating systems on certain platforms and anything else needs to be negotiated and developed from scratch. All of the flexibility the new technologies bring are fantastic, but there's nothing intrinsic to them which means it *has* to be a trade-off: this is all conscious decisions by the producers and distributors. This is not how it's supposed to work (and, for what it's worth, you never heard about DRM and do-not-record flags when all of this stuff was getting talked up on Horizon in the 90s, did you?)

    The point is this: what, _exactly_, in technical terms, would limited-time (e.g., 7-day catch-up) releases of downloadable video in an open-standard format without DRM actually allow people to do that they can't currently besides the stated aim of catch-up of missed programmes, which is clearly in the interests of both the distributor (hello, accurate viewing figures) as well as the consumer? What would non-DRM downloads give me that VHS wouldn't?

    Do people really think that anybody would be bothered waiting the several hours for iPlayer downloads to go live before swiftly seeding them on BitTorrent networks for non-UK residents to leech? No, they record direct from broadcast and seed that, instead. It's quicker and more convenient for very little cost. Do you think a do-not-record flag would prevent that, too? Not likely, as it's ultimately just a flag: if you can watch it, you can record it, and respecting the flag is purely a matter of convention (and nobody actually knows which devices out there really would respect it and which would ignore it). Getting the content is trivial enough—and will realistically remain that way for a very long time—that the availability of iPlayer downloads to those intent on distributing programmes illegally is a matter of total irrelevance.

    But that doesn't address the 'permanent license' issues. Mind you, the ability of consumers for the past two decades to record broadcast programmes to a small, conveniently portable (and easy-to-exchange) medium didn't pose a huge problem for Equity in the long run, either. Which do you think it's easier for the average guy in the street to do—swap iPlayer downloads, or swap VHS tapes or DVD-Rs? By the logic of the proponents of iPlayer DRM, the 80s and 90s should have sounded the death knell of the BBC and the music industry. In actual fact, the 80s and 90s saw the production of some of the best BBC programming and most popular music ever released. The fact that people did occasionally swap tapes did no harm at all to the BBC (and indeed, probably helped it from time to time—not that they'd admit that). There is no conceptual difference in this context between recording to VHS, DVD, PVR or iPlayer downloading (with the exception that you have to remember to do it in advance with the first three, and have 7 days or so afterwards to do it with the latter), and there aren't any inherent floodgates that DRM-free downloads would throw open because that all happened 20 years ago or so.

  • Comment number 37.

    nevali:

    It seems like double standards to me. A few thousand Mac users complain they can only stream, rather than download and the whole thing gets changed to the detriment of many other users.

    Let's face it, ALL DRM can be stripped if you can be bothered and have the time (although Vista makes it a lot harder with DRM at the driver level). This doesn't stop the BBC streaming in QuickTime format for iPhones, of which there are numerous ways to capture and save to disk (DRM free).

    What about XBox 360 owners that want to be able to do what Wii owners can do?
    They may not be as vocal as the Mac users (of which many work in the media).
    I used to use a Mac, I know that feeling of having some stuff not work (it was a lot worse back then, circa 2002), but hey I chose a Mac that was my informed decision (incidently, I am now a Windows programmer, so I've switched sides and not looked back.)

    I appreciate the BBC can't please everyone, and I am glad to see the back of P2P. However it seems like the BBC feel they have to back away from Microsoft technologies to look P.C. If one console gets streaming, then others should. It's as simple as that. If FreeView only worked with Sony boxes, we would rightly complain.

    The solution is simple, offer both. Scrap the P2P, but offer an option to "download for XBox 360" like the BBC do for the Nokia N96. Apart from the extra resources placed on Microsoft's encoding CPUs, what downsides are there to this?

  • Comment number 38.

    Time to stop debating. Consumers want

    - DRM-free downloads
    - Formats they can play: almost universally H264 which is the new broadcast standard for all platforms from HD to mobile phones

    So, BBC, get on our side and provide this. If this means a battle with Equity, go to it. And get the Government and the law on our side.

  • Comment number 39.

    syganymede:
    DRM Free won't happen because the rights holders fear it would eat into DVD sales.

    It would be like a radio station offering up free MP3 files of all the songs they played. Not going to happen is it?

    If you want DRM Free, then get yourself a £20 TV Tuner, plug it into any computer (I recommend Vista if you want to be able to transcode using Movie Maker, for free)

    I know it's stupid, but with a £20 device you can record all the TV you want, and transcode it into Divx, WMV, MOV, for your iPod, Xbox, Zune, PDA - you name it, you could even take out the audio and make a podcast.

    iPlayer is just more convenient. It's a LOT quicker to download a file than transcode it.

    All I am saying is the BBC should offer the same options to all groups of users. Macs, PCs, Wiis, iPods, N95s, the XBox 360. If it works for one, it should work for all of them.

  • Comment number 40.

    It would be useful to be able to track downloads made from multiple devices used by the same user.

    ie I have laptop, 2 desktops at home, another one used by my teenage son & 2 nokia phones. Would be nice to know what's downloaded where... at at least to maintain some form of user-specific history so it would be really easy to stream/download same progs on a different device (even nicer to resume from same place).

  • Comment number 41.

    First off: Hooray for the BBC!

    Secondly, *please* can you use a mobile-download DRM which will enable me to sideload (or even better download directly!) to my N95-8GB

    Thirdly, when are you going to update the Playstation 3 version of Iplayer, so that also includes downloads?

  • Comment number 42.

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

  • Comment number 43.


    Infuriating.

    Every publishing industry has had to suffer to learn that DRM does not work.

    It punishes honest users in the name of stopping the few.

    The few that want to beat it, will simply beat it. No DRM can not be gotten around. The music and movie industry continue to waste time, money and peoples frustration making life difficult for people that aren't doing anything wrong.

    My frustration? I, like MANY spend a lot of time abroad where the iPlayer would be of huge value... but... no.

    Adobe Air is a HORRIBLE platform. It's clunky and proprietary.

    The web version is pretty awesome, but the Adobe Air thing is lazy and clunky.


    Despite all that... it's terrific the BBC and people working on it are leading the way with innovation rather than digging a hole and pretending that we won't be watching all our TV via the data pipes into our houses.

  • Comment number 44.

    Read the info below and love the idea but I can't get the Linux one working anyone got tips to help?

    When we launched BBC iPlayer back in Dec 2007, it has been available for streaming on Window, Mac and Linux computers. But if you wanted to download our TV programmes , well, that was PC only. Obviously that wasn't a satisfactory arrangement, and making our downloads available on Mac and Linux has been a major priority for us.

    Today, we're really pleased to announce that BBC iPlayer downloads are now available for Mac and Linux as well, thanks to our new Adobe AIR-powered download manager, which we've named BBC iPlayer Desktop.

 

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