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BBC iPlayer: New Mobile Website in beta

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Richard Titus Richard Titus | 15:31 UK time, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Hello all,

As you may have read in the press by now I've been promoted to a new role at the BBC; Future Media Controller, Audio & Music and Mobile.

My new remit includes a lot of the products and services I worked on extensively in my old role running User Experience. One of the most exciting projects I collaborated on with Matthew Postgate (former Controller of Mobile, now Controller Research & Innovation) was the BBC iPlayer on mobile. We launched the 1st version of this on the iPhone back in June; the second version was on the Nokia N96 which launched on 1 October.

We have just launched a new portal for BBC iPlayer on mobile which includes live TV and radio alongside our catch up services. This work was done with design agency Fjord collaborating with our internal design and technology teams. The portal is initially available on the Samsung Omnia and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 with the Sony Ericsson C905 by the end of next week. We will be extending the portal out to other compatible devices in the coming weeks.

Jon Billings, Head of Technology for Mobile for the BBC and a member of my new management team has written the blog below.

Richard Titus is Future Media Controller, Audio and Music & Mobile, BBC Future Media & Technology

December Mobile BBC iPlayer update - our new browser service.

We have just released a new mobile BBC iPlayer website in Beta.

The existing iPhone site and Nokia application will continue and the new site will complement them by providing a platform to support a wider range of mobile phones. The URL is still going to be www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer and our system will figure out which device you are on and will redirect you accordingly.

jon_billings.jpgThe new site has a familiar look, but actually introduces a new navigation and a few new features. It is organised in three main tabs - 'Catchup', 'TV' and 'Radio'. Catchup is where all the on demand content from the last 7 days can be found with sections for: featured, most popular, by genre and by channel; which is similar to the existing offering. The TV and Radio tabs offer access to 'Live' BBC TV & Radio, with a simple 'now and next' view of all channels.

Initially the new site will only support a couple of additional handsets - the Samsung Omnia and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 but this will continue to grow with the Sony Ericsson C905 due next week and more in the coming months (stay tuned for details). The Samsung Omnia and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 are Windows Mobile based - but this is a coincidence!

mobile_iplayer_logo.jpgThese phones have been selected as they hit our requirements of Wi-Fi and 3G support with great browsing and media playback experience (i.e. the video and audio look and sound good), and its also great to broaden our platform support out to Windows Mobile smartphones as well as our first feature phone offering on the C905.

The new site is built on the BBC's new PHP based dynamic web publishing platform.

This gives us more flexibility with respect to customising content to specific devices and so should allow us to reach a broader range of phone platforms than we can with the system we use for the iPhone & Nokia N96 offerings.

Here are some more technical details.

The new site uses the existing simulcast audio and video encodings from the Live TV & Radio site launched in October, and will use the existing TV on-demand encodings produced for the Nokia N96 widget. This brings me to a temporary deficiency in the new offering - the existing radio on-demand encodings aren't compatible with the devices we're supporting in the new site. We're working on producing new Radio on-demand encodings and we'll be adding them in just as soon as we can.

This month we have also added a parental guidance and protection facility which works by setting a PIN code. This feature builds on the content labelling/tick box for over sixteen's capabilities which were already in place.

Lastly, a brief update on the Nokia application - we're adding support immediately for the Nokia N85 and we're looking at one or two more future Nokia devices too. Feature wise, it'll be largely as for the existing N96 offering, with a few minor additions. Of course we won't just be restricting ourselves to just one manufacturer's devices; we are very keen to roll out further BBC iPlayer applications and widgets with other partners and we will continue to keep you informed on our progress.

It's been a busy month already and we are only half way through!

Jon Billings is Head of Technology, Mobile, BBC Future Media & Technology.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The iplayer will work on EXISTING Nokia mobiles like the N95 8GB and E71, not just the N96, N85 and FUTURE Nokia mobiles. Come on BBC give us what we want and open the iplayer to N95 8GB & E71 users.

    I had v1.0 of the iplayer working great on my N95 8GB before you updated it and restricted access to certain models.

  • Comment number 2.

    The iPlayer works great on my HTC Touch Cruise (Windows Mobile 6.1) with the Skyfire browser installed - it also works for mobile downloads as well.

  • Comment number 3.

    RE: #2
    Cheers for the tip about the Skyfire browser - looks awesome! Unfortunately on the iPlayer website with Skyfire it thinks I'm outside the UK and so won't play the TV content.

  • Comment number 4.

    #3

    That's probably an issue with your mobile ISP - check with your operator as your IP address might not be in the UK DB.

  • Comment number 5.

    Will iPlayer be coming to the BlackBerry platform? The Bold and Storm have excellent video capability and this would make them ever better.

  • Comment number 6.

    Will the iPhone site eventually migrate to the new one, including live TV streaming?

  • Comment number 7.

    One more vote for Blackberry compatibility.

    If you haven't looked at them recently, their modern media capabilities are superb with almost every review of the Bold and Storm mentioning the exceptional clarity of their screens.

    With fast CPUs, support for streaming media protocols and massive popularity, this is a platform you should definitely consider!

  • Comment number 8.

    The new sites doesn't recognise my Google G1 from T-Mobile, which is a great shame.

  • Comment number 9.

    What about support for the HTC Touch HD. I know this is a new handset but its just won PC Pro magazines best smartphone.

    In the xda developers forum there are many posts for the brillian iplayer app so that we can take advantage of the 3.8 screen.

    I'll keep trying.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ashley - if you look at my post above - install the Skyfire browser and you'll be able to use the iPlayer streaming service on your HTC Touch HD.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hello. Great to hear you're doing the mobile thing with iPlayer..!

    I'd love to see it on my new Xperia X1... but it doesn't work!! =0(

    I go to www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer as instructed, but don't get the three tabs - just a really long, ugly page... !

    Looks like the normal page, mangled in the traditional IE manner.

    Just thought you should know!

    Good luck ironing out the bugs. I'll try again tomorrow... =0)

    Duncan Cragg

  • Comment number 12.

    Duncan,

    Try bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer That should work.

    Nick

  • Comment number 13.

    So what about the many, many people with Nokia N95 and N95 8Gb handsets. These are not defunct, old handsets - they are still being produced and sold.

    There must be thousands more of these out there than any of the handsets listed above - and the Sony C905 has much worse video potential - having a smaller screen for a start.

    The priority should be to make support for the N95s and other similar handsets which are currently in mass circulation on the iplayer portal.

    And then it should be too provide support for these handsets in the S60 iplayer application - (I understand that there are DRM issues that prevent many S60 models from being able to deal with the requisite secuity for downloading programmes- that is another topic entirely... so I will save my rant on that) - but at least provide support for streaming over Wifi AND 3.5g GPRS - put in a disclaimer about it being intensive on data use if you need to.

    Currently, Nokia users (except the N96 and so it seems soon-to-be the N85) are struggling to get around these manufactured problems by hacking the S60 app so it works as they desire on their handsets - with varying degrees of success.

    A cynical person would think that the BBC is somehow benefitting from providing support to brand new handsets that are currently flavour of the month. First the N96 with all the BBC branded advertising from Nokia all over TV and the billboards - and now the newer Sony and Samsung models too?

    What about supporting the most widely used, capable handsets as a priority?

  • Comment number 14.

    Yes, please add the T-mobile G1 a.s.a.p!

  • Comment number 15.

    cia00wpn: As the BBC have stated before there are user experience issues in the design of the N95's and older S60 devices that make it very difficult to offer this service without providing an unacceptable risk that people will run up huge bills. Specifically the RealPlayer access point settings will override the currently selected access point meaning that even if you think you're using WiFi you could actually be using 3G and running up a massive bill especially since streaming video is not included in most 'unlimited' data plans.

    In the N96 and onward this setting was changed so that RealPlayer uses the browser's access point when streaming. Communicating about this setting, it's obscure location and poor explanation would result in a really bad experience and no matter how it was communicated people will always ignore it and blame the BBC even though the 'problem' is an unexpected interaction between Nokia and the mobile operators current business model.

    There is no conspiracy. The BBC wants audiences as large as possible for all their programmes! Hopefully they'll find a way with Nokia and the operators to fix this but I suspect it won't be quick and might need BBC Trust approval like this.

  • Comment number 16.

    The more I think about it, the more frustrating it gets - so I am going to rant now despite my earlier comment!

    WHY is there DRM on iPlayer downloads?

    WHO is reponsible for this?

    All of the programming on iPlayer has been previously shown on broadcast TV / radio, correct?

    When it is broadcast, any one with the right equipment (VCR, DVD Recorder, Freeview+ box, Sky+ box, PC with TV tuner card) can record any of the TV programming AND KEEP IT FOR AS LONG AS THEY WANT, AND WATCH IT BACK AS MANY TIMES AS THEY WANT.

    WHY IS IPLAYER DIFFERENT?

    CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME.

  • Comment number 17.

    Nick - I understand your points and agree that it wouldn't be ideal in terms of the S60 application on the slightly older handsets. However, the iPlayer S60 app (v. 1.5) has been known to work flawlessly on some N95 8Gb handsets (excepting of course of playing back downloads) over wifi and 3G, WITHOUT ANY HACKS.

    So if that risk is there, then it already exists. A cover all disclaimer about data use with a tick box on launcing the app is all that is needed in my view. 'The BBC will not be responsible for data charges as a consquence of using the application, do you agree'? (or words to that effect).

    But, and this was the first and main point of my post, given that there is this known issue with the older S60 handsets, and given that the BBC must surely be aware of the demand for the service from users of these handsets - why have they not chosen to provide support for them at least throught the new web portal route.

  • Comment number 18.

    Stop moaning... a field trial in June.... implementation in October... extending the 'approved' options of devices rapidly, allowing non approved options to function and allow them be to reported them on here (subject to the risk of updates wrecking them) seems a pretty good record to me given the BBC commitment to as wide a mobile offering as feasible. Let's not deter Jo.
    and his team sharing with us what they are up to and to offer support and suggestions and even help... After all Channel 4 can't even deliver TV to Macs and ITV have hardly started.
    However the mention of Blackberry does raise an interesting point. BB is a business device and needs a business Flash service. Time for BBC WW the BBC's commercial arm to get in on the act and offer a paid for business service. even if it is an agglomeration from the business
    press of relevant vids.

    Richard and Joe should give em a ring!

  • Comment number 19.

    come on richard, get with the program, why didnt you just put up a multicast tunnel on all your webside servers to bypass the antiquated ISP's and supply a simple point to multipoint client to connect to your generic multicast tunnel, then fed the long standing Multicast AVC.H.264 widescreen video in to that most basic tunnel..

    that way we get to finally take part on some real innovation ,get away from the antiquated Unicast and Everyone saves vase amounts of bandwidth along the way....

    Ohhh and we WANT real direct URLs to the content OR at least an easy way to get the direct URL to the curent server you want us to use atthat give time....

    come on lad, whats wrong with you BBC techs, get with the plan and give us direct URL feeds and multicast ,even if thats through a tunnel to bypass the likes of Virgin media and BT ISPs....

  • Comment number 20.

    gerrymoth - version 1.0 of the S60 iPlayer for the N95 8GB, E71 etc can be found for download on the web - a google search should come back with a few links in forums etc.

    Alternativley, it is possible to edit version 1.5 to allow use on devices other than the N96... similarly, a google search will return instruction on how to do this.

    Given that this is possible - I don't see why the BBC can't implement it in a more user friendly manner to allow mobile gprs access. at the moment what's to stop people going down this route, potentially running up big data bills and then blaming the BBC for it anyway?

    Please Richard, Matthew et al, consider adding a disclaimer to the S60 widget at launch and then make availble for all S60 devices.

    At least can we have some reasoning why that isnt implemented.

  • Comment number 21.

    cping500 - the subtle, but ever so important, difference with the BBC is the 'unique way in which it is funded'.

    Priority ought to go to those devices which are most widespread and capable.

    I recall an ealier iplayer blog post stating the that reason why development of iplayer accces on Nintendo Wii had been given a priorty was because of the fact that the Wii was (is?) the most popular console in the UK. (Although it questionale how many of those Wiis are actually connected to internet)

    Shouldn't that rationale also apply when deciding which handsets to roll this new portal out to first...?

  • Comment number 22.

    Delighted that iPlayer finally works officially on the PS3.

    Are there plans to add a fullscreen button? The recent PS3 firmware updated added support for full-screen flash video, so I'd like to see that added to the iPlayer.

    At the moment, every 10mins or so you have to flick a button on the remote (or controller) to get the screen to light up again as it goes into powersave. And of course, the progress bar is always visible at the bottom...

    Don't want to sound like I'm complaining though, still very happy!

  • Comment number 23.

    Is the iPlayer ever going to be available on the T-Mobile G1?

  • Comment number 24.

    Paul - if you haven't already, can I recommend you try visiting www.ps3iplayer.com on you PS3 browser. You should find the picture will feel the screen when you click the R3 button, plus you have the option of a much better quality stream by selecting high quality before you start watching.

    Incidentally, this version has been available for months already.

  • Comment number 25.

    *fill the screen

  • Comment number 26.

    It is realy unfortunate to see that T-Mobile G1 is still not supported.
    At least, we should have a tentative date by when the service should be avilable.

  • Comment number 27.

    Does anyone or can anyone get this working on a Nokia 5800 Xpressmusic for me?

    I am rubbish at changing the file!!

    Let me know

    Thanks

    Mike

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi,

    I just checked www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer from my iPod Touch and didn't get the live TV option?

    I love being able to catch up on BBC progs on my Touch.

    When will it be available on the iPod/iPhone platform.

    Mike

  • Comment number 29.

    Just tried on with my X1 but get the message that the iplayer does not work on the vodafone network??.. whats all that about?...

    The majority of users will have the xperia on the vodafone network a :

    A) They were the first to have the model to sell
    B) They sell the much more popular black model
    C) They have the best 3G coverage in the UK...

    can you give many of us on the VF network an understanding to what the issues are?...

    Of course I will give the connection through wi-fi later but I hope this is resolved as vodafone does cover streaming data (but only 500MB) which could be used in emergancy....

    Cheers

  • Comment number 30.

    Touch HD device support would be really nice. With a screen bigger and better than iphone, it is a good way to display iPlayer's mobile capabilities.

    It would be even better to have a BBC iplayer application for windows mobile similar to the YouTube application bundled with Touch HD. With Windows Mobile it should also work over 3G as the case with the YouTube application. This will make it really easy to add Windows Mobile support rather adding support for each device separately.

  • Comment number 31.

    I have an N96, and have used the iPlayer app a number of times. It's a great capability.

    Some comments though

    a) I was unable to watch a downloaded program on an external display -- a shame as I'd downloaded a prog to my phone, half watched on public transport, and thought I'd finish up with my feet up in front of the sofa, N96 plugged in.

    Sadly I suspect DRM is to blame.. Slightly strange though when there's no problem playing back a prog downloaded with the PC appication and recording video out?

    b) Does the symbian app auto-update? When you say N85 support added immediately. presumably there is/will soon be an upate that N96 users would also benefit from

    c) An easier way to "clean up" expired download recordings would be very welcome

  • Comment number 32.

    As others have asked (but had no reply). Please can you tell us when the iphone will migrate to this new interface.

    We're all itching to use the live streaming.

  • Comment number 33.

    T-mobile G1? Please?

  • Comment number 34.

    Mobile iPlayer version 1.60

    Yesterday, my daughter was offered an iPlayer update from the BBC.

    She updated her N95 8GB and the install advised her to overwrite the old version. Sadly, she trusted that advice.

    Now iPlayer works but doesn't show any programs for viewing.

    Has the N95 has been written out of iPlayer 1.60 scripts again?

  • Comment number 35.

    brianlj - I don't think the N95 is officially supported for the iPlayer. See this blog post. But I'll check if anything has changed.

  • Comment number 36.

    @Nick Yes, I see that back in Oct 08 the Beeb were still talking about looking to add 'legacy support' for the N95 and I think it's a shame it hasn't as yet been officially provided.

    My daughter's hardly a techno-geek but even she knows how to ensure she's WiFi-ing and not 3G-ing -- which appears to be the Beeb's main reason for not providing support for the N95.

    And, I might add, that support would be for an extremely popular handset which is still being sold. (I'm not going to stress the point that the Beeb *is* supporting a selection of phones which are any/all of: slower, less battery life & with a smaller screen.)

    She quite rightly pointed out that with most contracts for high-end phones now being 18 months or more, she's going to have to sit with a a 'dud' phone for the best part of a year before she can swap to the latest and greatest.

    But what really gets her goat is the fact that the Beeb site logged her and her N95 in, and then suggested she upgrade iPlayer -- to a version which subsequently didn't work!

    "That's just mean!"

  • Comment number 37.

    I have updated my BBC iplayer on my N95 8gb and it will not work now.

    I am aware that others are having the same problems - is anything being done to fix this?

  • Comment number 38.

    Please provide support for the blackberry platform as it supports both 3G and wifi. It also has an excellent screen.

  • Comment number 39.

    Sorry forgot to mention the blackberry Bold has the above

  • Comment number 40.

    Want to be able to listen again anytime to Judge Jules when I'm at the gym. Must be 3G as gym has no Wi-Fi. Is the N96 only mobile device that has on demand function? What other phones coming out that will let me listen again anytime? Is it then possible to bluetooth from device to a set of bluetooth in-ear headphones? Smaller the device the better when working out at the gym.

    Many thanks,

  • Comment number 41.

    charmingmojito - Here's a link to information about the different devices you can get iPlayer on.

  • Comment number 42.

    Thanks for the reply Nick,

    Will there be a device soon that uses 3G to get the on demand service? The gym I go to does not have WiFi.
    I have WiFi at home so would use my PC or Playstation to connect to the iPlayer.

    Thanks again,

  • Comment number 43.

    @Nick : Any word on support for the N95 ?

    Or, if not support, how about at least removing the blocks that have been put in its way?

    That way, all the existing N95 users who seem to have been now shut out of iPlayer with this latest 'upgrade' (!) can get back to what they used to have.

    Or, failing that, how about posting a link to the previous version of the iPlayer app (the one which got overwritten -- *on the BBC''s advice!*) so that we can revert to something which works perfectly well?

    Pretty please? :)

  • Comment number 44.

    *bump*

    Nick Richards seems to have moved on.

    Hello Richard Titus or Jon Billings?

    Would you like to review the comments on this blog and then give us your thoughts on retaining iPlayer access for the N95?

    We're all still waiting here... :)

  • Comment number 45.

    I'm afraid brianlj that the N95 is still not supported for the reasons that have already been given.

  • Comment number 46.

    @Nick
    (Apologies for getting your name wrong)

    Okay, if the BBC are determined not to provide 'support' for the very popular and extremely widespread N95 (which uses the British Symbian software*), how about providing a link to the previous iPlayer (the one which *did* work with the N95) so that those who wished and deemed themselves sufficiently competent to switch between WiFi and 3G access would be able to install that and save themselves the cost of another phone.

    Any chance? A quick URL? I won't tell anyone. ;)

    Cheers.

    Footnote
    ---------
    *. Not, of course, that I'm wishing to indulge in protectionist policies, but it does seem a bit perverse of the Beeb to not support their own country. It is, after all, the *British* Broadcasting Corporation!

  • Comment number 47.

    I am unable to stream the iplayer by wifi, using a Sony Ericsson C905. However, I can stream it on Vodafone's 3G network. I have tried both browsing to www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer and www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer but neither works for me. My outer is the BT Homehub. Has anyone else the same problem or could suggest a solution please? Thanks, Tony

  • Comment number 48.

    Could you advise whether iplayer is going to be available on Nokia E71?

    I'm not interested in streaming - I would like to be able to download at home and sideload onto the mobile to watch the programme during my commute.

    And while I'm asking, are you intending to make it compatible with the Nokia N97 when it comes out?

    Thanks.

  • Comment number 49.

    To #48 re: E71 (and to earlier posts asking for more detail about the N95)

    We're in the same situation with the Nokia E71 as with the N95, in that it doesn't automatically carry over network connection settings (ie. 3G or WiFi) to the device's media player. The default setting for the media player on these devices is 3G.

    This means that even after someone has chosen to use WiFi to browse BBC iPlayer, as soon as they start to stream video, the phone will use a 3G connection - unless the user has specifically gone into the media player and changed their settings. Most people wouldn't be aware that this could be a problem, so won't know that they need to change their settings, even if they were comfortable doing so (which many people aren't).

    This gives us two problems: Firstly, if the media player switches from WiFi to 3G after someone has clicked 'play', iPlayer will try to play a higher quality version of the programme file, which would work fine over WiFi but will buffer or refuse to play over 3G. Secondly, and more significantly, we can't take the risk of people unknowingly running up large 3G bills using BBC iPlayer - which is meant to be a free service.

    We're actively working on a solution for this. Unfortunately it's not a straightforward issue so I can't tell you how long this will take, or how soon we'll have a working version of iPlayer for these phones. We're doing all we can, though!

    Alice
    BBC Mobile team

  • Comment number 50.

    I got an N96 specifically because it does internet radio

    but blow me down, it looks like the bbc wont allow it to function outside UK, even though using the very same wifi routed broadband connection I can listen with an internet radio or using my PC. This makes no sense.

    Is it me or ?

  • Comment number 51.

    To #50

    It's not just you, I'm afraid.

    We can't show TV content outside the UK for rights reasons. Although our live radio content isn't subject to the same restrictions (as you may know, it can be played through a desktop PC), our mobile streaming servers are configured for the UK only.

    We're unlikely to change the servers in the near future - partly because it would be extremely expensive to do so, but also because there are still a lot of people within the UK who can't yet get BBC iPlayer on their phones and we'd rather focus our efforts on those people first.

    Alice
    BBC Mobile team

  • Comment number 52.

    @Alice (#49)

    Thanks for the explanation - the first comprehensive one I've heard here.

    {sigh}

    Okay... how about a DOG in, say, the top-right corner with either "3G" or "Wi"? iPlayer knows which connection it's using, so that shouldn't be too hard at all.

  • Comment number 53.

    Hi BBC Mobile Team

    Do you have an ETA on IPlayer for the google Android handsets e.g. the HTC Hero handset, or TMobile G1?

    Video playback is fantastic on both these handsets, and both support Wifi & 3G.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 54.

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

  • Comment number 55.

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

  • Comment number 56.

    There are a number of posts here asking if and when iplayer will be available for Blackberry devices, yet I can't see a specific response. Blackberry devices are now massively popular in the UK and are technically more than capable of supporting the iplayer.

    Could you also comment on whether or not the BBC receives any form of financial contribution from the manufacturers of the currently supported handsets towards development costs.

    Response please......

    William.

  • Comment number 57.

    Please can you post a response to the question "Do you have an ETA for iPlayer on Android, specifically the HTC Hero". Thanks.

 

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