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New version of BBC iPlayer for PS3 now available

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Anthony Rose Anthony Rose | 11:05 UK time, Monday, 7 September 2009

(This blog post is about a web-based version of BBC iPlayer launched in 2009. You may also be interested in the BBC iPlayer application for PS3, designed for the remote control in the living room, that was launched August 8th 2011 - inserted Ian McDonald 12 Aug 2011)

Good news for PS3 owners - last week we released an updated version of iPlayer that offers improved video quality and an enhanced user interface.

We first released a version of iPlayer for PS3 about a year ago. It worked pretty well, but back then the PS3 used an older version of Flash that didn't support H.264 playback and didn't support full-screen mode, which somewhat limited the playback experience we could provide.

A few months ago Sony released an updated version of Flash that provided support for H.264 content. However, that version of Flash was still unable to play back our higher quality streams at the full frame rate of 25fps.

Since then, Sony have done a great job of enhancing the PS3's Flash playback experience, and the latest V3.0 firmware update now includes hardware acceleration in full-screen mode, allowing for a substantial improvement in the playback experience.

Over the past year, we've also done a lot of tuning and enhancements to our iPlayer video encoding, including adding a new 1500Kbps "SD quality" format. Put the two together and the result is an iPlayer on PS3 with brilliant video quality - almost as good as broadcast television!

As part of the V3.0 firmware update, Sony have added a big iPlayer icon to the PS3's cross-media bar, giving easy one-click access to iPlayer:

ps3_blog_01_600.jpg

As well as optimising the video quality, we've also optimised our "designed for TV viewing" BigScreen interface in a new larger size to take advantage of the extra real estate offered on high-def displays:

iPlayer BigScreen interface on 576p screens
ps3_blog_02_411.jpg


iPlayer BigScreen interface on 720p and 1080p screens

ps3_blog_03_600.jpg

You can see these two interfaces in action by going to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/bigscreen in your regular browser, then resizing your browser window larger or smaller to simulate our BigScreen interface at various PS3 resolutions. You'll see the interface automatically resize itself to the large size once your browser width reaches 1280 pixels (the best way to experience our BigScreen interface on a PC is to hit F11 to maximise your browser window).

By the way, you can experience our BigScreen version of iPlayer on your PC as well - just head over to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/bigscreen on any computer. Connect your computer's video out to your TV set and use our BigScreen interface to play your favourite programmes on demand from the comfort of your couch.

Finally, some iPlayer on PS3 tips and tricks:

1. If the iPlayer icon doesn't appear in the XMB
Some users have reported that the iPlayer icon hasn't appeared after they've installed the V3.0 firmware update, so if you're not seeing the iPlayer icon here's what to do:

  • Sign up for the PSN network (it's free) using a UK address, which seems to be a requirement for getting the iPlayer icon to appear.

  • Reboot (important). You should now see the iPlayer icon in the XMB.

  • If you still don't see the iPlayer icon, check the serial number on the back of your PS3 - it should end with CECH-XXX3, where the "3" indicates a UK model. Only UK models get the iPlayer icon, meaning that if you purchased your PS3 abroad or through a retailer that imported non-UK models then you won't get an iPlayer icon.

  • If the iPlayer icon still doesn't appear, don't worry about it - you can get exactly the same iPlayer experience by launching the PS3 browser and going directly to the iPlayer site at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

2. Easy way to exit and re-enter full-screen mode
On the PS3, to exit full-screen mode, double-click the "X" key on the PS3 remote.
To re-enter full-screen mode, position the mouse pointer over the video (which will now be playing in a small window in the BigScreen site) and double-click "X" again.


3. Turn off the screensaver
By default the PS3 screensaver kicks in after 20 minutes, dimming the screen right in the middle of your favourite programme. So you might want to disable the screensaver: Settings > Display Settings > Screensaver

Over the coming weeks we'll be adding some extra functionality and fixing a few glitches in the UI.

User response to our new iPlayer for PS3 has been amazing. Although it's less than a week since we launched, iPlayer on PS3 now accounts for a massive ~10% of all iPlayer viewing, overtaking Mac (8.5%) to be our 2nd most popular platform for IP-delivered content. We'll have to wait and see whether this holds up in the coming weeks, but this enthusiastic reception makes it clear that users do want iPlayer on their TV - something that bodes well for Canvas and other IPTV propositions.

Anthony Rose is Controller, Online Media Group and Vision, BBC FM&T

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Glad to see the console versions of iPlayer are being maintained- is there any news on the Wii version, which seems to have ceased to function since the Wii Internet Channel was updated?

  • Comment number 2.

    Before the update iPlayer was a little cludgy but workable if you used the browser zoom on the normal playback. However I'm really happy with the Firmware 3.0 update (sans logo, I have a Japanese PS3) and it's nice to know the Flash player is finally taking advantage of the graphics hardware. The new iPlayer screen formatting is also a lot better now with text fitting in boxes and navigation greatly improved.

    iPlayer on my PS3 is by far the most popular way for me to watch BBC programmes and it's fast becoming the most popular way for me to watch TV. If only Channel 4 could take a leaf out of the BBC's book and support the same broad range of platforms that iPlayer does.

  • Comment number 3.

    Anthony:

    That is very good news for PS3 players....

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 4.

    any news on the arrival of HD on the PS3 iPlayer?

  • Comment number 5.

    Great work folks - why no BBC HD content? Is it licencing or another technical issue?

  • Comment number 6.

    Is there anything in the pipeline for iPlayer on the Xbox 360? Would be amazing to see it on there too.

  • Comment number 7.

    I tried this when I upgrades to 3.0, and that's not the way it looks in 1080p for me. I see the 576p size content in the middle of the screen, so about 75% of the screen is blank, and the content is far too small to make out.

  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry but you are so wrong about imported PS3 and not being CECH-XXX3.

    I got my current PS3 from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (UK) my PS3 was unfortunate that broked down so I phone Sony (SCEE) to fix it for me. So no it was not imported by some retailer it graven to me by Sony because my PS3 broked down that why I have CECH-XXX4.

    08705 99 88 77 (SCEE Playstation support)

  • Comment number 9.

    Please update us on the HD situation.

    While I player it good to have on the PS3, watching SD content on my 1080p set just doesn't look good at all. Maybe the higher compression now available will sort this to some degree but I watched Would I lie to you last week and decided to give it a miss after 5 minutes.

    While I understand that that isn't a HD show it did highlight to me how unappealing to me iplayer is without offering BBC HD.

  • Comment number 10.

    Any chance of download support for the PS3? This new updated iPlayer for the PS3 is great and would be my default way of using iPlayer now. However thanks to my distance from the exchange I get a rubbish streaming performance as it's limited by the bandwidth. It's nearly usable now at the right time of day - but would be so much better if I could download everything I've missed overnight.

    Any plans for this? The PS3 seems an ideal platform for it.

  • Comment number 11.

    Any chance of 360 or Blackberry compatibility?

    There are more 360's than PS3's around and more Blackberries than Iphones. And the BBC shouldn't be seen as not being impartial...

  • Comment number 12.

    "tengearbatbike wrote:

    Any chance of 360 or Blackberry compatibility?

    There are more 360's than PS3's around and more Blackberries than Iphones. And the BBC shouldn't be seen as not being impartial..."

    Are you sure about that? Maybe it is not just the BBC that are not being seen to be impartial? ;-)

    In any case, the PS3 has internet browser support whilst the Xbox 360 does not. I'm pretty sure the BBC would love to have iplayer on as many platforms as possible but are limited by restrictions on the device itself.

  • Comment number 13.

    What does browser support have to do with providing a downloadable service on a hardware platform that already supports downloading via categories?

    The Xbox 360 already supports timed DRM downloads. So why not use that method?

  • Comment number 14.

    Because that's not the way Iplayer works. On the flip side, why not push Microsoft to include a web browser on the Xbox with flash 9 support. Problem solved!

  • Comment number 15.

    "The Xbox 360 already supports timed DRM downloads. So why not use that method?"

    Because it would still mean building a user interface for it and Microsoft letting it on the console - something Microsoft have publically stated they're not interested in doing.

    The initial iPlayer developments for the Wii and PS3 didn't need any co-operation from Sony or Nintendo at all.

    I'd love the iPlayer on my Xbox, but I also know I need to be shouting at Microsoft about it, not the BBC.

    Phazer

  • Comment number 16.

    Although a step in the right direction I was really hoping for a fully fledged application integrated into the PS3 XMB, rather than a link to an existing (albeit subtly improved) website.

    Users can stream or download HD content using the iPlayer application on their computer, but if anything the PS3 would be a more suitable platform for this, as it is much more likely to be located in the living room, hooked up to an HD TV.

    The Vidzone service on the PS3 demonstrates this type of concept (although no HD), although the UI is nowhere near as good as the iPlayer.

    I'm hoping that this addition was just a stepping stone towards providing viewers who don't have HD satellite TV with a viable way of getting BBC HD content into their living rooms.

  • Comment number 17.

    Tried it, tested it, very impressed with it!!!

    Those asking about the Xbox 360, as others has said it is upto Microsoft to include a web browser with the adequate Flash support. But they will not do this because the Xbox 360 would be easily hacked, and viruses created due to it's archetecture. Microsoft are only looking after you at the end of the day.

    If they would listen to me, I would tell Microsoft to use the Cell Processor in the next console to minimise this common issue with browsers. So far though, the PS3 has been hacker and virus proof. Mainly because nobody but their partners know how to code for PS3.

    Look forward to BBC HD content if possible and like some others have said, a download option would be awesome as the PS3 has background downloading meaning we can continue surfing the net as the programs come down, helps those with slow internet connections who love your service.

    And more desirable, although understandle if it doesn't arrive soon or ever, is an iPlayer application instead of a link? Hope you and Sony can discuss this... I am sure they would be happy to see this come through!

    BBC, keep up the awesome work.

  • Comment number 18.

    DRM no way and spend another £130 Million on DRM and it didn't even work!

    iPlayer took off mainly due fact they remove all silliness of DRM. In fact I was one people who protested over the use of DRM for iPlayer.

    http://www.defectivebydesign.org/blog/iPlayerProtestReport

    As for XBox360 sold more then PS3, it all down how you look at those figures. There reports of XBox360 having failure rate between 20%-40%, and is Microsoft deducting sales when system breaks down?

    Now there are PS3 that have broken down (myself being a case in point) but it not at such high level as the XBox360.

  • Comment number 19.

    Thanks for the awesome new function - in several areas.

    a. Picture quality - much improved, the only noticeable jerkiness is now in panning shots and the credits. Admittedly my TV is awesome at covering up artifacts - one of the reasons I bought it.

    b. User interface. My extremely non-technical wife has now shown interest in the PS3 for the first time, because it is finally easy for her to do something she wants to do! Just as well, because I justified buying the PS3 on the fact that it's a media centre.

    c. Embedded video on the BBC News site. This never worked, at least for me, and now it does. Not mentioned above so it may have been just me, but it's great nonetheless.

    I echo the thoughts of other posters on HD, but will try to be patient.

    In any case my distance from the exchange is marginal for streaming, especially HD, especially around 8pm when I want to watch TV. I will keep on BT's back about that one though, rather than lay it at the BBC's door! Might even have to shell out for satellite broadband... not as impractical as it used to be.

    I can see that Flash is a much better solution than any DRM-protected download, because of the portable software stack. The reasons for DRM are not going away any time soon, no matter how awesome a function downloadability would be!



  • Comment number 20.

    Been using this alot since the PS3 update last week, and VERY impressed. Looks fantastic even on a large HD TV, sure true HD streams would be nice, but lets take things one at a time, ISP's are unhappy about SD broadcasting and the bandwidth it takes up!!!

    As for there being so many more Xboxes out there, that's total Microsoft propaganda. Most of the original lot of Xboxes have long since failed and been thrown away, if you are talking ACTIVE consoles, then it's quite clear to all but the most blinded fanboy, the Xbox and PS3 numbers are very close (which is embarrassing for Microsoft, as they rushed their console out a whole 16 months before Sony). Don't forget Sony sold half a million PS3 Slims last week!

  • Comment number 21.

    I am disappointed that BBC and Sony have not opted to create a firm front-end application, rather than the web-based big-screen interface.

    I would love to directly control playback as I do with DVD playback (I.E. Shoulder buttons to fast-forward and rewind, circle to step back, etc). Instead, a lot of the time I cant rely upon the D-Pad button mapping, which is automatically (mostly incorrectly) calculated by the web browser, so I have to use the analog stick to simulate a mouse.

    This solution is suited for the Wii, as you have a pointing device and a pointing device based interface, but for PS3, anything requiring manipulating a cursor is simply an unnecessary burden.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks for this great update. Video quality is clearly improved, the interface is better and as mentioned in post 19 in-page news/sport video works too! I've been using iplayer on PS3 for a little while now so it's really encouraging to see the continued support and updates. Like others have mentioned here a download service/app would be ideal and hopefullly HD content eventually, but in the mean time I shall be delving in to the iplayer archives to see what I can find! Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 23.

    Imagine my excitement as I use the Bluetooth remote control to activate the shiny new iPlayer icon on my XMB, feel my heart fall as the PS3's woefully inadequate "web browser" flashes up a square white box on my TV, then a nearly-but-not-quite full screen white box, eventually revealing an interface where the text doesn't fit and is a chore to navigate with the remote control. Watch my frustration levels rise as - having changed to the BBC's recommended settings, making the browser even more unusable on the wider web - I watch a video and find that I'm completely unable to control playback! Empathise with my confusion that HD streams are AWOL on a £300 device...

    Finally, sympathise with the BBC - after all, very little of this is their fault.

    Anyone who's spent time with the PS3's browser will know that it is perhaps the worst thing to happen to the web since Internet Explorer, and anyone with a Mac will be of the opinion that Flash is in need of something serious like a firing squad behind the bike sheds. Both are incapable of coping with today's web - in particular, I'm surprised NetFront has survived into 3.0, especially on a device of the PS3's power.

    No, I just don't believe that the PS3's browser, as it is, offers a good user experience, even though there is an iPlayer specifically targeted for it, because iPlayer on this sort of device is more of an "application" rather than a web site. Unless the BBC are able to do application like things - such as control the behaviour of the d-pad, get rid of the mouse pointer, kill most of the browser chrome, override the text size and resolution settings, provide useful overscan settings and hook video playback up to the remote control, at the least - it really needs to actually *be* an application, like VidZone.

    Sam

  • Comment number 24.

    The shortfall is that it's a streaming service, not a download.

    Here you have equipment permanently hooked into a TV. Often with a better screen and audio than a computer. And they get hobbled by being streaming and not downloadable. So they're at the mercy of at-the-time bandwidth and probably restricted to SD-only. And, as people mention, seeming to use application-level controls not the actual built-in media playing control method.

    Sadly, this seems to be a trend. Streaming rules. Local copies do not. And I just don't get it.

    The best thing about iPlayer is that you can schedule the download at your leisure and play it back when you're ready to watch - which may not be at the same time as it's best to download.

    The iPlayer is so close to making legitimate downloads preferable (and infinitely more convenient) than "other methods" of acquiring recently-missed content, but the limited console support (flash-reliant, streaming-only, if even avialable...) means that if your console lives near your best TV (and your computer does not move) then you lack a legit way of watching things optimally.

    And if your chosen console is not one of the "blessed two"... (or if your media playback device is not a computer or console) Well, if you miss something it becomes very necessary or the DVD/Blu-ray release to come out in short order.

  • Comment number 25.

    Re: the comments about it being a web application rather than a native XMB application (like Vidzone). Personally it does not bother me. To 99% of users, they don't know the difference, nor care. I can navigate the player fine as it is with the PS3's controller or Bluetooth AV Remote.

    I suppose the question would be, would you have rather waited for years for a dedicated XMB application, or have what we have know, as clearly if you keep it purely in the browser, this BBC can develop the browser side of things (like Youtube have done with YoutubeXL on the PS3), and then tell Sony when it's time to add a simple XMB icon.

    I am expecting lots more services to pop up on the PS3 TV XMB section, as it's now opened if up for others to easilly develop for. Having dedicated XMB apps simply wouldn't offer that.

    In short, if your CatchupTV service is Flash9 based, you are pretty much ready to open your doors to millions of UK PS3 owners.

  • Comment number 26.

    Sadly, this seems to be a trend. Streaming rules. Local copies do not. And I just don't get it.

    Pretty simple. People use streaming, much more than downloads, even if they are available - by a ratio of about ten to one, it's been said (and similar at Channel 4). It's inevitable that resources are put into the one people use.

    Phazer

  • Comment number 27.

    It's inevitable that resources are put into the one people use.

    It's called the tyranny of the majority :)

    I think that the above is valid for a purely commercial broadcaster - but given the BBC's public service remit, perhaps enhancing the support for those of us who don't have the option of streaming reliably should be considered too - and downloads might be a more viable route for HD quality for many too.

    Or perhaps I should consider moving house :)

  • Comment number 28.

    I would be keen to see the addition of a download option to the ps3 to make use of the psp / new psp go, to view iplayer content on the move.

  • Comment number 29.

    awesome. Although I'd quite like to be able to listen to Digital radio and watch TV through my PS3, which I can't do atm it seems.

  • Comment number 30.

    I accidentally discovered this just after it was released. I am blown away with the quality of the viewing experience. Our wifi bandwidth isn't great yet we get a very good picture on the Samsung 46" HD screen.

    I would really like to know how you encode though? For me it is the benchmark. I know it is H.264 but can you tell us anything else? Like VBR or CBR? what is the target bit rate? I would love to be able to get the same quality image for my website.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 31.

    Thank you for this, it's fantastic! I previously used the 'unofficial' PS3 iPlayer which was OK, but the quality of the official one is extremely good - not sure how you're achieving this over my relatively slow wireless connection but well done!

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi

    I live in Dubai in the UAE and have been eagerly awaiting the IPlayer release for the PS3. Whilst I understand that I won't be able to watch TV programmes on this due to licensing laws it seems that I can't listen to radio live but only the "listen again function". This seems a bit of a shame and odd as I can listen live on my laptop. Are there plans to change this?
    Thanks

  • Comment number 33.

    I started using the new improved iPlayer on the PS3 *after* the latest firmware update, so I'm not familiar with how it looked before. I must say that I'm disappointed with the picture quality. It looks very washed out and not as impressive as some have proclaimed. I use a HD TV with HDMI connections and every other type of media is perfect, just not iPlayer. I also have a 8Mb (measured) ADSL connection, so I'm fairly sure the problem is not bandwidth.
    Anyone else care to comment on the PQ as well?

  • Comment number 34.

    Whilst the iplayer is great there is one annoying aspect which I haven't seen questioned. I use my PS3 with the remote (not the controller) as I also use playTV for freeview. However iplayer is constantly frustrating as when you select a programme to watch it shows a click here icon which I can't move to unless I activate the controller so I have access to a left anologue stick. Anyone know where we complain about this so I can get some one to rectify it. The previous version didn't have this issue.

  • Comment number 35.

    I really like having the iplayer on the PS3, it boots/loads up faster than my laptop and is more conveniant and comfortable to watch. The quality on my TV has been great, much better than what I was expecting.

  • Comment number 36.

    I agree. The PS3 is a high-def console, and the normal iPlayer has HD content - can't you allow us to view the HD content on the PS3?! It'd be even better if we could download it to view later, but even just streaming would be great!!!

  • Comment number 37.

    I've bought a PS3 for the kids this Christmas and I thought I'd just 'test' it to make sure it's working okay.

    After getting it working my youngest daughter who is 3 started getting a bit irritable. So I figured I'd give the iPlayer a go. Two minutes later and she's a happy bunny watching Dirtgirlworld.

    I'm very impressed, the video was flawless over the wireless connection (okay having a 20Meg Virgin connection and the PS3 right next to the wireless router might have helped). The audio quality was perfect, I'd go as far as saying better than on Freeview (PS3 is connected to my home cinema system via optical cable), and the video quality was good in full screen upscaled to 720p.

    I'd say it's some great work you've done there, I'm sure the kids will make lots of use of the iPlayer now.

    I do agree with the above comments though, making HD available if possible would be great.

    Rob

  • Comment number 38.

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

  • Comment number 39.

    hi, the ps3 wbe page for iplayer is a great service, any word on either a HD 720 or 1080 stream or download client?

  • Comment number 40.

    I don't know what some people's eyesight is like here but I am using an InFocus IN76 video projector connected via HDMI to my PS3 and the spacial resolution of what BBC Iplayer is giving me really sucks bad, the picture is rather soft to say the least.

    BluRay (via same connection on same PS3) looks incredibly sharp of course at 1080i into my pj, my pj is 720p native, same video settings are used on my pj for any resolution as it works on a per input basis, 720p games look awesome, very sharp, but Iplayer looks way soft, even though my pj is always kept on maximum sharpness setting.

    It's like the input video is heavily prefiltered to soften it. Of course therefore I see virtually no picture artefacts whatsoever (whereas my Freeview is riddled with picture artefacts!).

    Is this because there is no HQ option for SD Iplayer on PS3?

    In which case please do something about this, it's about 1/2 the sharpness of Freeview! It sucks!

  • Comment number 41.

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

  • Comment number 42.

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