BBC iPlayer & Radio
On Wednesday, Anthony Rose posted a sneak preview of the new BBC iPlayer - the one with radio built in. This is a beta product at the moment - but, if it's successful, we're hoping it will go fully live in July.
In his post, Anthony hinted at much increased quality of radio streams within iPlayer; today, I'd like to flesh out the detail of what we're doing this summer to improve the whole experience of listening to BBC Radio online.
BBC local radio services in England, BBC Radio Cymru and Radio nan Gaidheal, and the World Service) are not included in the new Player now, but will be over the coming months and will be making similar changes in due course. BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle are included in the new iPlayer. More information can be found in the [Update 2008-10-20: link changed
help and FAQs section] help and FAQs section of the iPlayer beta.
For the launch of this new version of BBC iPlayer, we're concentrating on improving the "listen again" service.
- First, we're removing the need to install RealPlayer if you're listening in the UK. We're not dropping RealPlayer entirely (if you've a wifi radio that uses it, don't worry) - but, if you use the BBC iPlayer to listen again in the UK, you'll now be given an embedded Flash player instead, just like for the television programmes. As a result, it will "just work" for nearly everyone. You also won't need RealPlayer to listen live in the UK - the new iPlayer will use Windows Media Player which should be installed as a default on your PC (a version is also available for Macs!)
- When you use the current iPlayer for Radio, you can't rewind and can only fast-forward in five minute chunks. As we are integrating radio into the full iPlayer, we will be using the same transport controls as we do for television programmes. If you want to forward through Chris Moyles's show to around 8.00am, you can just click and drag. Easy.
- Another new feature is that iPlayer will remember what you last played so if you didn't have time to finish it, it's ready to resume when you are.
- And we're dramatically improving the audio quality for UK listeners. For most stations, we'll be using MP3-streaming at 128k stereo. If you're a fan of serious classical music on BBC Radio 3, we're improving it still further, recognising that classical music requires higher bitrates to do the job well - so Radio 3's listen-again will be at 192k stereo. Mono speech also increases in quality, up to 80k mono. All that means that BBC Radio through the iPlayer will be much better quality.
- There'll be further changes to our streaming infrastructure later in July: on-demand and live streaming. We'll fill you in with those details nearer the time. In the meantime, I really hope you'll enjoy the start of the tremendous difference in sound quality from iPlayer's listen-again service. For further information about the radio aspects of the new iPlayer, take a look at these frequently asked questions.
Finally, and for the techies: you might be wondering why we're using streaming MP3, and not AAC or its cousin AAC+. The very latest version of Flash is capable of using it, but given that much radio listening happens in the workplace, we wanted to ensure that BBC Radio was available to as many people as possible - even those who don't run the latest version of Flash. Watch the changes in July, though.
Transmitting the first radio picture of the King, October 1928
Mark Friend is Controller, Multiplatform & Interactive, Audio & Music Interactive