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Introducing the all new BBC iPlayer (This time it's personal)

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Anthony Rose Anthony Rose | 11:00 UK time, Wednesday, 26 May 2010

This is a big week for the iPlayer team - we're launching an all new BBC iPlayer with a host of new features designed to make it simpler to use, personalised and social.

The new site is in public beta right now - you can try it out at https://beta.bbc.co.uk/iplayer - where it will dual-run alongside the existing iPlayer site while we get your feedback, fix bugs, and add the remaining features that didn't quite make it into the first beta release.

But before looking at the new site in detail, I'd like to take a step back and try to explain the design challenges we were trying to solve and the solution we came up with (or, if you'd like to skip the background story and head straight to the list of new features, scroll down to features in detail below).

BBC iPlayer: the story so far

The current version of iPlayer, known internally as iPlayer V2, was launched almost two years ago in July 2008. Back then the main problems we had to solve were largely technical things like:
  • designing a platform capable of handling our rapidly growing traffic
  • ensuring that content became available in iPlayer as soon as possible after it aired on TV
  • providing the best possible video quality
  • improving the reliability of video delivery, including failover between content delivery networks, adaptive bitrate for people on lower bandwidth connections
  • dealing with massive peak loads - the so-called "Top Gear effect" when 100,000+ people descend on the iPlayer site directly after programmes like Top Gear and Doctor Who finish on TV
The iPlayer V2 hosting platform was also designed to scale across multiple platforms - mobile, TV sets, set top boxes, games consoles, PCs, iPhone, etc.

One issue that we needed to solve when delivering content across so many devices and platforms was that in some cases we only had the right to make certain programmes available on, say, PC platforms but not mobile or TV platforms. Additionally, the media files for each platform take different amounts of time to encode, which means that we need to deal with situations where a programme is available on some platforms but not others.

This meant that we couldn't make the same version of the iPlayer site available on each platform. That would mean people on mobile devices might get offered links to programmes that are not available on that device, giving an error when you clicked to play the programme. So we introduced a concept that we called Actual Availability, which allows the iPlayer publishing system to offer independent content sets - we call them Media Sets - to different devices.

BBC iPlayer V2 has proven a trusty workhorse, successfully scaling to 1.5 million users, 15 million page views delivering over 1.1 billion(!) minutes of video each month across more than 40 different devices and platforms. You can see the list at https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/where_to_get_iplayer/.

A new iPlayer: the design challenge

Two years ago when we launched iPlayer our goals and challenges were largely technical - scalability, reliability, video encoding, etc. But as we began work on the next-generation iPlayer, it became apparent that our next set of challenges was not so much technical as social - and that turned out to be a much bigger problem to solve.

At the highest level, the fundamental problem that the iPlayer design team was trying to solve was "As people begin moving from television to the web, what happens to the role of the linear TV scheduler as the tastemaker?" Let's be clear: we are not there yet. Although iPlayer traffic is doubling each year, it still only accounts for 2-3% of linear TV viewing. But something seems to be stirring. Let me explain:

When you turn on your TV in the evening peak viewing hours and idly flip through the available channels, the programmes that you see are carefully chosen by each channel's scheduler. He/she picks the programmes that you can see, and since most of the country watches TV each evening, the scheduler is the leading tastemaker. By scheduling a particular programme at peak viewing time, the scheduler is both creating and satisfying the desire to view that programme.

Now, today iPlayer does a fine job of satisfying the time-shifted desires created by the scheduler: the BBC schedulers create the desire to watch a programme; iPlayer lets you see it at a time that's convenient to you.

But what if you no longer watched linear TV? Who becomes the tastemaker then? Right now this is a largely theoretical problem as very few people watch no live TV at all. However, for a small but growing number of people this is indeed the case, and the fundamental problem that I sought to address was "who becomes the tastemaker for such people in a world without schedules?"

Now I use Twitter periodically during the day to monitor what iPlayer users are saying about the service - "thank god for iPlayer", "waiting for Doctor Who to arrive", "iPlayer slow today", etc. - Twitter is a great early warning tool for spotting problems. But increasingly I began seeing Tweets from people saying "Watching ", "Loving Charlie Brooker on iPlayer", etc. I began clicking on those links, and found myself watching more programmes in iPlayer than I would have by browsing. In other words, for me, the Twitterverse is becoming the tastemaker.

Looking at developments across the industry in this space, it's clear that I was not alone. Particularly in the world of YouTube where there is no master scheduler who can shape demand. The tastemaker is rapidly becoming your friends.

Separately, our iPlayer stats told us that, while our users really liked the service, most only came back every week or two when they had missed a programme on TV - clear evidence that linear TV created the demand while iPlayer satisfied it. In order to get more users to iPlayer, we needed to make iPlayer something more than TV catch-up alone - we wanted it to become a driver of demand, so that you returned to iPlayer daily to see what new programmes were there just for you.

The question then is, in a world which cannot be driven by schedulers, who or what will play the role of tastemaker? Well, we think that's going to be a mix of things that your friends recommend, things that our servers recommend based on what you've watched, things that you tell us you like, as well as the linear scheduler, whose selections continue to matter to an important part of the online audience.

So, if schedulers are going to be augmented by your friends as drivers of consumption in the future, the challenge for the team was to integrate friends and social into the iPlayer site, and to do so in a way that doesn't alienate people who aren't interested in this kind of thing. Sure, it's easy enough to sprinkle Share, Recommend, Digg, Follow, etc. buttons across the site, but social shouldn't be a prerequisite to participation or add complication or clutter for those who just want to get going. It's about giving more choice and control.

The iPlayer design team thus found itself with a major challenge: Take a popular and mainstream product, and reinvent it so that it becomes not just a place you go to catch up on programmes that you know you missed, but to become the place where demand is both created and satisfied. Oh, and to do that in a way that doesn't make the site more complex, and in a way that delights both early adopters and the mainstream audience. Make it personal, make it social, and keep it simple.

Challenge #1: Making the site personal without creating a separate 'you' site

Here's an example of the type of challenge we needed to address: If iPlayer was to become your personal viewing portal, then there needed to be an area of the site that you could call "yours" - i.e. a place where you could assemble all your favourite programmes, and only your favourite programmes.

Initially we decided to create a new area of the site called My iPlayer, which would be your personalised place to find all your favourite programmes. But it became apparent that creating a My iPlayer page, separate from the rest of the site, would mean separate user journeys and duplicated content between the main site and your personal site. In the end we dropped the concept of a separate personal site and instead folded your personal experience into the fabric of the main site - something that will become apparent as we look at the features in more detail below.

In short, we sought to add a large range of personalisation and social features to iPlayer, making every feature part of a coherent whole, and avoiding adding anything that didn't have a clear purpose.

Challenge #2: Integrating social connectivity

Another challenge was how to integrate with Facebook and other social networks. Pretty much every site these days has a Share button which posts your activity to Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites. The usual interaction model is like this:
  1. press the Recommend button on your site >> activity posted on Facebook or Twitter
  2. on Facebook or Twitter, see activity, click link >> go back to the site hosting the recommended content

That's great if you want to use social networks to increase incoming traffic to your site - which is nice - but that detour via an external 3rd-party site seemed to us to create a disconnect between the user pressing a Share or Recommend button and getting the reward for that action. And we want it, above all, to be seamless and simple.

Our thinking was that in order to create a lively social recommendation scene, we needed to make the recommendations and social graph visible within iPlayer, in addition of course to any external activity.

Additionally, we wanted to allow a single click of a Recommend button to post activity to both Facebook or Twitter (or any other network or micro-blogging site for that matter) where appropriate, in addition to posting that activity into our own activity streams.

The solution we came up with was to create a BBC login - known as BBC iD - which users can then connect with Facebook, Twitter or any other social network that we choose to partner with in the future, allowing us to create the following social recommendation ecosystem:

  1. press the Recommend button in iPlayer >> activity appears on your friends' iPlayer home pages >> AND activity posted on Facebook AND/OR Twitter
  2. on Facebook / Twitter, see activity, click link >> watch it in iPlayer

Basically, we use your external social graph to connect you with your friends within the iPlayer site, and make it scalable for other BBC Online services in the fullness of time. To do this, we connect Facebook, Twitter and where appropriate other social networking sites to your BBC iD login account, providing you with a single gateway to multiple social graphs and a single Recommend button that can post activity to multiple social networks.

The new iPlayer: features in detail

And so, without further ado, let's take a look at all the new features in the new iPlayer, with commentary explaining the rationale for each feature.

Some of the features listed below didn't make it into the first beta release and will be added over the coming weeks (features that are 'coming soon' are noted in italics below).

1. Favourites

The single feature request that we are asked for most often is "favourites" - and, as explained above, integrating favourites into the site was one of our early dilemmas. The solution that we came up with was to add an expandable Favourites zone to the top of every page of the site:
In response to our user research that told us that people only came back to the site every week or two to catch up on programmes they'd missed, we designed Favourites to be like your mail Inbox, showing the total number of items, how many are newly arrived, etc.

The great thing about Favourites in the context of iPlayer is that by simply adding, say, QI as a favourite, every time a new episode of QI goes to air, your favourites list will update and reorder itself to show the new episode. Adding items to your favourites takes only a single click, so I found myself spending the first 5 minutes on the new iPlayer site simply looking for any series that I liked and clicking to add it to my favourites. I now have - as can be seen in the image above - 48 items to watch right now, with the iPlayer servers constantly scanning for new episodes becoming available, adding them to my favourites, and very shortly sending me an email notification.

Now that I have so much stuff to view, I can almost ignore the rest of the iPlayer site and simply rely on Favourites to give me a constant stream of things to watch.

2. Roaming

You know how on many sites every time you do something simple like adding a programme to your favourites or trying to personalise the site, you get prompted to register - very annoying. So we carefully designed the new iPlayer site so that you could use most of the functionality instantly on first visit without being constantly hassled to register.

But... if you do choose to sign in, then all your favourites and other settings can roam across all the devices on which you use iPlayer. For example, we're planning on updating the mobile iPlayer site - the one you can access on a range of mobile phones - to let you access your Favourites as well - here's an image of Favourites in the new Mobile iPlayer site:


So now if I'm bored sitting in a train on the way home, I can look for new programmes to watch, add them to my Favourites, and when I get home they'll be right there on my home PC ready to watch.

Full roaming is coming to the mobile iPlayer site shortly - the initial implementation contains local favourites only.

But what will make this good service great is when we can synch up your BBC iD with your TV or mobile, so you can pick up where you left off on whatever connected device you have - the team are working on this now and we hope to say more about this soon.

3. Personalised iPlayer home page

Going back to our dilemma of how to provide a personalised iPlayer portal experience that was not isolated from the main iPlayer site, our solution was to create an iPlayer home page that can morph, under your direction, from a default view that everyone sees to something that's, well, just for you.

We wanted to create an iPlayer home page that feels almost more like an application than a traditional web site, making it a familiar place you return to frequently for your favourite comedy, drama, music and more.

Here's how it works:
When you come to the iPlayer site as a new user, you're presented with a nice simple promo zone at the top of the home page that contains the Featured and Most Popular zones that would be familiar to any existing iPlayer user:


Now, as soon as you've played a couple of programmes, our recommendations system has enough information to guess what you may like and offer personalised programme recommendations for you, and so when you next return to the iPlayer home page you'll now see two extra zones: For You and Friends:


Now here's where the personalisation comes in: you can slide open any of the drawers to turn the iPlayer homepage into the tastemaker of your choice. For example, if you'd like your viewing to be driven by programmes that the BBC editorial team has chosen, simply slide open the Featured drawer:


Or, if you're so inclined, sign up on the site, then connect iPlayer to your Facebook and/or Twitter social graphs, and you'll get a steady stream of recommendations from your friends:


These sliding drawers will remember the state that you left them in, allowing a single iPlayer home page to meet the needs of a mainstream audience looking for editorialised recommendations, through to users who look to their friends as the tastemaker.

Remembering the open/closed state of each of the drawers is being added shortly.

4. My Categories

In addition to Favourites - where you nominate your favourite shows or series - we also added a My Categories zone to the home page. To use it, simply navigate to any category that you normally like to watch (or listen to - this works for radio as well), click Add To My Categories, and then the iPlayer server will keep a lookout for any new content in your selected categories, and the iPlayer home page will show you a constantly updated list of new programmes in those categories. As you can see below, I like classical and world music, and science & nature programmes:


5. Better live TV

Although you've been able to watch live TV in iPlayer for well over a year now, this isn't that well known, but recently we've seen a big increase in live TV viewing in iPlayer - and with the upcoming World Cup being a huge driver of live online viewing, we're making the live viewing experience a little more prominent on the home page:

and we've also created a new Live Viewing page which allows you to easily view all the BBC TV channels in iPlayer:


6. New radio console

We created an all-new popup radio console that includes Favourites and other key features from the new iPlayer site, allowing you to find and listen to your favourite BBC radio programmes all within the popup console player:


7. Recommend to friends

The fuel for the Friends drawer on the iPlayer home page - and shortly on the playback page as well - is the Recommend button that appears below the playback window:


As mentioned above, you can link the Recommend button to the social network(s) of your choice via a single BBC login, and our servers will constantly check your social graph on those sites and import latest friends additions and deletions across all your networks.

8. Watch with friends

And now something that for some will be the killer feature of the new site: the ability to watch programmes with friends. If you already have a Windows Live Messenger account you can see which of your Windows Live Messenger friends (and other instant messenger services to be added in due course) are in iPlayer right now and what they're watching, and even how far into the programme they are. You can then sync your iPlayer with theirs and chat with them in real time, all within the iPlayer site.

Here's how it works:
On all TV playback pages in iPlayer you'll see a button to add the IM chat widget to your iPlayer pages. If you're a Messenger user and this is of interest to you, click the Get Started button.


After signing in to Windows Live Messenger with your Messenger credentials, you'll now see an extra panel that shows which of your Messenger contacts are online and in iPlayer right now:


Separately, while you're watching a programme, anytime you're feeling excited about that programme or even just a particular moment in the programme, you can shout about it to your Messenger friends - simply type whatever comes to mind into the text box and hit the Shout button - all your Messenger friends who are in iPlayer right now will get the message, and may then choose to sync their iPlayer to yours and join you to watch and chat together.

By the way, your shouts only go to your Messenger friends who are in iPlayer right now - they won't go to contacts who are not in iPlayer - so you don't need to worry about spamming contacts who don't live in the UK or who aren't interested in your shouts of "It's the Stig!" or whatever.

The Messenger that you can add to your iPlayer site is a JavaScript implementation of the Windows Live Messenger client - i.e. your private chat conversations travel over the same MSN network as regular Messenger IM chat.

Watch with Friends is being added to the site in the next few weeks - stay tuned!

9. Better video quality

For quite some time now iPlayer has had the ability to switch down to a lower bitrate video stream if you didn't have enough bandwidth to play the selected version. We're now rolling out the next evolution in our adaptive bitrate system which automatically adjusts the video quality up and down every few seconds, if necessary, to match your instantaneous line speed. The improved video quality will be most apparent in full-screen mode, where iPlayer will automatically switch up to our 832x468 1500Kbps high-quality SD streams as soon as you go fullscreen, seamlessly dropping to/from the 480Kbps and 800Kbps lower bitrate streams as needed.

This new adaptive bitrate system, coupled with Adobe's upcoming Flash 10.1 release with H.264 hardware acceleration, should give better quality, less jerkiness and lower CPU usage on PCs equipped with a graphics cards that support H.264 hardware acceleration - see https://labs.adobe.com/technologies/flashplayer10/releasenotes.pdf for technical details.

10. New iPlayer Desktop

In addition to the new iPlayer web site, we also have a greatly enhanced version of iPlayer Desktop, our Adobe AIR-powered iPlayer download manager, now with two great new features: Series Downloads and live radio & TV.

This means you a) don't have to wait to download programmes you want and b) you've got your favourite programmes already downloaded to your computer ready to view when you're offline.

Downloading whole series to your computer is easy - just click the Download button on iPlayer playback pages and choose the "Download future episodes" button:


iPlayer Desktop will now automatically download every future episode for you, including where possible downloading episodes before they air on TV, making them available for you to play back within minutes of the programme finishing on TV.

To avoid iPlayer Desktop maxing out your internet connection we've added the ability to tell iPlayer Desktop to schedule all series downloads between, say, midnight and 7AM:


Additionally, iPlayer Desktop will pause any automated downloads if previous episodes start expiring without being watched, avoiding end of month bandwidth surprises.

One of the features that I'm really liking is the new feature in iPlayer Desktop for live TV and radio too, which puts the BBC's 17 network and national radio stations....


and 7 TV stations...


...all right there on your desktop for instant listening and viewing.

10. And finally...

As I hope you can see, this relaunch represents many months of work for the iPlayer team and gives us a platform that will serve as a base the next wave of innovation over the coming months.

As in any beta there will be bugs, and we still have some features to add. This new site is a big step - and a big bet - for us, and we'd really welcome your feedback - look for the Site Feedback link at the bottom of each page on the site.

We really hope you like it. As some of you may know, I am moving on to become CTO of Project Canvas, and this is the last major piece of work from the team under my leadership. It's been quite a journey for me and the BBC since I got that call from Erik in late 2007 "Anthony, I could use your help with something" and I'm very proud of what we've created.

Please keep a lookout for additional blogs from my colleagues on how the new iPlayer site was built, the Java/PHP hosting platform that powers the new iPlayer site, BBC iD and how we connect to social networks, and more.


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


  • Comment number 1.

    Why did you force beebPlayer off the Android market while your own application is still under development?

  • Comment number 2.

    Now this has been sorted,please improve the sound of BBC Local listen again. 80k MP3 is not cd quality like 128aac on listen again on the national listen again facility

  • Comment number 3.

    Congrats on the launch guys. Really looking forward to checking it out - especially the social features. I think it's great that you've been so transparent in sharing your design rationale too.

    I recently bought a Sony Bravia Internet TV which streams Five on demand; Youtube and various other services straight from the Internet to my TV. I was really surprised that iPlayer wasn't on there too. Is the BBC talking to Sony about this?

  • Comment number 4.

    Looks promising. When are we going to see keyboard shortcuts for iPlayer? Just space to pause/resume is all I want! YouTube and most other flash players manage it!

  • Comment number 5.

    Loving the new iPlayer. Thanks guys! One error I've noticed is trying to remove a programme I've recommended from my id. I get a little error box which just says "problem..."

  • Comment number 6.

    All the "social networking" stuff is very interesting. But why spend time on this when core things like support for a wider variety of mobile devices is still not in place?

    When is full mobile support coming to more than a handful of browsers on a handful of networks?

  • Comment number 7.

    Forcing the removal of beebPlayer from the Android market is not really compatible with your new enlightened approach to cooperation and openness is it?

    That kind of behaviour is not what I expect for my licence fee.

  • Comment number 8.

    #5. Hi Matt,

    Yeah, that's an issue we've just noticed and we're working on it.


  • Comment number 9.

    It is all looking very good.

    One question - why can't you get live subtitles on the "Live TV" channels?

  • Comment number 10.

    Incredible! You guys have done it again! This kind of innovation is absolutely outstanding!! All of these new features set an incredibly high bar - with far more dynamism!

    I love how it'll sync your 'watch level' between devices, think the new iPlayer desktop looks great and in particular love the new website design which is much better than the old one.

    Seriously, you guys are on a roll. And I don't work at the BBC by the way ...

  • Comment number 11.

    I've just use the iPlayer Desktop to download the "Stephen Fry on Wagner".

    Now it shows as "Available 30 May".

    Erm... why can't I watch it until Sunday? What was the point of downloading it?

  • Comment number 12.

    Clap clap clap clap clap clap clap.

  • Comment number 13.

    Can you explain more about the adaptive stream quality? This can be very CPU intensive, and whilst you state:

    "This new adaptive bitrate system, coupled with Adobe's upcoming Flash 10.1 release with H.264 hardware acceleration, should give better quality, less jerkiness and lower CPU usage on PCs equipped with a graphics cards that support H.264 hardware acceleration"

    How does this affect people without H.264 hardware acceleration, as well as those without Flash 10.2? Will you be selectively serving a non-adaptive stream to these people, or will they suffer from increased jerkiness and higher CPU usage?

  • Comment number 14.

    Other than that, I should say that it looks like an absolutely fantastic update, with a wealth of genuinely exciting and useful features being introduced. Kudos to the whole team.

  • Comment number 15.

    So, any chance of an iPad compatible version of the iPlayer? To be honest I'd be happy with an official app that downloaded, though the standard streaming one would be ideal.

  • Comment number 16.

    Well done Anthony and the iplayer team. The new iplayer is looking so beautiful and exciting.

    Could a personalisation option be included so that people living outside of London receive the listings for BBC One and BBC Two for their own regions?

  • Comment number 17.

    The friends section is telling me "The friends you are following have not recommended any programmes yet" despite lots of them having recommended things today (and some of them over the last few weeks as alpha testers too).

    Are 'friend' relationships one-way (like twitter) or two-way (like facebook)? Because it isn't very clear from the use of the word 'friend'.

    Also, are there any plans to allow people to "recommend" things outside of the iPlayer site? I rarely use the iPlayer site (I don't have flash, so I don't really see the point), an API would be cool so I could recommend things I watch on old-fashioned TV, or programmes that magically appear on my computer from time-to-time.

    When people's recommendations show up on twitter, it just shows the brand and series, but doesn't specify which episode. I know twitter only has a limited amount of space, but I'd prefer to see brand and episode name.

  • Comment number 18.

    At home I use Sky+ because I can record series without DRM arbitrarily blocking access. The BBC is big enough to have negotiated a new approach to digital rights with content producers by now.

    On the move, you've blocked BeebPlayer from working so although I am a licence fee payer I can no longer access iPlayer content from my Android phone. I can't run Flash on my O/S version and wouldn't want to anyway as it's a virus vector.

    You need to up your game or Google TV and WebM will make your tech obsolete.

  • Comment number 19.

    Is there going to be an android client with this new iPlayer?

  • Comment number 20.

    Great development guys, just a couple of questions:

    1) Couldn't this be provided by the market, eg seesaw / TVcatchup / tv.com? - and therefore use less licence fee money?

    2) Does the 'bond' with adobe limit development with other playforms? such as HTML5 or QT?

    3) Does social networking interaction functionality increase maintainance costs. As Twitter / FB come and go or change their interfaces the IPlayer will need constant updates?

    Response would be appreciated :)

  • Comment number 21.

    I've thought of one more tiny thing, could the iplayer desktop application have a 256 x 256 icon?

    For users using large icons on Windows Vista and Windows 7 this would look very nice!

  • Comment number 22.

    I second that.
    TVCatchup iphone version works great on the IPad, but a full iPlayer would be great - the non-flash feed must exist they just need to put it into an App!!

  • Comment number 23.

    "This Time It's Personal", huh?

    Let me see:
    - Xbox 360 - nope
    - XMBC - third-party plugin blocked
    - WD TV HD - no DRM
    - Sony PSP - can't sideload media(?)
    - Apple iPod (w/video) - incompatible DRM

    Well, as it doesn't play nice with anything I already own, it doesn't seem very "personal" to me at all.

    Expecially seeing that, to me, the most personal player is the one I can customise myself. And the most personal viewing experience is when I get to choose what software/hardware I use. This seems very very impersonal.

  • Comment number 24.

    OK, so I've calmed down a bit. Some glitches:

    1) the For You and Friends pages don't seem to always show up
    2) I set up Twitter, recommended a show, and it didn't do anything. I suspect I forgot to tick a box on the setup page, but now I can't find it again!!

    Separately, can I reiterate how you guys have GOT to make an iPad app, or at least an iPad compatible website!

  • Comment number 25.

    @23 I hadn't even noticed that the iPhone site didn't work, this pretty much makes iPlayer pointless for me, can't believe they'd ruin a reasonable service like that.

    The annoying part is that the iPhone site did work with the iPad until the BBC blocked it, on the other hand, try using Sphere iPhone app on it, can still view the "v2" iPhone site well on that.

  • Comment number 26.

    PS. Good luck with Project Canvas (Or BT vision 2 ;)). Have fun getting connectivity to 100% of the population on a £30m tech budget.

  • Comment number 27.

    Can't see live TV and Radio on the iPlayer Desktop .... where is it?

  • Comment number 28.

    Another problem is the search, the "old" iPlayer would find caterogies.

    For example, search on the old one for "Comedy" and you get to


    On the New iPlayer you just go to a keyword search:


    It seems the very useful categories pages have been removed.

  • Comment number 29.

    #24 I suspect (1) is because you clicked on "TV" rather then the "iPlayer Logo" just next to it.

  • Comment number 30.

    #24 Looking at it now, it is very confusing

    There are three "home" pages


    On the first two the "tickmark" is under the "TV" letters, as there is no radio on the "main home" page.

    When you click "TV" you get a different page, but the "tickmark" is in the same place.

    Only when you click "Radio" does the tickmark move to "Radio".

    A very poor UI decision.

  • Comment number 31.

    I am very happy to see that you mention support for Hardware Acceleration with Flash 10.1. Are you aware that those testing the latest betas of 10.1 have been experiencing problems and that a change made to the encoding of videos on iPlayer meant that videos encoded after a certain date had hardware acceleration disabled (they had previously been fine). Details can be found in the TV iPlayer Messageboard and also a thread on the Adobe Forums for the 10.1 betas.

  • Comment number 32.

    If you accidentally remove a programme from the Manage Favourites;


    There seems to be no way to put it back.

  • Comment number 33.

    Writing a recommendation comment (140 characters) does not use this text when Tweeting or posting to Facebook, which you kind of expect from the "140 characters" bit.

  • Comment number 34.

    #33 @Briantist - thats coming - we're not tweeting the comment yet, but soon we will

  • Comment number 35.

    #34 @Simon Cross - thanks. Can I just say that overall the new iPlayer seems very good, I'm just posting comments and suggests because I do that when I see the word "beta", I can't help myself.

  • Comment number 36.

    This is the first announcement, on the BBC Internet Blogs, of major technical changes since the Beta homepage for BBC has been finished.
    Has anyone found a way to list or include the blogs on the BBC homepage. The topic tracker does not seem capable of this. https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/04/round_up_tuesday_27_april_2010.html

    So it appears the Internet Blog can no longer be seen from the BBC homepage.

  • Comment number 37.

    Can I ask that you keep the low bandwidth version?

    My web access is through a mobile dongle with a capped usage and the low bandwidth version is a far cheaper way of watching programmes albeit with a lower picture quality. Even with adaptive bandwidth, the overall download amount is going to increase dramatically.

  • Comment number 38.

    #30 I see what you mean. I might have done that ...

    One more thing - very tiny niggly flaw, I think there should be a small margin between the picture of the main featured TV show and the border of the page, to match the indent of the word 'Featured' if that makes sense ...

  • Comment number 39.

    Note there is also a few threads on the iPlayer messagageboard and amongst other things one problem is initially there is no option for low bandwidth playing of content or a lowbandwidth version of the how to videos.

  • Comment number 40.

    Sorry, another thing.

    I have the BBC Radio 4 console (https://beta.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/bbc_radio_four, pop up window) open.

    In the corner there is a link "Full Radio 4 Schedule"

    it lands here


    which is just a FM/LW choice.


    1) Link to the FM page; or

    2) Have two links in the console.


  • Comment number 41.

    #38 @Kenichi Udagawa: Yes... strange isn't it.

    I think the picture position is part of the Barlesque 1.1 layout as per https://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/futuremedia/technical/barlesque.shtml

  • Comment number 42.

    Also, the https://beta.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/bbc_radio_four page doesn't update when a new programme comes on. Mine is still showing "LIVE NOW: PM" and it's 18:04 and should be showing "Six O'Clock News".

    It does this even if I ctrl+refresh.

  • Comment number 43.

    Could you put back the option to manually choose the lower bandwidth version - I'm on a very fast university connection but it has quite strict download limits so this feature was very helpful

    Also, an iPhone app where you could download it using WiFi and then view anywhere would be brilliant

  • Comment number 44.

    Anyone prepared to tell us why all the BBC web sites timed out (at least from London, but not from the countryside) for about 2 hours this afternoon?

    Trace route failed after about 8 hops in one of the BBC gateways apparently at Tadworth.

    Somebody pulled the plug out! (perhaps)

  • Comment number 45.

    All of these are fantastic changes, but at the moment I'm unable to watch anything, as after a few minutes whichever programme I'm watching stops and displays ""This content doesn't seem to be working. Try again later". If I refresh the page I can start watching again, but then the same thing happens once more.

  • Comment number 46.

    How do you get the the alphabetical and category listings for the TV channels, there seems only to be schedules listings now.

  • Comment number 47.

    #46 continued

    I only mention it because for channels like BBC three, BBC FOUR and BBC HD which contain 80% narrative repeats (and only broadcast in peak), you have to now look though loads of schedules to see the programmes available, rather than just what was a one- or two- page list of everything.

  • Comment number 48.

    Also, why no BBC HD on the "Watch Live" page?

  • Comment number 49.

    I'm really quite disappointed at the current trend of blocking valuable third-party applications. None of those blocked so far have attempted to do anything more than the site allows (ie download programmes past 7 days) and it's not like you're losing any ad revenue? Some like beebplayer may be replaced by an official app at some point (though obviously not yet) but others like the XBMC app will clearly never see an official implementation, what's the issue. Just seems completely unnecessary, doesn't really fit with what the BBC should be doing and is frankly very disappointing.

  • Comment number 50.

    Automatic bitrates really do not work, the biggest video site on the internet youtube lets you manually select the quality. I really miss the lower bandwidth version even if you say it is automatic I can not even watch the the how to/tips on the new iplayer beta.

    Or you could just make it so when you pause a video it buffers while it is paused (this happens on every video site except iPlayer), ie manual buffering. it is quicker for me to pause for 15 minutes and then watch the whole hour than to download for an hour and then watch for another hour or buffer every 30 seconds.

    Please add manual buffering!!!!!!! Also some notification that the bitrate has changed, maybe only for beta so that we can see if it actually changes (as I don't believe it does)

  • Comment number 51.

    Also a faded pink line to show where the video has buffered to (like every video site except for iPlayer has an indication of where it's buffered to).

    I think while the changes to the iplayer are great. An update to the actual player is much more needed

  • Comment number 52.

    @Jon889 I don't think iplayer actually buffers much at all? I think it pretty much just directly streams what you're watching, which is why it won't play at all if you don't have enough bandwidth, even if you pause it and wait for a bit. No idea why though...

  • Comment number 53.

    I'd much rather you rolled out iPlayer to more platforms, rather than adding in all these new features.

    An unsupported platform lacks the most basic iPlayer feature, namely the ability to play back TV and radio programmes.

    In my opinion it's quite disgraceful that you still do not have an Android client, given now that Android phones are now both outselling and generating more network traffc than iPhones, but at the same time, have developed an iPad version of iPlayer, when the iPad is not even released in the UK.

    Please review your platform strategy as a matter of urgency.

  • Comment number 54.

    A friend made a good point earlier. When watching a programme, it doesn't say the day of the week it was broadcast, just the date. It would be really helpful if it could tell us the day of the week on the individual programme pages, and perhaps also a more verbose date rather than the DD/MM/YYYY format.

  • Comment number 55.

    #48. Briantist wrote:

    "Also, why no BBC HD on the "Watch Live" page?"

    You know the answer to this! HD requires too much data fro the pathetically slow broadband we have in the UK - further more the BBC's server infrastructure is incapable, without a major upgrade of delivering the data anyway. Get real and watch the programme as broadcast.

    Oh, wait a minute, the compression that is being applied actually reduces HD to only just better than SD and nowhere near the 1920 x 1080 p (or even i) HD TV is like watching TV in the same way as listening to MP3 is to a CD - far too much of the data is compressed to make it fit the available bandwidth and those of us who actually watch the screen rather than using it as a flashing light bulb do actually notice.

    My AVCHD camcorder (running at Panasonic's 24 mb rate, or even 17 mb rate) produces a far superior image than any of the off air HD signals. The motto of TV broadcasters is the cram a huge number of channels into a tiny bandwidth and reduce the bit-rate to just above the level at which the majority of people complain. Most of what we watch is the compression and decompression artefacts and the viewers don't care - and you want HD! (Your eves are probably not up to it, anyway!)

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm hoping that the lack of RSS feeds on the site is only because it's in beta - please don't remove these for good!

  • Comment number 57.

    #55 @John_from_Hendon

    I have a 20Mbps internet connection - I get downloads quite happly at 2MBps.

    The BBC HD stream on Freeview HD and Freesat HD is at 1440x1080p is only 7Mbps.

    BBC iPlayer HD content (in "FlashHD" profile) 1280x720i downloads at 2.7Mbps.

    So, "doable", I think.

  • Comment number 58.


    I note that the radio programmes on Radio 4 show only their titles. However, there are programmes on today that have the same title "Moments of Genius", but are DIFFERENT programmes. You just can't tell that from this page.

    Many programmes are cut short like "9:45am A History of the World in 100 Obje…"

    OK, select a programme like 8:00pm Devil's Advocate

    Popup opens https://beta.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00sg1wg/Devils_Advocate_Fashion_and_Feminism

    Now you can see the episode title "Fashion and Feminism" (but it is Flash so you can't cut and paste). But the description is

    Designer Caryn Franklin and author Julie Bindel debate the impact of …

    Which is cut off just where you might learn what the programme was about!

  • Comment number 59.

    Also, where is the "last listened" box in the new iPlayer.

    It would be very handy to pause, say, something interesting from Radio 4 on my work PC, come home and then be able to pick up where you left off on another PC.

    I've got 4 devices (desktop, netbook, Android phone, and a server) where I might want to transfer listening between.

  • Comment number 60.

    One last thing, there is a CSS code "text-overflow:ellipsis" that can automatically terminate content with an ellipsis at the box edge.

  • Comment number 61.

    Yeah I'd like the low bandwidth option back. I am also at uni and on a restricted usage network. THAT'S my priority.

    Oh and the iPhone app.

  • Comment number 62.

    This new release is brilliant! For years I've been waiting for a favourites/series-link list.

  • Comment number 63.

    Thanks for a great upgrade. An Iphone app would be very useful, if you download on wifi at home then watch when your out and about.

  • Comment number 64.

    ... any news on the Desktop live TV and Radio issue?

  • Comment number 65.

    Hey Antony, What a great swansong / exit speech. Congrats on jumping ship for the next great white hope.
    Why not finish off the job you started first ? eg the iplayer site is littered with 404's all over the place and the basic playback of HD to ion based PC's is rubbish.
    Why should I download a program to a PC - oh because streaming it isn't fast enough due to the broadband network
    Why can't I play back that downloaded file locally ? Because adobe and the BBC can't get their heads together to support GPU's to play it at anything faster than powerpoint speed.
    Take a look here and explain to me why Adobe and BBC can't deliver something that works

  • Comment number 66.

    It is IMPERATIVE that the ability to manually select the LOW BANDWIDTH option (480kbps) be REINSTATED immediately, to put the Beta through as the next stable release without manual bandwidth selection is unacceptable. The automatic adaptive system is next to useless causing in the real world the return of the spinning wheel while attempting to move down, up then back down in a vain attempt to find a level. I know the level I need in the back of beyond miles from the exchange in a rural broadband wilderness. just stop messing with me.

  • Comment number 67.

    Feature request: there should be a "didn't like" voting button, just as there is a "like" (recommend) button. That way my anti-votes can be used to inform the automatic recommendations. At the moment I have stuff recommended for me that I would *never* watch.

  • Comment number 68.

    I had a bunch of comments drafted last night, but since then, the presentation of some screens seems to have changed (!), so I'll start again.

    Overall, I find the new presentation more time-consuming and complicated to navigate compared to the current player, and in some respects, I feel you've thrown the baby out with the bathwater.


    Presentation - I much prefer the older format of presentation, which focussed on what I want to find, chose, and select. The new beta focuses on 'featured', 'for you', 'most popular', and 'friends'. I'm not especially interested in any of those, and thus you've inverted what I think the primary function of iPlayer should be. Perhaps the top half of the page should become the lower half?

    On the lower half of the page, which is more important for me, I miss the structure of the older format, particularly the clever integration of schedule and category as per-channel dropdowns on the left-hand side. The new beta radio frontpage shows only a schedule, and therefore sacrifices:
    - listing of programmes;
    - listing of episodes of programmes;
    - choice of category;
    - choice of per-channel category.

    Please reinstate the older format. I suggest you could reinstate the older format, with its far superior middle panel, by having a horizontally sliding tab thingy (like the current top half of the page) to open up the category tab. (Or add the category tab to the existing tabs in the top half of the page?)

    Bizarrely, the schedules shown on the beta pages are for yesterday, rather than today. How odd!


    Console or iPlayer programme page? I can sort of see the rationale of going straight from a radio item to the radio console, but, given the paucity of information currently shown for the content of each item, would it not have been better to give users the choice (of console or iplayer programme page). Or are you planning to ditch the iplayer programme pages for radio items? (I note you do go to the iplayer programme page for TV items.)


    Favourites - I do like the favourites idea, but the personalisation should I feel be extended:

    1) On the main radio page (...iplayer/radio), I would like the page to remember the radio station previously selected (in the same way the BBC homepage cookie does at the moment).

    2) The 'My categories' selection function is arcane. I couldn't figure it out at all last night, but only discovered how to get it to work just now (by going to that category page, and 'adding it'). I would have thought that the selection of categories would make more sense if the selection was do-able from the main page.

    3) On the 'Show All [category]' pages, the sort default is now most recent, whereas the default order on the current (non-beta) player is alphabetical. I prefer alphabetical as the default; it is far shorter than the 'recent' format, and has the advantage of showing how many more programmes there are in a strand. At the least, could not this choice be remembered as part of the personalisation cookie? (And please, 'Alphabetical' rather than the dumb 'A-Z'.)


    The radio console is a bit of a curate's egg:

    a) The huge graphic at the top is useless, and serves only to show the name of the programme you have failed to programme in correctly on the rest of the console.

    b) I really like the 'Playing/Favourites/For you/Stations' block. (But why isn't for 'for you' functionality operating currently?)

    c) There is no proper space for the programme title or description, with most of the latter being truncated after a dozen or less words with '...'. This is the biggest failing of the radio console.

    d) I'm surprised you've missed off 'listen live' from the console.


    Genre types - In respect of radio drama, this continues to be a joke, as is clearly evidenced by the vast majority being classified as, err, 'Other'.


    Overall verdict: this is one step forward, but two steps backward.


  • Comment number 69.

    Please do a better job of deinterlacing. Movement is unnatural and scrolling credits are barely readable (see https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/eEhRMPkknDzDZtMFU9EFbQ for an example)

  • Comment number 70.

    Please don't force the radio player into a tiny popup window, popups are annoying for users. You should leave it as an option as it is now. Most people use tabbed browsers these days and it is much easier to find iPlayer in a tab than a popup. Also because of the limited space in the popup the seeking/progress bar is not long enough to be able to seek with any accuracy, especially in longer programmes.

  • Comment number 71.

    As a Linux user, the owner of a media player without the required DRM, the same with my SD recorder I've just got the normal moans about not having an official way of getting downloads that I can watch on anything other than my computer with the adobe crap.

    I have one a new moan now though, there are plenty of Linux IM clients that can handle the MS messenger protocol but I don't even get offered the option.

  • Comment number 72.

    Please don't force the radio player into a popup. I hate popups, it is putting me right off.
    I have many tabs open in firefox, I can easily see which is the iplayer one by the bbc logo. If i click on a program to listen to, when it is finished or I am done listening to it, I can just click back in my browser to go back to the list of programs and choose another.
    With the popup I have to close the popup window to get back to my list of programs before I can choose another.

  • Comment number 73.

    However, for a small but growing number of people this is indeed the case, and the fundamental problem that I sought to address was "who becomes the tastemaker for such people in a world without schedules?"

    In my group of friends 75% do not watch live TV. We either schedule it using the recording features provided or we use on demand services like iplayer etc. The tastemaker is liteally word of mouth. We read on a social blogging site that someone we know enjoyed show xyz and we go and look for it. After 2-3 episodes you know if you like it and then you continue or stop. The great thing is that the 2-3 episodes takes 1 evening as opposed to 3 weeks, so poor acting can be forgiven if the storyline is good and vice versa (as you are not waiting a long time to see the next one)

    Just my £0.02

  • Comment number 74.

    Would it be possible for iplayer to pause whatever is currently playing when you press the space bar. This works on most other video sites (youtube etc), very annoying to have to grab the mouse and find the pause button if the phone rings.

  • Comment number 75.

    Thanks for the iPad version of the site :)

  • Comment number 76.

    So pleased to see BBC iD starting to get beefed up. :)

    Any plans for some Last.fm profile or even Disqus integration any time soon?

  • Comment number 77.

    The new adaptive bitrate system really isn't working at all. When I start to watch the programme on a busy uni residence shared connection, the old player would do down to what is probably the lowest bitrate, and the whole programme would play fine (apart from the inevitable blockiness associated with such a bitrate). In the new iPlayer, however, after settling on the lowest bitrate, a few minutes later I'll get the spinning wheel, and the player will attempt to play the higher bitrate. A few seconds later it will then stop, realising it can't cope with it, and I get the "This content doesn't seem to be working. Try again later" error, meaning I have to get up, refresh the page, resume the programme, only for the same thing to happen again a couple of minutes later, making the programme unwatchable.

    The adaptive bitrate clearly isn't very smart, moving up to higher bitrates that my connection quite clearly isn't capable of. Upon realising that it can't cope with the higher bitrate, why doesn't it just gracefully go back down to the lower bitrate, rather than stopping completely, showing the error message and requiring the whole page to be reloaded? The old iPlayer continues to work fine, but I love the new features of the new one. Please sort out this problem!

  • Comment number 78.

    There is nowhere to show what programmes you've downloaded now, and the condescending vids from Rufus are terrible. The new iplayer looks like the new features will be great, but more development or testing would have help. I would prefer a 'Classic option' for those who don't need all the features as well.

  • Comment number 79.

    As an update to my comment #39
    And in view of the many comments ie #30,37,43,50,61,66 &#77

    I thought I would mention there are several threads on the iPlayer messagegoards mentioning the subject and it has already been noted BBC did confirm low-bandwidth will be added back as an option

  • Comment number 80.

    Hi Anthony,

    The new FlashPlayer v10.1 has now been released.

    You wrote in paragraph 9 of this blog "This new adaptive bitrate system, coupled with Adobe's upcoming Flash 10.1 release with H.264 hardware acceleration, should give better quality, less jerkiness and lower CPU usage on PCs equipped with a graphics cards that support H.264 hardware "

    Have users now been noticing improvements and the benefits of hardware acceleration on iPlayer.

    I do note there are some threads on the messageboard but I am not sure I have seen any positive comments so far.

    (There are also a few comments in this blog about bandwidth or #13 & #31 about adaptive bitrate & hardware acceleration )

  • Comment number 81.

    Hi Anthony,

    I am someone who watches/listens entirely online, I think that, while the connectivity thing is a nice idea, you’ve really mucked up on old system of using iPlayer to achieve your new vision. Most disagreeably, I used to take my recommendations from the category section’s “Best of” Bar that ran along the top of the page. This would contain 9-12 options in each category that might be of interest to me. The result is that often I would stumble upon gems that I would have never otherwise considered if I just kept to my exact preferences/biases. Indeed, this is the way that BBC broadcasting is meant to work; people come to see Eastenders and say for Hamlet. Instead, this system is the exact definition of narrowcasting; only showing me 3 random options (the three “Best of” options you now see in categories and otherwise intends to only show me stuff that iPlayer feels I would like to see. As a result, you’re actually reducing my choices and making the system harder to navigate... I want an iPlayer that allows me to easily stumble across more things that I would have never considered, not one that lets me live in blissful ignorance.


  • Comment number 82.

    Loving the beta!

    But please, please, please do not remove the various RSS feeds for the tv channels/radio stations.

    I've been using these for months as my primary method of choosing what to watch on my iPhone, PC and my new iPad.

  • Comment number 83.

    I used to be able to get various BBC programmesonline like Hardtalk, Newswatch and Question Time from outside the UK on my ancient computer using Real Player.

    After you introduced the iPlayer, I can no longer get them. Why the censorship? And why have you not retained the alternative access to these programmes on Real Player?

    There is another issue here that goes beyond questions of legality and copyright. I am exposed to a good deal of BBC left-wing propaganda through the World Service. Yet if I want to access a programme like Newswatch, to see whether Ray Snoddy has picked up on any of the propaganda, I cannot. The best I can do is send a comment to a BBC blog, which may or may not be censored, or complain to the "Complaints" website and be sent on a wild goose chase.

    Come on, BBC, level the playing field. Intrusion works both ways, or should.

  • Comment number 84.

    TrueToo - Newswatch doesn't usually cover World Service programmes. The BBC programme that does is Over To You. You can find their blog here where you can also listen to the programme.


  • Comment number 85.

    Guys, can't you get the basic functions of the original iplayer working before starting a new version?

  • Comment number 86.

    love the new iplayer, but there is no A to Z, please bring it back

  • Comment number 87.

    New iplayer looks nice until fullscreen mode when it leaves the dock at the bottom and the menu bar at the top.
    imac 10.6.4 3.06Ghz.
    Old one works perfectly!
    Good luck!

  • Comment number 88.

    Brilliant job. The iPlayer is now miles ahead of any other VoD system. Genuinely impressive UI design and a clever integration of social media. It'll be interesting to see how this develops.
    Broke for me at first ('Timed out' errors), but the latest update works like a dream.

  • Comment number 89.

    Frankly I am not interested in any of your 'improvements' if they interfere with the way I watch TV programmes on the IPLAYER . All I want is to maintain the same user experience that I am used to. So, when you change the layout of my portal to the BBC what you are doing is virtually coming into my room and abitrarily changing my living room wallpaper. The User Interface is the point, it should be configurable to take advantage of any improvements you have made but none should be imposed just because you think you know best. So, I want the BBC IPLAYER user interface to stay the same. By all means give me some switches so I can implement the new look and feel as I choose but please do not change the current interface against the viewer's will. I use it, I want to continue to use it. Improvement is fine, change for the sake of it is pointless. Fundametally any improvement imposed against the viewer's will is no improvement. See the response to the drastic changes to the BBC NEWS website. Previous changes had been a gentle evolution, the current change is quite drastic and has mainly interfered with the user experience, almost completely in a negative way. If this happens with the BBC IPLAYER I can see the viewer response being equally negative. You need to avoid this and keep your viewers loyal and happy. It is quite technically possible to have a configurable UI, do NOT impose the new interface.

  • Comment number 90.

    I don't really like the new iPlayer as much as its predecessor, except for the Favourites section.

    That said, I'm running Camino 2.0.3 on MacOS X 10.4.11 and My Favourite Categories don't work at all.

    Most of the time the Player fails to list any categories. When I add one, it sometimes registers, but not often, and always loses it soon. Instead it keeps giving me categories I haven't even browsed, much less selected as Favourites.

  • Comment number 91.

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

  • Comment number 92.

    This is very interesting!
    I am a big fan of the BBC Iplayer! and the BBC Iplayer keeps getting better each time the BBC improves it!
    I cannot wait to see the new BBC Iplayer!

  • Comment number 93.

    The last played section doesn't seem to be working, do i have to save the program before i exit?

  • Comment number 94.

    I can't find the Add To My Categories button. Is that in the released version?

  • Comment number 95.


    Is there anyway for me to go back to using the old version of iPlayer because I detest the new one? It's harder to navigate, looks terrible, a bit like an iPhone app, very tacky and pretentious, much like the iPhone IMO. I'm not the slightest bit interested in the social aspect, all I want to do is watch what I want, when I want, without crass gimmicks or people peering over my shoulder for that matter. If I wanted to do social networking I'd join Facebook!!!

    Please, please, please, add an option to revert back to the old format...



  • Comment number 96.

    The new iplayer is a absolute rubbish. I only really watch BBC 4 programs and now, to find something, I have to wade through mountains of 'underage and pregnant' type shows. Did it not occur to the new designers that someone who likes history documentaries or serious shows about current affairs would not be interested in a bunch of pop-culture rubbish and vice versa? How would they think that creating a design which jumbled up such disparate programs would appeal to users? It seems like they really don't care about user experiences at all. The media is full articles today about the outpouring of dissatisfaction with the new iplayer. This is the official response printed in the Guardian: "New products often have technical issues, so it's not a surprise to see a handful of comments about these appear on the message board after the launch."

    This response completely ignores the fact that many, many people just don't like the new format. What contempt the BBC has for its licence holders.


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