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RealMedia - follow up

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Mark Kortekaas Mark Kortekaas | 15:30 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

I wanted to update you on our previous statement about RealMedia deprecation.

As I said in the previous post in October - we evaluate our streaming services against our four test of public value (Reach, Quality, Impact and Value) and those showed us that our RealMedia streaming services were something we need to continue to justify. The posting was to advise listeners that the RealMedia services would be discontinued.

The date on which these services should be treated as deprecated is still the 30th of March 2010. We have kept an eye on the metrics we used to evaluate RealMedia for this, especially in the last few months, just in case these changed. One of our metrics was to monitor the trend for RealMedia usage compared to uptake of alternatives (Flash, Windows Media, 3G...) – and as expected, we've seen the steady decline of users requesting RealMedia over the alternatives. Indeed, on devices like Internet Radios, the majority of manufacturers have been offering our Windows Media streams, both Live and On-Demand, for some time now.

All-in, our decision to deprecate RealMedia has not changed.

What does this mean to you? It means that, if you haven't already done so, you should shift to using the other available services::

  • Internet Radios, Wifi Radios: all the common devices that we know about can make use of our Windows Media services, and communications with key manufacturers have allowed them to provide live and listen-again services on those devices. If you have one of these devices and this isn't working - speak to the manufacturer in the first instance.
  • Web: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/ - for UK listeners this offers you a high-quality version by default, though you can choose to listen to a low-bit rate stream (48kbps).
  • Mobile: 3GPP streaming is available on mobile - for more information check: "Can I access BBC iPlayer on my mobile phone?"
  • Alternative devices or other streaming players: "Where can I find the Windows Media streams to listen live to National BBC Radio?"

While RealMedia streaming services have been with us since 1996 and helped pioneer the streaming media experience with us, this move largely completes the modernisation of our media formats.  This allows us to offer industry standards by platform and as a result of this simplification we’re hoping and expecting better reliability and a simpler user experience.


  • Comment number 1.

    As I knew that the RA Listen Again streams were discontinuing at the end of the month, I started listening to the WMA Listen Again streams in November with relatively little problem.

    But I (as well as many other listeners outside the UK) have been experiencing horrible problems with dropouts since February. Any news on when these problems will be fixed? Do they have anything to do with the verification layer applied on February 18th as reported here...https://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/24/iplayer_xbmc_adobe_swf_verification/ ?

    I'd also like to mention the fact, that the BBC have been periodically dropping Real Audio Listen Again streams since October/November. So isn't the lack of use of the Real Audio streams sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    Just an observation...

  • Comment number 2.

    On Demand WMA still does not work for international listeners using internet radios.

  • Comment number 3.

    PS Sorry, yes, agree with Janaru about lack of uptake of RA being a self-fulfilling prophecy imposed by the BBC who have actually stopped supplying RA (in other words, Real Audio is now unavailable more often than not, so we have no option but to get WMA even if we don't want it). I can't believe this obvious massage of figures on uptake of RA! Who are you trying to con?

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry, me again - whilst there is no way I will pay a subscription to read "The Times" or any other newspaper on line, I beg you to ask me to subscribe to listen to BBC radio on line, I'll be quite happy to pay quite large monthly sums to get my fix of Real Audio, live and on demand, via my Reciva internet radio!

  • Comment number 5.

    Just to temper Gumrat's enthusiasm for handing over the cash, a quick reminder that over here in Blighty we already do, in spades. I think Gumrat might be in Switzerland somewhere, lucky thing, in which case she is welcome to volunteer her contributions.
    As to RA, I never liked to let the RealPlayer anywhere near my PC, always resorting to real 'alternatives', and I don't mourn its passing. What I do regret it the loss of transport controls on my Internet Radio which seems to have arrived on the coat tails of this change. I note that all the various parties say the lack of transport controls is not their doing, and all point the finger at each other

  • Comment number 6.

    @Gumrat#2 - Windows Media Audio is available internationally, the manufacturers we have spoken with are aware. (This includes Reciva)

    @MicroCosm - 'transport controls' - Windows Media streaming does allow skipping through an on-demand stream, just like Real. Indeed - you can confirm this by playing the On-Demand stream in Windows Media Player. So the BBC is not restricting this ability. I'd be happy to sort it out, but all I can say is this is up to the manufacturer of the client player. I'd be happy for you to email me any communications you have with the manufacturers.

  • Comment number 7.

    When is the BBC going to stop with this proprietary codec nonsense (Flash, Windows, Real). What's wrong with MP3 for audio and MP4 for video? Open standards and available on ALL platforms, including important mobile platoforms (iPhone, iPad). Given the goal to do fewer things as stated in the strategy review, doesn't it make sense to concentrate on the few codecs that actually work everywhere and are open? How is choosing a proprietary format in the pubic interest when open standard that are just as good (if not better) are available?

  • Comment number 8.

    What arrangements have been made for dial-up internet users to continue receiving your services?

    The failure of the .wma streams as a serviceable replacement was raised here on 1st November -


    and echoed and expanded on by myself on 14th january here -


    To date both comments are without response yet apparently, according to this post, you have already closed the perfectly acceptable RealPlayer 21 Kbps streams

    Therefore please advise what alterenative have you put in place?

  • Comment number 9.

    CYP tell me exactly when internet radio portal providers such as Reciva and vTuner were informed of the changes so I should know exactly who is responsible for this retrograde step which has hobbled my three internet radios. And is there anyone at the BBC who understands the implications for internet radios? I suspect that you obviously do. Could it be that having a digital delivery system superior to DAB is an embarrassment?

    And why is an open source audio stream inferior to a proprietary one for a publicly owned broadcaster?

  • Comment number 10.

    @ Microcosm
    I'm not advocating that people who already pay a BBC licence fee in the UK should pay an extra subscription to listen via internet radio, just suggesting that many international listeners would willingly pay a subscription to be able to do so!
    @ Alan Ogilvie
    WMA is indeed available internationally for live streams, but it has never functioned for "on demand" internationally. I've tried linking to various on demand programmes on my computer and none of them work in WMA, I can only listen to on demand on my computer via the iPlayer, which is not WMA, if I understand correctly?

  • Comment number 11.

    @ Alan Ogilvie
    My apologies, the paths I was trying for WMA were not adapted properly for international listeners. I find by substitution of "lo" for "uk", I am now happily listening in WMA, with the p/ff/rw working as well.

  • Comment number 12.

    Further to my last post, I wondered if someone could tell me if there's an easy way of opening an on demand programme in the WMP? I use a very convoluted method, via the iPlayer converter, as if I try to put the link from the iPlayer directly into the WMP, nothing happens, except I'm told I should download a codec, but I can't seem to find the relevant one. Any advice, please?

  • Comment number 13.

    A couple of questions if Alan happens to catch this thread...

    1. Are there any plans to fix the AODFeed XML as per https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radiolabs/2009/12/wma_listen_again.shtml so both the international and UK WMA links are available? As Gumrat has mentioned above currently international users have to hack WMA urls to change _uk to _lo which is a bit fiddly.

    2. I don't suppose Real has had a reprieve? Certainly it still seems to be up and running at the moment for BBC7 listen again - long may it continue!

    3. I note there's now a scary copyright warning at the bottom of the XML data files that provide links to the listen again audio (e.g https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/4/mtis/stream/b00kmwfl%29 - does this imply you're going to start clamping down on services that allow people to listen to BBC radio outside of the bbc.co.uk/iplayer environment? I hope you can reassure us you won't be doing anything rash...

  • Comment number 14.

    Long awaited responses...

    @Janaru:1 - "SWF Verification" is not enabled for any Radio streams. You can receive BBC Radio content on a variety of third-party services. I have been unable to find any official public statement around the issues regarding SWF Verification - but I have it marked for future discussions.

    @simonblanchard:7 - these are the carefully considered options that we have implemented. MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (a.k.a. MP3) is not an "open-source codec", MP4 - which codec do you mean, there are plenty... it's just a container. There truly isn't an entirely open-source end-to-end audio/video delivery model for live internet streaming - whether it is the codec, the container, the delivery protocol or the player components that decode it. It is easier to get closer for on-demand content - but it is still without a true 'pot of gold' solution. For example - Flash Player brought support for live video in common standards (e.g. h.264 and AAC-LC) - but transmission of this has been, for the majority of broadcasters, wrapped in a Flash-specific transport (RTMP). This problem is not just a simple case of picking a codec.

    @JoeChip:9 - We have provided access to the Windows Media streaming alternatives to any aggregator/third-party that has requested. For those that have direct contact with us – we have informed via email newsletter. For everyone else, we have published the same information through this blog.

    @Andrew:13 --

    1) I am very aware of the situation, and have requested changes to address the issue. I currently have a work-around however it requires you to know the VPID (Version PID) of the programme - rather than just the PID (Programme ID). I have also asked for this to be addressed. I believe Internet Radio aggregators/manufacturers have enough information to get around the issue.

    2) Sorry - no reprieve for our RealMedia streams they will cease to work at any point. The reasons given haven't changed.

    3) I am now aware of the Ts&Cs that have appeared on some XML feeds. I have asked for clarity on how to interpret these. Sorry - not much more to tell you there for the moment.

  • Comment number 15.

    @ Alan Ogilivie
    After all my grousing, I think it only fair I should also thank you here for your help in getting Reciva BBC live and on demand to work in WMA. With any luck, I won't be commenting here again! Thank you!

  • Comment number 16.

    Many thanks for the answers - that's very helpful and I do appreciate the time you've taken to come back and answer our many and varied queries.

  • Comment number 17.

    Does https://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolradio/help.shtml need to be amended, or is School Radio the exception?

  • Comment number 18.

    Why does the BBC persist in building audio services built around a wish to control DRM for TV programmes. Flash and the iPplayer structure does not work for internet radios, it do not work for most mobiles, and is a pig to record as a stream. It is therefore NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE for US the USERS! I can imagine that you are sitting at a P.C. all day and that the iPlayer does it for you, but RADIO is for people ON THE MOVE! The BBC even misses the point with the iPlayer for mobile, enabling TV program downloads over WiFi to watch off-line, but not RADIO programmes! And what is the point of the PODCAST page when most of the Listen Again content is not on it! I had been happilly downloading Real streams to PC for years to transfer to my mobile to cover my commute, and had been using my Reciva based internet radio at home to play Listen Again programmes. Now both mobile and home use is stuffed; and don't tell me that I can access the ".wma" streams via my internet radio as they reset to the begining whenever there is even the slightest hicup in the link. GENIUS !

  • Comment number 19.

    Real Media:
    I have only just discovered that Real Media is to be discontinued. I have a Magic Box Imp internet radio, which I use to listen to BBC most of the day (both live and on demand). How do I continue to use it to listen to BBC Radio? I have been reading other people's comments, and, unfortunately, have to admit that the language is too technical for me. Any help would be welcome.


  • Comment number 20.

    PS I have already contacted the manufacturer, who provided me with no help at all, and told me to contact the BBC. Hmmmm.....

  • Comment number 21.

    @alex kendall: I believe the Magic Box Imp is based on a Reciva module, so it is probably using the replacement Windows streams already. The Reciva support forum at https://forum.reciva.com/ should provide further help.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks to Dark-Avised for the suggestion. However, as if by magic, I turned on my Magic Box Imp this morning and saw that as of today I am now receiving Radio 4 via WMA. Yesterday the screen was showing that I was getting the signal via Real Audio. So I guess all is well. Is this conincidence or was Auntie BBC listening?

    There is another gripe, however..... Until about 3 weeks ago, I was able to select 'start time' (i.e. not necessarily at the beginning of the selected programme) when listening 'on demand' to Radio 4 and BBC 7. This option has disappeared - annoyingly, as I used it very regularly. Can it be restored, please?

  • Comment number 23.

    A new FAQ about ways to listen online....


  • Comment number 24.

    Are there any plans to allow radio programs to be downloaded, in the same way (most) TV programs can be downloaded?

  • Comment number 25.

    This incredibly frustrating situation has finally forced me out of years of "lurking" mode and on line to register and make my first post. Here goes...

    The cessation of Real Audio links for those of us around the world who still use dial up has been devastating. One day we were enjoying BBC Radio as usual and the next day we were cut off, without recourse to any alternatives or listening options. I know that this may astonish the majority of broadband users - including those who make the relevant decisions at the BBC - but dial up is still alive and well and in wide usage! It is not yet the arcane relic of the technological past that some would have you believe.

    For the record, Real Audio worked perfectly well on dial up right until almost the end of May 2010 when it was arbitrarily terminated. Yes, it occasionally stuttered and stopped but more often than not it played uninterrupted and in totally acceptable sound quality.

    The UK appears to be blessed with low cost, readily accessible broadband. Unfortunately, for the majority of us in the rest of the world, broadband is not always so easily accessible. And when or where it is available it is *vastly* more expensive than dial up. Therefore dial up remains the only viable method by which we can access the internet and - until recently - listen to the BBC.

    Making your WMA low speed links 48 kbps makes absolutely no sense at all. Sure, change from Real Audio to the highly-overrated (IMHO) WMA if you must (although there was no reason to do so in my personal listening experience). But why kick your low speed audio links up to 48 kbps? That is way too fast to access via dial up and - I suspect - way too slow to satisfy the quality demands of those on broadband.

    I would greatly appreciate an explanation of why the BBC has chosen to willfully abandon dial up listeners both in the UK and around the world. What has happened to your commitment to accessibility? The BBC's current policy seems best exemplified by its complete failure (so far) to provide any kind of workaround or solution for a problem that it has itself created - aside from the often implied but incredibly unhelpful advice to "get broadband".

    If my understanding of an earlier post on this blog is correct, the BBC World Service alone plans to continue to offer a Real Audio dial up-friendly low speed connection. If this is true it proves that at least a significant part of the BBC thankfully understands that dial up is still in daily use around the world by a substantial number of dedicated listeners.

    I strongly urge the BBC to seriously consider the immediate reintroduction of basic dial up speed connections, whether in Real Audio or WMA format, for all of its terrestrial radio networks. If it is a cost issue let me be first in line to sign up for a subscription.

  • Comment number 26.

    To further clarify the final paragraph in my first post (above), can the BBC simply not lower its WMA 48 k feeds to approximately 32 k for dial up listeners? That way everyone is satisfied. The BBC sticks with WMA and dial up listeners get access to the BBC once again.

  • Comment number 27.

    "There truly isn't an entirely open-source end-to-end audio/video delivery model for live internet streaming - whether it is the codec, the container, the delivery protocol or the player components that decode it."

    True, but the options you've chosen are so hopelessly proprietary that it beggars belief. Real Media format was always the worst possible option, and Windows Media format isn't far off.

    AAC streaming would be the best option - it's less patent encumbered than MP3, has far broader support than Ogg Vorbis, is standardised, and you're already using it for your higher-quality iPlayer streams so it's not like you'd even have to invest in extra processing power.

    Yet it's locked up in a proprietary Flash application so that nobody can use it outside of a web browser. Have you any idea how frustrating this is?

  • Comment number 28.

    The BBC ignores various inconvenient facts;
    that there are a million or so unable to access the internet at other than dialup speed. Hence no "hear it again etc" .
    Similarly many users of radio do so in the car where background noise limits quality so fidelity is of very little importance, to this end LW without fading and with national coverage over hill and dale is the best wavelength and this is without additional transmitters.
    Add DRM (Radio Mondiale) to Long wave and more channels or better frequency response becomes available. The mw and unwanted interference argument fades if DRM is applied to LW where there is little cross channel interference (in any sense) .
    Has all of the BBC technical staff been allocated to my non existent internet or is there some work on radio still going on in a cupboard somewhere?

  • Comment number 29.

    Re. my posting on the 1/Jun, I've found this excellent program that allows you to download radio shows as MP3 and TV shows as MP4 files.

  • Comment number 30.

    You dare to say "Indeed, on devices like Internet Radios, the majority of manufacturers have been offering our Windows Media streams, both Live and On-Demand, for some time now."

    Yet for many people you have made listen again into listen again,again again and again.
    With no fast forward I have had to abandon my Internet Radio in that it is no fun matter listening to only the first 10 minutes repeatedly on re-connection.

    Listen again,you have made the majority of 'in the wild' manufacturers devices unfit for purpose.


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