Everything, Everything - September 2011

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BBC iPlayer Problems
Sunday 25th September, 2011 09:43
I like iPlayer, in general, but there are a few things I really dislike about it:
  • You can't play a TV show from the start if it's currently airing (you can only watch it live)
  • Once the TV show has finished, it's frequently "coming soon" for several hours
  • The BBC only support a small number of mobile devices
The first two are somewhat related. It seems that if the content isn't already up (which they can't do for anything "live") then you can't watch it until a few hours after it's finished. The problem is that shows like Match of The Day are broadcast late at night and still aren't available the following morning. I've recorded the whole thing on my Sky+ HD box, but I did catch the end of the show live on iPlayer and was hoping to watch highlights of one match in particular. It seems I'll have to watch it on my Sky box, as the show still isn't on iPlayer. It is, however, available from two different sources on The Pirate Bay. They appear to have encoded and uploaded it before 3AM. That's at least 6 hours before the BBC. No wonder people download TV shows. If I'd forgotten to record MOTD last night I would have to either wait for the legal options to catch up or I could watch it as soon as it'd downloaded from an illegal source. Legal content should be quicker and easier, and ideally higher quality.

The last point seems to be related to the BBC trying to control its content. The majority of content is available as a number of streams, but some are for specific platforms. They will only allow Flash or HTTP Live Stream on mobile devices. It seems that there's a version for iPads etc. that don't support Flash and there's a version for Android (2.2+) phones (with ARMv7 processors) that use Flash (i.e. most modern Android phones, but certainly not all of them, especially not legacy ones). Windows Phone doesn't support Flash, but could potentially play the other streams, but the BBC won't make an application available. To be fair, it took them a year to put the iPlayer web page into an app for Android users, which offers less functionality some of the third party apps that the BBC managed to shut down. They seem to talk about DRM and a good user experience, but no content is definitely less useful than low quality content. IIRC the Android application restricts access to wifi connections. Fine if you're in a Starbucks and want to catch up on MOTD as you drink your grande latte, but not so useful if you're waiting for a bus in the middle of town and all you have is a strong 3G connction. In theory they support Symbian, but in reality they support a handful of (mostly Nokia) phones. Mine isn't supported, although if I signed up to the Ovi store and lied about my phone I might be able to trick it into downloading the application. I don't watch much content on my phone anyway, the screen is too small, but my next phone might have a massive 4.7" screen so I might consider watching the odd thing then. But as I'm considering a WP7 (once Mango is released in the next few days), it seems I may have to go without iPlayer on a mobile for even longer. I wouldn't be surprised if someone else (the pirates?) beat the BBC to it and make at least some of the content available over a 3G connection. Perhaps Livestation?

I know they want to control their content, but if it's already being captured, encoded and uploaded to The Pirate Bay (and other sites) before they make it available on iPlayer, then do they really need to worry about someone potentially capturing their (lower quality) streams? All the good/popular content (MOTD, Spooks, Doctor Who, Torchwood [which aired this season in America before the UK], Live at The Apollo, Celebrity Masterchef, Would I Lie To You, Holby City, Dragons Den, QI, Outnumbered, Mock The Week... need I go on?) appears to be out either before (especially live content) or very shortly after (1-2 hours?) the BBC makes it available through iPlayer.
Rick Astley
Tuesday 6th September, 2011 11:31
It's not just me that thinks Professor Green looks a bit like Rick Astley!


Professor Green - Rick Astley
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