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Wednesday 13 February 2008

BBC iPlayer [Lurks]

After an extensive trial (in which they only wanted women from the Isle of Man apparently), BBC launched the iPlayer. It's basically an on-demand thing, well only it isn't. It's a sort of sliding-window archive of stuff you can download to watch, which is encumbered perhaps necessarily with DRM. The site has things up for a week, or so, but not all shows. And if you download them you have to watch them before some time limit or they wont play.

BBC iPlayer in practical terms is a sort of half arsed browser-based thing that installs a plug-in to manage downloads and then shoves the whole thing onto P2P. I gave it a go with Jools Holland's Later, which I always miss on Friday night. It was over 600MB for an hour so basically a pretty big bitrate, I was expecting good things. Only my P2P downloader thing only found 30 or 40 odd peers and I got 47k/s. No clue what ports it's using, assuming it's basically just bittorrent ripped off. No clue what to forward to get it to work better. 47k/s is pretty damn lame, and so is that number of peers.

So anyway it's leeched. Overnight. Sigh. I go to watch it, click watch and it trashes the HD for awhile and then says acquiring a licence for content and then fires up an extremely basic media player window thing. It does full screen but that's about it. Worse still, the video is blocky as hell, it essentially looks like a very badly encoded mpeg2. It gets worse, whoever coded this completely fucked up the player and it suffers from massive tearing as the rendering isn't synched to actual frame rate. It's just plain nasty.

So that's why 30-40 people were seeding this thing. It's fucking shit. You'd just go onto Usenet or whatever and download someone who will have done a proper goddamn encode and play in a real video player without any goddamn DRM.

Gah, I was hoping this would be half way useful. I bet they spent a ton of money coming up with this rubbish too.


  1. Yeah, that matches my experience too. There is some setting somewhere, where you can get it to launch wmp instead of the shitty web player to watch content, or open the wmv from your HD directly. However, you're still stuck with a DRM infested crap encode.

    They really don't get the "competing with piracy" thing do they?


  2. Why don't they let the community sort the distrubution, and just host the licensing? Just shove em for free, in a variety of qualities for the 'scene' to sort out. It's the beeb, that stuffs already paid for, just let it go.


  3. I surmise it's more complex. Stuff is produced for various contracts, funded in - presumably - slightly different ways. Eg something might be partially funded from the BBC's other revenue streams (selling stuff, BBC World abroard etc), and ends up with an agreement to republish via those mechanisms. So if you give it all away it could kind of hurt those other opportunities. I imagine they'll be first trying to do no harm regarding their revenue.

    They really do want to keep control of what they provide. The idea seems to be offering things you missed, a chance to watch again etc. Just like the radio stations are doing on their web pages (in rather a lot better way). What I think I'd like to see is a proper application with a media library, sort of like that new Azareus (I only saw screenies on the web, obviously every sane man uses uTorrent) which is a portal to the BBC content library. Chuck everything in it that's public domain and essentially plan to make all content public domain after a period. And then deal with current commercially relevant stuff in other ways.

    I understand not wanting to fuck over revenue streams for more current expensive stuff but I think it's a bit bent that licence payers paid for all those classic shows years ago and the BBC still keeps them under lock and key, doled out on DVD and licenced repeats as and when they feel like it. I think the BBC archives thrown open and shared via P2P would be a great force for good.

    At the other end of the scale they could use the same app to flog you copies of things if you're not a licence payer. They'd know because you'd have to set up an account and put your TV licence in it. HDTV downloads and stuff would be great too. Sure, DRM this shit if you must. But if you're entitled to it and you want it on your disk it should be locked to you forever, none of this week-long shit.

    And surely the benefits of being able to blog the world BBC stuff via this iPlayer-PROPER would outweigh revenue streams lost on making the older stuff free for licence payers?


  4. I think, like the music industry, that the limiting factor here is the economics is based on regional TV companies that really doesn't fit the interweb. But then, is the number of internet viewers really that significant over normal TV viewers that a genuine internet release can't cooexist? I wouldn't even mind it being stuffed with adds.