Webometric Thoughts

November 27, 2007

Single on-demand player for BBC, ITV and Channel 4!!!

Filed under: 4OD,BBC,ITV,iPlayer — admin @ 1:52 pm

The BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 4′s 4OD, and the streaming content from ITV.com have fundamentally changed my TV habits; about the only programme I now watch when broadcast is ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ (available from 4OD, but for a price). Unfortunately however the iPlayer and 4OD don’t work perfectly, with the iPlayer being especially erratic (occassionally having a frenzy that eats up all the processing power), and the two downloaded services often rub each other up the wrong way as they use similar technologies. Hopefully a single player will solve many of the current problems and will increase adoption of video on-demand.

Whilst a Mashable posting has a little bit of a whinge about the use of DRM, compatibility, and UK only access, it seems be missing the bigger picture, as TechCrunch states “Ultimately the biggest winner from the deal will be the British viewer who will have unparalleled access to legal TV content online in the one spot.”

DRM is a necessity in the world of broadcast television, as is the restricting of access on a national basis, overcoming these boundaries are years away and will require unprecedented international cooperation (DRM-free music is a piece of cake in comparison). Compatibility will come with time, but it makes sense to start with the dominant system.

I did notice one comment on the TechCrunch site whinging about the BBC TV licence (and I am sure there will be more to come), so in the interests of keeping the balance, I would like to point out that I would willingly pay an increase in the TV licence!

October 20, 2007

BBC Flash Player Starts to Roll-out

Filed under: BBC,Flash,archive,iPlayer — admin @ 10:02 am

Less than a week ago the BBC announced that it had come to an agreement with Adobe allowing it to stream programmes with Flash. Whilst there are no exact dates as yet, the BBC doesn’t seem to be messing around. They announced in their Archive Newsletter last night:

We’re also launching a new media player that uses Flash instead of RealPlayer or Windows Media. We have to stress that as this is more to help us with technical aspects of the trial, it won’t be released to everyone, sadly. We’ll be e-mailing a selection of triallists soon with more information. We’re sorry, but we won’t be able to extend this group of triallists, but we thought you’d like to know that it exists, even if we can’t give everyone access to it.

At this rate the streaming should be completely rolled out by Christmas, and come Christmas Day the Queen’s speech will fit into my schedule…surely that must be treasonable!

October 16, 2007

BBC: The Best of British

Filed under: BBC,Dave,N95,Sky Sports,iPlayer — admin @ 9:19 am

If you had to create a list of the best things about Britain only a fool would ignore the BBC, and despite being in existence for over 75 years, in various forms, it continues to be at the forefront of the latest technologies. Last night its news site (probably the best news in the world) announced that the BBC site would be accessible at The Cloud wi-fi hotspots throughout the UK for free, but even more interestingly it provided some further details of the future of BBC TV on the internet.

Key points:
- A streaming Flash version of the iPlayer
- Downloading to portable devices (such as N95 and PSP)
- Not commited to offering download version of iPlayer to Linux and Mac

Whilst the streaming version will be a more inclusive version for the whinging Linux and Mac users, I am sure there will still be complaints that they can’t have a download version, but as the BBC says “It comes down to cost per user”. Of course I personally welcome the proposed addition of the N95 version (especially as I have numerous trouble connecting to my Sky Sports package), and hope that the Flash version will be compatible with the Wii, but I also realise the need for the BBC to be cost effective.

The biggest probably I have at the moment with the BBC is finding time to watch and listen to all their programmes. The iPlayer is slowly filling with programmes I will probably never have time to watch, my N95 is filling with podcasts faster than I can listen to them, and I am constantly battling with the wi-fi radio to utilise the 7-day catch-up before we reach day eight! The change in the media landscape is best expressed through a comparison of launch of the Channel 4 twenty-five years ago, and the launch of Dave on Freeview yesterday. Where one was launched with a blaze of publicity that everyone was talking about, Dave was launched with little more than a whimper. As yet I haven’t even bothered to re-tune my digi-box.

August 16, 2007

BBC iPlayer has changed my life!

Filed under: BBC,iPlayer — admin @ 8:07 am

There is a lot of talk at the moment about the BBC iPlayer in both the blogosphere and the traditional media, with arguments raging about the suitability of the P2P technology, the fact that it only runs on Windows, and that it is gobbling huge amounts of bandwidth. In my opinion the entry of the iPlayer can only be a good thing for British broadband users: it will increase uptake of high speed internet connections, and force the ISPs to provide better services to meet the increased demand.

Whilst the iPlayer is not the first of the main UK television companies to make their content available online, the BBC’s world renowned brand means that when it makes a move more people pay attention; even within the UK’s vast collection of television channels, and despite its public self-flagellation for minor indiscretions, the BBC is still an important institution that the public feels they have a vested interest in. It is not surprising therefore that the wrath of the ISPs is being vented at the BBC’s entry into the market, an entry that is likely to substantially increase the number of people using the internet for video-on-demand. But does the BBC really deserve to be the focus of their attention? Or should the ISPs really be living up to the promises they make in the packages they offer and stop whinging about it?

The ISPs make a lot of money by offering high broadband speeds and the promise of ‘unlimited’ downloads by relying on the fact that the majority of their customers will never utilise the high speeds or the unlimited downloads. Those that have been getting the best value for money are those who have already been using video-on-demand from less legitimate sources, and their broadband has been subsidised by those of us who have been biding our time for the legitimate sources to appear. The introduction of legitimate video-on-demand was seen to be coming for a long time, especially the BBC’s iPlayer which had to jump through a million hoops to prove that it was in the public interest, and nonetheless the ISPs continued to offer ‘unlimited’ downloads with the caveat of a fair use policy. Well surely downloading from legitimate sources should be considered fair use, after all that is what the average user will expect to be able to use it for.

The iPlayer and other high quality video-on-demand web sites creates a market of users wanting higher broadband rates than before, and they are probably willing to pay a bit more for it. But if an ISP offers ‘unlimited’ it should be unlimited, and if they do include ‘fair use’ policy then it needs to accept that video-on-demand is fair use. The showdown between the ISPs and the BBC will force the ISPs to upgrade their services, and hopefully provide the UK with the best internet infrastructure in the world. Personally, the majority of television I watch is now online, after all they don’t broadcast the likes of “The Sky at Night” at 6.30 in the morning, and if my ISP decides that I am in breach of their ‘fair use’ policy I would move to a new ISP without a second thought.

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