back to article BBC iPlayer finally hits the streets

The BBC will press ahead with its Windows-only on-demand service when it launches the iPlayer on July 27, the broadcaster announced today. The end of the beta is sooner than the November launch suggested by the BBC's most recent hints. The development of iPlayer has been beset by controversy over strategy and delays and since …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    windows not supported?

    "Developing a version for Apple Macs and Microsoft Vista is absolutely on our critical path" ... would that mean that only some versions of windows are supported and not the latest one at that.


  2. Andraž Levstik

    Whoa... that's like no support at all...

    Incredible so my imaginary mac system will be supported and my imaginary windows system will be supported... Joy... how about my REAL Free software running GNU/Linux systems?

    Guess not... to bad... Not to mention wmv is probably the crappiest format in the world for anything....

  3. Pete Slater

    Erm Linux?

    Looks like they have forgotten the ginger haired child of the OS market segment - Linux.

    /Strokes ginger haired child

  4. Mark Wood

    Argh no not kontiki!

    Is this the same platform that Sky By Broadband uses? The one that gives you no choice about starting when you start your pc and then hogs your internet connection like a truculent teenager? And is difficult to remove when you decide you hate it?

    In that case the BBC can stick the iPlayer.

  5. Phil Endecott

    Vote with your license fee.

    Dear BBC,

    With effect from 27th July, I will be cancelling my TV license direct debit and storing the TV in the loft.

    At present, all of your delivery channels - analogue and digital radio, analogue and digital television and your website - use standards that anyone is free to implement. I made my first radio when I was about 9 years old, and more recently I have cobbled together a home-made digital TV receiver in the style of MythTV. I greatly value this "freedom to tinker".

    Now, you insist that I can only use one program, which uses a secret protocol, to access your on-demand TV content. Furthermore, to use this one program I have to give hundreds of pounds to Microsoft to buy a copy of their operating system. Well, no, I would rather not do that, thank you.

    What I find particularly bizarre about your plan is that is is bucking the trend in the rest of the market. Previously, you were an oasis of open content amid a desert of proprietary restricted material. Finally it looks as if the rest of the market has started to notice that the public would prefer to have stuff in open formats. But just as this happens, you jump in the opposite direction.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Licence Fee reduction

    I wonder if those of us who are "technologically impaired" and don't use windows/windows media will get a reduction on our licence fee.

    Also its nice to know that the BBC assumes that its licence fee payers are, in fact, criminals who will simply bootleg downloaded programs and then flog them at car boot sales. (I gather however that the quality of the downloads has been compared to 405 line transmission quality so its unlikey to happen)

    I know the BBC thinks life is like Eastenders but we're not all dodgy geezers out to rip people off.

  7. Frank Bough

    Technopolitically Unacceptable

    At this stage of the game, and with the EC having ruled on WIndows Media bundling, the BBC's decision to go Windows only is baffling, depressing and outrageous in equal measure.

    The contrast with their good (if limited) podcast strategy is stark.

  8. Ian Ferguson

    Re. Windows

    Although I don't usually form a defence for Windows and/or DRM, I think it's only fair to point out to all the Linux whiners that the restriction to (one version of) Windows is for copyright reasons, not because of lazy BBC coders. If they do make a Linux client, there are so many tinkerers around that the DRM would soon be circumvented.

    The DRM that the BBC have chosen just happens to be Windows-only - they haven't chosen it BECAUSE it's based in Windows, they've chosen it because it's the only DRM they feel they can trust.

    And as to why they have DRM at all... not everything the BBC spurt out is 100% paid for by licence payers, various people own the copyrights, who would be very unhappy if people started copying their material worldwide. Especially with the lucrative DVD market and foreign TV rights.

    Not to mention... controversially... you're paying your licence fee (I assume), and in return you're getting value from the BBC. Wouldn't you be a bit pissed off if everyone else was copying it for free?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its worse than we imagined!

    According to the BBC news article the requirements are:

    Operating system: Windows XP SP2

    Browser: Internet explorer 6.0 or above

    Media Player: Windows Media Player 10 or above

    Net connection: Broadband

    So tough titty if you use FireFox on Windows (which is why I assume they can't get it running on Macs yet as it uses some dirty ActiveX components)

    I assume Ashley Highfield (director of Future Media and technology at the BBC) has been promised a cushy job at Microsoft for basically prostituting a great British Institution out to Microsoft.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    please would all open source goons please stop whinging...

    if you look at the requirements set down by the bbc trust for the iplayer, they have to make it available for all popular os platforms. This means that versions for linux and mac os are on the way, most likely using a different format to the sucky wmv.

    The BBC started using wmv years ago and have a running conrtact and experience to use it on the most widely used os out there (p.s. sorry linux, but thats windows)

    I run both windows xp and a ubuntu distro on my desktop and will no doubt continue to only run media on the xp side of things, it's just so much easier.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blocking the wrong people?

    A friend who lives in the UK and pays for a TV licence, but spends a lot of time abroad travelling on business, has pointed out to me that the IP mapping idea is very wrong-headed:

    People who access the net from a UK IP, and who do not have a television licence, will not be blocked. UK residents using a foreign IP address (because they are abroad), and who do pay for a television licence, will be!

    These Brits spending time abroad are the people who might well be the most avid consumers of this technology - and they will not be able to use it.

    Doesn't bother me particularly: I use Macs at work, Linux at home, and have no TV or TV Licence. Probably not in the target audience for this service in the first place, therefore.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So what linux based media player that is DRM capable would you suggest that the BBC uses?

  13. John

    p2p & fairuse policies ?

    Disclaimer up front, I dont' have experience of Kontiki and am trying to piece together whats happening here from this and the previous register story, someone can clarify further perhaps?

    Am I correct in thinking this is a peer to peer bittorrent type distribution method?

    Also am I reading that people feel that Kontiki (which iPlayer is 'rebadged' from) is a little bit sneaky, autoloads at start, is hard to stop from doing so and hogs bandwidth ?

    Where does this fit in with 99% of net users not having a clue about their 'fairuse' based contracts which ISP's *obviously* go out of their way to advertise and make users aware of ?What I see here Mr and Mrs Average suddenly getting bent over and reamed by their ISP due to not having a clue about what this iPlayer is doing in the background.

    Oh, and yeah I use Linux, so *yay* for the 24mnth wait . . . . Actually, by the sounds of it they can keep it even if its was released tomorrow.

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  15. Morely Dotes

    Protest in response

    "The BBC will press ahead with its Windows-only on-demand service when it launches the iPlayer on July 27, the broadcaster announced today."

    In response to the BBC's decision to implement their "pay Microsoft to watch our content" plan, I have firewalled the BBC's IP space so that my users are unable to view anything whatsoever at the BBC's Web site. Effectively, my customers will be told that the BBC *has* no presence on the Web; instead they will get an error page stating "site is unreachable."

  16. Craig Collier

    Why is everyone whining so much?

    Come on, somethign ridculous like 98% of all PCs run windows, so BBC should spend the same money on developing a Linux client as they do a windows client, even if the Linux client will only ever be used by geeks who want to scorn it because it wont be open source?

    What about TV, you say everyone is free to get these services, but you have to pay a company like Samsung or Sony to get a TV in the first plac,e are the BBC favouring electronics companies over non-electronics comanies becasue you dont need a sofa to watch tv? No

    Get over it, this is broadcasting. DAB has been aorund for ages, and hardly anyone uses it, not because its windows only or non-linux-friendly, but becasue it sblomin expensive. Channel 4's 4OD service only runs on windows XP too - why isnt anyone moaning about that?

    ffs grow up.

  17. John

    Re: Why is everyone whining so much?

    "even if the Linux client will only ever be used by geeks who want to scorn it because it wont be open source?"

    Linux isn't geek any more, my parents use it, my wife prefers Ubuntu to Windows they prefer it for ease of use, I prefer it for ease of use, and its easier for me to maintain and update the various machines. Linux is less hassle to run than Windows for the non geeks *shock*, Don't think I update and manage their machines "for them", they are capable of clicking the auto updater just as they were on windows.

    "........becasue you dont need a sofa to watch tv? No"

    Er, take two of the pink pills, a long lie down and ponder what the hell is logical about that entire paragraph with relevance to.. well, anything..

    "Channel 4's 4OD service only runs on windows XP too - why isnt anyone moaning about that?"

    C4 is a privae company, not the BBC with its public charter and such. C4 could release their player solely for the Gameboy and would only be anwerable to its various shareholders, not the public at large.

    "ffs grow up."

    As well thought out a statement as any of the above I guess.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Angus Prune

    All popular OSs

    'all popular' - They can ignore Linux under that for a good while - especially since linux doesn't have 'sales figures' so will have to do even mroe work to be seen as a 'popular' OS.

    THe fact that the PR mentioned only Vista and OSX is evidence that Linux is going to be left out in the cold for this one.

    Unfortunately the DRM is a BBC trust mandate - if the recordings didn't self destruct after 30 days then they would pose unfair competition to commercial rivals (according to the BBC trust)

  20. Frank Bough


    98% of people DON'T read the Reg, though do they?

  21. Turbojerry


    The solutions to the BBCs continued idiocy are as follows

    1. For those who travel, SlingBox

    2. For those that want to record and watch on their non-windows machine, a £10 USB DVB-T dongle of EBay and mplayer.

    3. For those that travel and use non-windows machine 2) + bittorrent

    As for the Beeb going MS only, well what can you expect from the people who scream so loud about ricin plots, liquid bomb plots, wireless radiation scares etc? Fairness? ROTFL!

  22. Angus Prune

    Re: Craig Collier

    People are complaining about 4oD

    The BBC is paid for by us and has a constitutional duty to encourage open access for as many people as possible - the whole purpose of which is to fill in the holes left behind by commercial services - be that News, Documentaries, Arts or Users of alternative operating systems.

    They are mandating DRM and 30 day destruct on material which is distributed en-mass enencypted and in a protocol that is open for anyone to implement.

    This implementation means that only certain people will eb able to use the service, adn that to get the service onto 'TV screens' as they put it they will have to make a deal with Virgin Media.

    If they were to implement a linux client anyone could build their own set top box (think myth-tv) and you could even have third party commercial set top boxes produced based on linux.

    By using this approach they are locking people into select companies and atrificially restricting the market.

  23. Rob Crawford

    And again

    Programmes not being available overseas despite you paying your license fee.

    As it was said the BBC do not own many of the programmes they broadcast, or only holds the rights for UK transmission. Have you thought the legal issues they would have to navigate if they allowed overseas users to watch everything.I'm sure the canadian channel that partners the BBC in producing Dr Who wouldn't mind, their overseas revinue vanishing.

    Boo Hoo its windows, it's up to the BBC to justify costs, while protecting it's content. Like it or not it MS fits the criteria. More importantly it makes the content available to the vast majority of home users without introducing somebodys home made media player.

    As for the Baird / Marconi trials, it's the 21st century. Look at the sniping that was done regarding the cult TV section. First the newspapers (and MPs) bitched that the BBC where spending money that didn't generate any revinue. When the site was put on hold everbody bitched that the BBC had stopped mantaining one of the most popular websites in the UK.

    Make your mind up people you want them to spend money on your pet system (but don't actually want to pay do you ?)

    Why not complain that they still don't broadcast on the old VHF channels, becasue you don't like semiconductor companys.

    Many businesses simply use MS solutions because it's possible to get staff that can support the platform and apps. Take an instution like the BBC install Linux & Open Office on every desktop, and see how happy the users are after a couple of weeks ? I'm just so deluged with people who can really work and diagnose faults with Linux systems (actually I'm not most of them simply follow the prompts just like any other Windoze or OSX drone and then sulk when theres no popups to tell them whats going on)

    Before you complain Ive been using Linux since around 95 and it was hell copying all those discs to enable yet another interested person to try the future.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wmv = crap, DRM and Kontiki

    "Not to mention wmv is probably the crappiest format in the world for anything...."

    And your basis for this other than it's not supported on your operating system is?

    Though in fact it is supported on Linux, just not with DRM ;-)

    Now to everyone, listen yet again...

    The BBC have NO choice but to use DRM. The rights holders (which isn't just the BBC) insist on it.

    It's either DRM or nothing at all.

    Now stop moaning and propose a solution that works on all platforms with DRM.

    As for Kontiki. Both Sky Anytime and 4oD do use Kontiki, however it's not doing anything underhand about running on start up and you can easily disable it from starting. If it's running it's sat in the control tray and you just exit the app. The service continues to run but it does nothing unless the app is running, but you can disable the service anyway. Finally, just uninstall all Kontiki based apps to get rid of it.

    However if you actually read the licence agreement you'd be well aware of what you're installing.

    Finally, the other thing is this isn't a broadcast facility and no one has a right to have it at all. Being an on-demand service it's not covered by any of the normal broadcast laws and regulations and it's not a mandatory public service.

    However, chill. You'll get it on Apple soonish. Linux, well maybe some day but really, smell the roses... Linux is a very very tiny part of the desktop OS market. The odd geek or two may have their parents using it (I bet they provide a lot of support to their parents;-)), and sure it's a great server OS, but on the desktop it's Windows all the way and a little bit of MacOS. I like Linux, but I don't use it on the desktop for some incredibly practical reasons.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You should bow down and bless the BBC for what it does

    Okay - not neccessarily in this instance, although clearly a hard-core tech audience isn't the core market for the Corp.

    Okay, it's full of middle-class buffoons with double-barelled names who are dreadfully detached from reality and almost definately only got the job because, 'daddyy's a jolly good friend of.....'

    Okay, it's not supporting macs - which are for girls anyway, or is that maybeline?

    And Okay, it's got DRM or whatever.

    But keep life in perspective.

    The BBC is one of the few wonders of the modern world. If it wasn't for it and the license fee the Brits pay we'd all be suckling Murdoch's increasingly saggy nipple, chewing Cnet's vanilla cud, having brunch with light-weight bloggerati (W) anchor men and - god forbid - eating supper at the international table of CNN.

    Be thankful. You should be fighting for this institution.

  26. Jay Zelos


    I had a play with the Sky thing a while back, installed the provided app, it crashed when started and refused to uninstall without leaving little bits of itself behind all over the place, lots of obscure reg entries and DLL's.

    I then did some searching and found the name of the app was (as mentioned) Kontiki. I managed to install the client downloaded from their website and every thing worked ok. Was still an arse to get rid of though once I got fed up with watching made for TV movies and disney reruns, (after about two days).

    I seriously hope its improved, I have a large family (of PC's) to support.


  27. Dillon Pyron

    DRMed players?

    I haven't used iTunes videos, but I believe they have DRM. Why couldn't the Beeb have used that? NIH? Not MS?

    I suspect this move will just give British "innovators" more motive to "uncover the workings" of WMP and its DRM. It may take longer than an internationally distributed service.

  28. David Webb

    Channel 4...

    "C4 is a privae company, not the BBC with its public charter and such. C4 could release their player solely for the Gameboy and would only be anwerable to its various shareholders, not the public at large."

    Actually C4 was started by Thatcher with a charter to bring programming to minorities and minority interest, so technically C4's player should work only on Linux and not on Windows whilst the BBC must appeal to the mainstream - in other words how many PC's from the high street can you buy with Linux installed? - so should only supply iPlayer to Windows users.

    This just stinks of Linux users throwing their toys outta their pram and crying because the BBC is being mean to them, live with it, Linux is a minority group and always will be, expect to always be bottom of the barrel, just below Mac's in pretty much anything media related, game related and you know, generally fun related.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if...

    I wonder if the iPlayer and this could somehow be related:

    I think we should be told.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reading the comments on the last story might be helpful...

    "I haven't used iTunes videos, but I believe they have DRM. Why couldn't the Beeb have used that? NIH? Not MS?"

    Because Apple's Fairplay system doesn't support seven day expiry of content that's required to avoid giving the BBC a multi-billion pound bill every year for extra rights. WMP DRM is the ONLY reasonably proven, finished system on the market that does, which is why the BBC used it.

    Now, BBC Worldwide might well end up selling BBC programming via iTunes, but that solves the rights issue since it wouldn't be free and the rights holders can take a share of the profits. But that's a completely seperate proposition from the iPlayer.

  31. John Daniel


    "It's either DRM or nothing at all."

    The statement makes no sense! No other BBC broadcasts use DRM. My home recordings don't "self destruct". I can record any programmes at broadcast stream quality onto my DVD recorder and, if I wanted to, duplicate and sell these worldwide. I don't; and I'm sure if it was widespread, we would have heard about it.

    The iplayer stream quality is poor by comparison. No one will want to use it as a pirated source. Be realistic, it's about control.

    As for what player to use: The BBC have been years "developing" iplayer.... what have they actually been doing, saving up our pennies to give to M$?

    In the time that's been available, there has been time to produce a multi-platform player from scratch.

  32. Steve Barnes

    Re: Linux for ease of use

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!................ ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaah!

    *wipes away tears*

    Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. And before I'm burned by a Linux fanboy, I have a dual-booting PC using Windows XP Home and Ubuntu. I enjoy and use both frequently, but to say that Linux is 'easy to use' is a load of crap. The painful hassle to set it up to use this type of common format, or to open this file, or to have this type of program installed etc, is insane. It's come along way over the years but XP (not Vista scum) will always rule all.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Nonsense

    "The statement makes no sense! No other BBC broadcasts use DRM. My home recordings don't "self destruct"."

    No, they don't. But the right to record something for timeshifting is a real fudge that doesn't fit the rest of UK copyright law very well at all. I wouldn't ever expect to see anything like that happen again. Ultimately rights holders feel the amount of piracy done by people taping things is well understood, accounted for and taken into account in the amount they charge the BBC. But people will keep non DRMed computer files a lot longer, and download more of them, so something needs to be done technically to prevent people keeping them for longer than seven days - or at least (and this is the key point I think) make keeping them from iPlayer et al more difficult than just taping them off the telly in the first place, so the amount of piracy thus remains at that level that's already accounted for.

    It's certainly true that on the above logic the rights holders are unwilling to sign the contracts allowing the BBC to distribute programmes via iPlayer unless they have some form of reasonably secure DRM file timeout. And thus it's "this or nothing", given no one else apart from Microsoft makes one for the BBC to buy.

    "In the time that's been available, there has been time to produce a multi-platform player from scratch."

    The BBC wouldn't be allowed to. Developing a multiplatform DRM software solution would unquestionably fail a Public Value Test by Ofcom and the BBC Trust (and it would - it would only be of benefit to a tiny amount of the population and it would heavily damage the international commercial market for DRM software, and thus it would fail), and probably fall fowl of EU state subsidy law too. They have to buy one in. And the only one they can buy in is Microsofts. Anger might be better placed at Apple/Real et al for failing to build one themselves.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some facts to inform the debate.

    Licence payers do not own the content the BBC broadcasts.

    As has already been pointed out, the use of DRM to give content a shelf-life once downloaded is dictated by the rights owners, not by the BBC itself. Besides, if you can't sidestep it, you're not trying hard enough.

    The geographic restriction to users within the UK is similarly dictated by the rights owners, not by the BBC itself.

    Despite what you may have read, with a little ingenuity, iPlayer can easily be made to work on a Vista PC.

    With some more ingenuity, the Kontiki client behind the iPlayer re-badging can be easily reigned in and prevented from playing fast 'n' loose with bandwidth.

    iPlayer runs fine within Firefox. Get the IE Tab Add-in from the relevant Mozilla page and all is well.

    For iPlayer there are significant additional costs beyond the existing costs of content production:

    The content must be transcoded specifically for iPlayer use; someone has to provide the kit and run the transcoding process. This costs money.

    Once transcoded, the content has to be stored and served from an array of internet connected machines; someone has to provide the kit and run the servers. This also costs money.

    Due to pressure from the Open Source movement and from disgruntled Licence payers, the BBC has decided to halt production of the current iPlayer design. Instead, a further 40 million of Licence payer's pounds will be spent re-engineering the design for Linux users. Another 5 million will be spent on a support network for (ordinary man-in-the-street non-geek) end-users who have difficulty setting up their Linux PCs. The resultant design will deliver only content for which there are no rights owners. Can't wait.

    I made one of these up.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My 2 penny worth

    I know a load of people who work in various IT/Tech departments at the Beeb and let me assure you Mac OS is very important to them, they WILL be releasing this player for MAC OS.

    The reason that they went for Windows to start with is simple volume of users. If you are going to start a service like this and you need to get all the computer users in the country, you start with the 95% easy win, then go for the less used, slightly more exotic OSes.

    Linux is a slightly different matter, AFAIK there is no reliable DRM for linux, certainly not one which is cross platform, which is kind of a shame. I suspect this could also be seen as not a shame by some people, but I guess they also want non-DRM BBC programs and on that matter:

    The Beeb HAVE to use DRM, because they can't be supplying these programs to non-license payers. The beauty of the current transmission system - you can't get it outside the UK, well maybe Eire and possibly the Calais.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Getting theBeeb abroad

    Have seen the size of the satellite dishes planted in the gardens of ex-pat Brits in the Canaries? They can watch Spendies and the rest to their heart's content. The only fly in the ointment is getting hold of the Radio Times before the stuff goes out!

  37. Paul Hurst

    RE: Craig Collier

    "you say everyone is free to get these services, but you have to pay a company like Samsung or Sony to get a TV in the first plac,e"

    Correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I'm aware the TV market is not a monopoly.

    There is competition which keeps costs down.

    TV signals are a standard and are as such able to be received and interpreted by differing companies.

    Buying a computer isn't a monopoly, nor is it free. If I want to run Linux I still have to buy hardware.

    But I do have choices about how I buy my computer or parts from and of what make they are (just like you Sony/Samsung example)

    Its a different matter if Samsung were the only company that could make TVs, not unlike the situation we have here.

    Once you have a monopoly over something, such as M$ has here, that can be exploited (well...the users can be exploited, but given that they sure as hell dont give a damn about them, all is well).

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Nonsense

    ""It's either DRM or nothing at all."

    The statement makes no sense! No other BBC broadcasts use DRM. My home recordings don't "self destruct"."

    Makes absolute sense in the context of what iPlayer's legal status is.

    It is NOT a broadcast facility.

    By law you can freely watch 'broadcasts' over the air without DRM and you have a limited right to "time-shift" (though I believe you're not intended to keep recordings forever though it's not enforceable).

    By law downloads over the Internet are NOT broadcasts. They are not covered by broadcast laws, they are covered by copyright and usage licences. The very same laws in fact as buying a DVD. You don't have a right to a DVD for free after all do you? ;-) (in fact there have been proposals in the past for a kind of self destructing rental DVD).

    To offer anything for download is then not covered by the BBC's normal broadcaster rights. Downloads have to instead be licenced and the rights holders can insist what they like.

    Fact is they insist that to allow these downloads for free they need to be DRM'd and restricted to 7 days to give it an equivalent status to broadcast TV and typical time-shifting.

    Complain all you like, but the BBC have no choice. Thus it is DRM or nothing.

    And to say it again. The iPlayer is NOT a broadcast facility. Your licence fee doesn't entitle you to download ANYTHING from the BBC for free.

    Unlike laws change to grant broadcast status to Internet TV then this is the way it will remain.

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