back to article BBC, ITV, Channel 4 plot single broadband TV player

The UK's terrestrial broadcasters are reportedly in talks to establish a single platform for on-demand TV to broadband devices. The BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 are said to be aiming to create a "one-stop shop", open to other channels too, which would allow legal broadband viewing from one programme. According to The Guardian, the …


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  1. Ned Fowden

    limited appeal

    Until this country gets it's broadband sorted, don't these companies realise that the majority of people will not be taking this sort of service up.

    While the BT's et al insist on their 'fair usage policies', tv on broadband is not a viable prospect for the general public.

    Even Joost only gets the advanced geek as a subscriber

    TV on the net is a bad idea, thats why we have cable (well for those of you that can get it that is)

  2. Terry Ellis

    Yes Please

    Anything that simplifies IPTV is a good thing in my opinion. I am already beginning to become concerned about the amount of 'multimedia streaming' software I already run. One platform would make life much simpler... as long as it works well!

  3. Andrew Thompson

    sounds fun

    Certainly sounds like a good idea. Will keep an eye on this after watching joost and babelgum and to be honest being disappointed at boths offerings.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why re invent the wheel

    Just use Joost, it's free and it will be properly launched way before whtever whatever they develop is ready.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TV or not TV?

    Why bother with a TV and satellite / cable connection? You're likely to be looking at ~£40-60 a month.

    I've not had a TV for over three years and recently (thank God) got a decent broadband connection (~£25/m). I watch the programs I want, practically when I want for free and (most importantly) without any adverts or trailers. Yes, I have to tolerate product placement, but as long as it's done well, you don't really notice it.

    I've occasionally tried watching satellite / cable TV while on holiday. I got bored very quickly. The programs I wanted to watch were so saturated with adverts and trailers for other programs that by the time the program ended I'd go on to watch some other tat.

    It's easy to see how people end up watching TV all evening. The solution? Opt out of the model to which broadcasters are forcing you to adhere by using your 'net connection. You'll regain your evenings and weekends as a result.

    You might also try going out (without necessarily getting bladdered) or reading a book as alternative pastimes.

  6. Dr. Mouse


    Why do they insist on re-inventing the wheel.

    I agree with the principal behind the move, but...

    The technology for streaming video is already there. If they are worried about people pirating the stuff, DRM is already there (although people can still just plug their PC to a video/DVD recorder, so why bother?)

    Thing is, the 'unified program' they release will be for windows. They are making no effort for cross-platform programs at the moment. And they are inventing new, proprietry protocols all the time. If they want to do a P2P system, they need to make an open, standard protocol that everyone can use, not add another cl;osed, proprietry, windows only program (They might as well just use Joost if they are going to do that)

  7. The Cube

    Peer to Peer Cheapskates

    I tried and uninstalled 4oD as It was not long before I noticed the processor and Internet traffic overhead as my machine was roped in (full time) to being part of their distribution network. Sorry, if you are too cheap to build a real VoD platform and connect it to the ISPs properly don't expect me to get my bandwidth 'fair use capped' on your behalf.

    Now I understand why the ISPs are so keen to cap your P2P use on their networks, it is not just the warez leechers but the entertainment corporate leechers filling up their networks without any useful revenue model to pay the ISPs for the required upgrades.

    Somebody has to pay for the network to distribute this content to users, the most efficient way to do this and achieve useful quality is to put delivery nodes into the ISPs core networks or edge exchanges but that costs money. Unfortunately all the other ways cost money too. P2P distribution jams up the ISP networks and their peering just as badly as any other method, the only upside is for the initial content distributor who gets away with a much lower egress bandwidth fee from their carrier. Centralised distribution costs money in server hardware and bandwidth.

    The ISPs now have two choices, either deliver progressively lower quality of service and more aggressive un'fair use' restrictions or charge their customers more money to cover the infrastructure and peering costs. We all know what they are doing at the moment.

    Until one of the media players actually decides to pay for their customer access network we will all pay the price.

    Murdoch's evil Sky Empire has acquired an ISP to augment his orbiting death stars and is investing some real money in the network and content delivery, can't fault the man on brains.

    In the meantime NTL / Virgin Media has a bit of an investment problem and is going nowhere, honestly Bulldog! and I thought NTL couldn't get any worse...

    So either the BEEB, ITV, C4 et al get agree that they have to pay part of the delivery price or they just hand the whole thing over to Murdoch again.

    Personally I don't want the future of my home network to be as yet another part of Endemol being used to pump the sewerage that is Bog Brother across the Internet as well as across the airwaves.

  8. Matt

    What he said

    I agree with Ned in terms of the pathetic bandwidth available in the UK for domestic users, a TV service using the public internet requires a very large amount of bandwidth when compared to web browsing (which seems to be all that UK based ISP's consider to be acceptable use)

    On the other hand a P2P based IP TV system is a brilliant idea, somthig like 80% of the costs involved with producing and distributing content are given straight to the broadcasters (the people that put the tv channels on the air), with a P2P based IP system these costs should go away leaving more cash to make some programs worth watching, ie: less reality TV shows

  9. Jon G

    Why Bother ?

    Who really cares about this - why bother to watch TV programmes on some small computer screen probably stuck in the bedroom when you can watch it from the comfort of home

  10. Arnold Lieberman

    More poor quality TV

    In order to fit down the narrow "broadband" pipes we have, the bitrate is going to have to be atrociously low. Existing STBs are only going to be able to handle MPEG2, which looks poor at anything less than 4Mb/s. Comparing the PQ of ITV on Freeview vs. analogue shows just how bad the compression artefacts are and I can't see this being any better - ITV currently broadcasts 544x576 resolution on freeview whcih isn't even full SDTV, let alone HDTV! And this they call progress...

  11. leslie

    Tv or what Tv

    Its ok to say I've not had a TV for 3 years, but then what have you been able to watch, maybe I've had my head in the sand but after trying things like joost etc what is their that works?

    Tell me how I (legally) watch tonights emmerdale without cable, satellite, an aerial on my roof or a blocky freeview receiver?

    What about Dalziel and Pascoe at 9pm on bbc1 ?

    I would happily ditch my cable providers TV feed if I could pick off the net the programs I wanted when I have the time to watch them.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If they do this, let them implement an operating system agnostic solution. I can't use 4OD because you need windows, BBC stuff currently uses Real Player (which I can access but isn't the best solution).

    Use a free and open codec and let us use our own choice of client.

    It'll never happen that way of course, because they need a way to make us pay, therefore closed source DRMed players will result.

    I already pay for the BBC, and the rest of them get paid by advertising, why do I have to pay again ?

  13. Ben

    Surely... long as ISPs are capping download speeds in the evenings (when people actually have the time to watch TV) there's a limit to how effective VoD over broadband can be. That's before you take into account family homes, where people could actually be using the internet for multiple things at the same time. If you have VoD bogging down somebody else's MMO or other online gaming (both increasingly popular activities) or interfering with another person's web access because of limiting fair usage policies (or even simply because of a bandwidth-hungry VoD service) then this kind of thing won't ever take off.

    Ultimately you would end up scheduling to download TV overnight or while out at work (when the connection isn't in use), essentially rendering it as little different to timeshift devices like Sky+ and its Anytime service.

    Broadcasters might want people downloading lots over broadband, but ISPs sure don't.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Project Kangaroo

    Is that something to do with the number of hops that traceroute will show?

  15. Ed

    The iPlayer

    As someone on the BBC iPlayer trial I'm disappointed with it. The client is clunky to use (its essentially Internet Explorer in a custom program), the video quality is poor (bad aspect ratio frequently, 320x240 resolution videos) and I had to spend about 3 hours deleting random windows files to try to get the DRM to let me play.

    I'm very competent with computers, as a programmer, so if I had a nightmare with this, what is the general public going to think?

    I'm generally very supportive of the BBC, and I think we get some very good content from them, but I think until they really open things up, forget about DRM, we will keep seeing these stupid programs that people can't use.

  16. Shaun

    Vigin OD charging for BBC programmes

    Is that right?

    It was my understanding that I paid for the BBC programming with my licence fee, so should Virgin be charging me to view it over the OD service?

  17. leslie

    virgin charge for bbc

    well thats one to complain to the BBC about, they may not even know, I would guess your license fee covers the live showing, then virgin may well say there fee covers the bandwidth and storage of said content......

  18. Christopher Cowan


    So the TV companies "would allow legal broadband viewing from one programme" I think you'll find that is one program unless Emmerdale is how we are all going to access the Internet from now on.

  19. c price

    RE: virgin charge for bbc

    Virgin don't charge for their "Catch Up TV" Service, over your regular monthly subscription. This allows you to watch "selected" shows from BBC, Channel 4 and Virgin own channels (Bravo, Challenge etc) for 6 days after transmission.

    The keyword there is "selected". You have no way of knowing in advance if the programme you want to watch will have been saved.

    There is also a pay-per-view service, which allows you to buy episodes of older series, including BBC content. But this is no different than buying it on DVD or from iTunes or similar.

    So they do not "charge" for BBC content.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    virgin tv

    I am of the understanding that Virgin Media charge for the "TV Choice" on Demand section (series, shows and documentaries from months/years back) and not the TV "Replay" on Demand (past seven days' programming).

    I must admit, Telewest (the original regional provider) gave it all free, but not now.

    Replaying (or whatever they call in now) 4OD, Flextech (Bravo, Living, UKTV) and BBC On Demand shows is free, but a subscription must be entered for "Classic" or "TV Choice" shows from any channel.

  21. mike


    this is bound to include \drm of some kind as the existing DRM digital rights mistake that wont even let me copy stuff i own the rights too they can forget it.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the BBC multicasting AVC/H.264 net trials

    i guess you people have never heard about how the BBC conducted Multicasting AVC trials then?

    most UK ISP's refused to let the UK users trial it.

    the problem was and indeed still is, the UK ISP's board of directors from Virgin Media, BT, and all the rest will not just turn back on, the genic multicasting ability that has been included in all the industrys routers and other internet ISP kit from day one.

    tell them to turn it back on, all the way to the UK's end users and see the real power evolve as users and developers strat to use that capability to it ful advantage, and as a side effect save vast amounts of bandwidth to boot.

    why oh why dont the ISP's just use the current IPv4 multicasting abilty already installed but turned off, instead of hypeing on IPV6 with its compulsary multicasting requirement for the future.

    the futures already here ,turn the thing on, wrap the BBC multicasting AVC/H.264 trial software in a nice new front end that uses any 3rd party player such as VLC, MPC, Mplayer, and other capable players than have an AVC codec.

    or can run the commercial CoreAVC codec that Joost licenced from Core , put some form of personal ID downloader/viewer protection on there if they most and watch as any AMDxp2400+ or better PC today can then play it just fine

    i repeate, force all UK ISP's to [b]turn on multicasting[/b], use the growing industry wide AVC/H.264 codec inside standard DVB-* (as found in BBC and sky and EU transmissions and STB's) and push it out to users that register an interest in the program over an P2P or simple web page interface, simple easy and already well tested in beta form, just use it people , youk now it makes sense....

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    that march 2006 BBC multicasting AVC trial info

    According to a recent BBC R&D presentation on multicasting, the BBC will be providing its streams using the following formats:

    Video Codec

    Bit Rate

    MPEG-2 5 Mbps

    [b]H.264/AVC 1.2 Mbps[/b]

    Windows Media 360 kbps

    Real 360 kbps

    Audio Codec Bit Rate

    AAC 128 kbps

    And AAC at 128 kbps provides far higher audio quality than MP2 can at 128 kbps, therefore the audio quality of the radio stations via multicasting will be far higher than via DAB.

    The picture quality of the BBC TV channels that use the MPEG-4 H.264/AVC and MPEG-2 streams will be approximately the same as you get on Freeview, digital satellite and cable. The lower bit rate Real and Windows Media video streams will have a pretty poor-to-mediocre picture quality, though.

    HDTV over multicasting

    The BBC R&D presentation also says that they have performed an 8 Mbps HDTV trial using multicasting in January and more trials will follow in the summer.

    And in the longer term, the HDTV format 1080p (which requires a bit rate about 60 - 80% higher than 720p and 1080i), which the supporters of both 1080i and 720p agree is the desired destination for HDTV, will very likely be transmitted first via multicasting than via satellite or cable, and as it stands it seems highly unlikely that 1080p would ever be feasible on Freeview.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re Jon G - "Who really cares....."

    Re: "Who really cares about this - why bother to watch TV programmes on some small computer screen probably stuck in the bedroom when you can watch it from the comfort of home"

    Haven't you heard the divide between the PC and the TV has been bridged? I have been transfering digital content from the PC to the living room for almost 3 years.

    Media centres, media extenders, networked media players...... so many options.

    And the only justification for having a PC in the bedroom is that your mum won't let you have it downstairs ;-)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Multicast is rare in SoHo kit and irrelevant anyway

    Very little consumer kit supports IP4 multicast - I believe Zen have a list somewhere on their website, it's not long, and the list of kit which works is shorter than the list of kit which claims to have it. As the number of punters with modems reduces (more folks with routers), the number of punters for whom multicast "just works" therefore also reduces.

    Multicast is economically irrelevant anyway. Today, the narrowest/most expensive bit of the network between punter and content provider is the "BT Central" which connects the ISP's network to BTwholesale's national access network. By the time the streams reach this point, they are no longer multicast, because of the way the access networks are currently implemented (using PPPoA not pure IP). Consequently 100 punters on the same ISP all watching the same thing at the same time still means 100 parallel streams through the Centrals. So there is no saving in bandwidth, and therefore no saving in cost for the ISP, and therefore no motivation for ISPs to bother with multicast.

    When BT's marvellous 21CN comes along, multicast will likely still be irrelevant, although the details are afaik yet to be confirmed.

    Multicast *might* have some value in the LLU ISPs, if they have a pure-IP network all the way from punter to content provider and the skills to use it properly, but unfortunately the LLU ISPs are currently the ones with least technical clue (Orange? TalkTalk? Tiscali? See what I mean?).

    If you're the BBC, multicast makes you a nice saving in bandwidth between you and the ISP (bandwidth which is already relatively cheap, certainly a whole lot cheaper than bandwidth between ISP and punter).

    On that basis, multicast is (at least in the UK) irrelevant for the foreseeable future; there's no motivation for ISPs to use it.

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