back to article BBC mulls dropping Flash as iPlayer meets iPhone

The BBC is considering ditching Adobe's Flash system for its iPlayer streams to improve the video quality of the on-demand service, it said on Tuesday. The news came alongside an announcement that iPlayer will be available on Apple iPhone and iPod Touch in the next few weeks. The move is unrelated to the BBC's commercial arm …


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  1. Alexander Hanff

    New iPhone Service?

    Does this mean they are going to restrict this to just Apple products? That's what it sounds like. Would the author please contact Rose and ask if the new non flash format will be available to all and not be locked to only Apple devices? I ask because as a 64bit Linux user, I can't use the flash player since there is no 64bit plugin available from Adobe, so if the service with the new format is available to all, this will solve my access issues.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    They HAVE To keep the streaming

    They can not remove streaming - its become my daily evening thing to do when theres bugger all on TV.

    Sod downloading, im able to stream and watch straight away ffs!

    Meh... BBC... Like to make things harder huh?

    Think i'll post anonymously before they hunt me down.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Just the iPhone/iTouch?

    Or will it be available on all mobile devices with WiFi access?

    You know, Pocket PCs, that have been around for yonks...

  4. Ian

    Wont they learn?

    It seems now that BBC can get around the criticisms about being too Microsoft by now jumping in bed with Apple.

    When will they learn the crux of the problem wasn't Microsoft but proprietary software and hardware in general. They need to be getting their content in a portable, open form not just another crappy proprietary form.

    A lot of people want to watch BBC content but opening it up to the iPhone without opening it up to a format you can play on say a Nokia phone stinks of anti-competitiveness. What right does Apple have to reap the benefits of license payer produced content over other companies?

    The BBC really needs to be forced to answer for handing increased profits to specific large companies like this, it's simply not acceptable. I don't like the idea that my license fee is indirectly helping Apple and Microsoft's profits. Frankly, if the BBC want to keep making deals like this they need to get Apple and Microsoft to pay them for the benefit and drop our license fees as a result.

  5. Andrew West
    Jobs Halo

    The honeymoon is over.

    Well as poor as the current streaming iPlayer is, at least it works in Linux. (Never managed to get it to work properly thou, either I get constant buffering or if I try and pause the video for a while in the hope to get it to download enough content to buffer, hit play and get a "something went wrong with your request message).

    And now the BBC are going to drop flv in favour of H.264. I wonder exactly how they are going to prevent people downloading these files, I mean it's not exactly hard to download Apple movie trailers. Hopefully this means I can use something like mplayerplug-in rather than the rather buggy flash plugin.

  6. mike


    'BBC has a deal with hotspot provider The Cloud to offer free access to and iPlayer.'

    i thought all legit iphone owners got 'unlimited' access to the cloud network regardless - not jsut for the bbc and iplayer sites?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is the p2p definition open?

    Is the spec of iPlayer p2p service open?

    No need to keep it secret, they could protect their 'UK only' remit, by only doing p2p tracking for UK IP addresses, and open the spec. to iPlayer itself.

    Once they've opened the spec up to iPlayer, then it's a doddle for people to make clients in generic open code for p2p, Mpeg4. All the code is already there to do it, it just needs to be strung together with a few wrappers to make it work with the bbc's service.

    That code could be *everywhere*, a lot of those networked set top boxes are nothing but stripped linux distributions, and could run that code.

    It wouldn't be long before iPlayer support would be everywhere.

    Imagine if you then charged to do p2p tracking on non UK IP addresses via BBC World commercial services.... you'd leave iTunes in the dust. They could get access to every little market worldwide and sell their content direct to customers.

    (While of course serving it free to UK IP addresses).

    You could serve up free p2p trackers to UK ip addresses, but charge for the non uk tracker access, and that would have a much wider market than they can dream of.

  8. Alex Tomkins

    Yes please!

    The headline for this article is a bit deceiving as Flash can play H.264 files anyway (as mentioned in the article itself!).

    This is starting to look more like the sort of service which people expected in the first place. Something which can operate on a variety of systems, instead of being restricted to the awful first version which restricted you to IE only.

  9. Neil Hoskins

    Lost the Plot

    It's only now that I've succumbed and bought a Wii (yes, you <i>can</i> make fat, bald, middle-aged, spectacle-wearing 'mii' avatars) that I'm starting to understand what the Reg and others have been saying about the BBC losing the plot on this one.

    I don't want to watch telly on my computer, nor full-length programmes on my mobile device (short news bulletins and sports clips maybe). I DO want to watch telly on my telly. How many Wiis, PS3s, and XBoxes are there around the country plugged into tellies? The Wii has the Opera browser, but if you go to the iPlayer site, there isn't a suitable plugin. Instead of concentrating on Microsoft PCs and the half-dozen or so iPhones that have been sold, maybe they should be working with the console manufacturers...?

  10. david gomm

    streams to downloads ratio expected to change - why ?

    If I stream somthing then I can watch it immediately, if I download then I hammer my ISPs traffic management quota and have to wait several hours, why do they think people will want to move from streaming to downlaods ?

  11. Geoff Johnson


    I'm all for higher quality but will it work on my Ubuntu laptop?

  12. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: relevant?

    Yes, relevant. Full Cloud access for iPod Touch costs £3.99 per month, but can get to the Beeb for free.

  13. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: They HAVE To keep the streaming

    There's no suggestion that streaming will be dropped, just that they're considering the method.

  14. Tom Chiverton Silver badge

    EDGE ?

    "iPlayer availability on the iPhone will be via Wi-Fi only as O2's EDGE data network is too slow"

    What about all the other phone networks ? The iPhone works on them fine, doesn't it ?

    Never mind that iPhone is getting the full flash player 'shortly'.

    And as to x86_64 linux and Flash, either use the popular plugin wrapper, a 32-bit browser, Konqueror or wait. It's not like there is a 64bit Player for Windows either :-)

  15. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Let people download it without DRM

    Just let people download it, it's not exactly hard to record the MPEG2 TS stream and get a full quality video file ready to burn to DVD.

    If the BBC are so worried about DVD sales then their business model is wrong.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    What'st the point of streaming to a portable device that has to stay in range of a hotspot? It stops you being mobile. It's kinda like reinventing the wire.

    Let these guys download to their 'pods via iTunes rental service and stay mobile. In the meantime give me a non-P2P download service or stream to my Wii!

  17. Chad H.

    @ relevant?

    your confusing the two issues. They're merely mentioning that the beeb has a deal too that anyone who doesn't have an iPhone can get access.

  18. Rowley
    Thumb Up

    Stream Vs Download, appletv rental model, then consoles, then linux

    Flash is coming to ipod touch/iphone anyway - why can't they wait?

    According to the beeb people use iplayer for streaming more than download (streaming is at 90%) so I dont think it's being dropped.

    Once the encode away from wmv to H264/mp4/flash, an ip restrictive iplayer on macs using a converted transmission client or something is only a short time away. or talking with apple and giving content to the uk (only) itunes store would be a doddle to distribute for free. This out make it easy to go onto ipod, ipod touches, iphones and especially apple tv, which would be a major boost. Rent for free for the week, buy for £2 a pop. More revenue for Apple and the Beeb, it's coming, I can feel it. Apple would have to get their arses into gear and get the rental model over here.

    Consoles and linux are further down the line I'm sure - only time will tell.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andrew West

    I get exactly the same on my girlfriend's Mac (10.4) but haven't seen it on my Windows PCs, I haven't used it on Win much, and haven't bothered on linux as I run Linux in a VM.

    It seems that you can make the constant buffering 'spinning dots' go away by moving out of full screen mode, pausing, unpausing, waiting for the buffering to complete and back into full screen again. Or something like that at least...

  20. Craig

    flash iplayer

    After a few sessions playing with 4od/sky anytime/bbc iplayer, I've decided not to go anywhere near all that corporate p2p again. However, the flash iplayer is fast and quality is adequate. For something that was tacked on at the last minute, it's probably the thing that's saved the iplayer's reputation.

    I don't know how fast the o2 edge actually is, but bored in Birmingham airport, and refusing to pay a fiver for an hours wifi, i found out that my laptop connected to my t-mobile phone as a modem via bluetooth was fast enough to watch the iplayer anyway.

  21. David Webb
    Gates Halo


    As Chris said, its not about dropping the streaming service, its about improving the visual quality of the service without buffing up the size of the video. If memory serves me correctly the BBC made an open source codec a while ago? Maybe they will use that, or switch to Silverlight just to annoy the "no DRM" brigade, all 8 of them.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Moving forward to the post broadcast future

    I think pushing the default iPlayer resolution to 720x576 with H.264 would be a smart move - it places the BBC in a very good position for future IPTV and getting off the broadcast teat. By the time Freeview has finally rolled out we will probably have already moved on to an IPTV type future. Less BBC1 +1, more personal channels and download.

    However there is zero chance they can now drop streamed, flash-like delivery. The people have spoken and mickysoft or apple DRM laden approaches are deemed 'too much trouble'.

    There also needs to be work on full HD approaches for shows, since the government seems hell bent on not providing the bandwidth to Freeview. If they want to make space for some HD on freeview the first to go should be BBC Parliament, just to show what they think of the theft of broadcast bandwidth.

  23. Anonymous Coward


    Why drop something that has been massively popular since its release - far more so than the ill fated kontiki effort, just to support a device that numbers are so pitiful, Apple have place a gagging order on them?

  24. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Aye

    "If memory serves me correctly the BBC made an open source codec a while ago?"

    Thanks for the reminder about that. Have stuck another line in the story based on something a little birdie told me not too long ago.

    - Chris

  25. Neil Hoskins


    I can't wait to see how quickly the H.264 format flattens the batteries :->

  26. b166er


    Your console is a computer, therefore you do want to watch telly on your computer.

    I love watching telly on my computer. Instead of the crap EPGs you get with Freeview boxen, I have a lovely customisable open source EPG, a lovely MCE backlit remote control, I can record from 2 or more channels on the same mux at the same time to a hard drive and can stream telly around the house (or to my phone should I wish) at will. Plus I can watch iPlayer stuff through a browser window built in to the MediaCentre software I'm using, in a way similar to using a browser on a Wii....What's not to love about watching telly on a computer???

  27. BatCat
    Thumb Up

    Free cloud access to BBC

    Dang! I thought the free access to BBC via the cloud was my little secret. I often stream BBC podcasts to my iPod Touch for free at airports and other Cloud sites. Being able to watch telly for free at the airport will be a great bonus!

    BTW, it's free for any wireless device, not just apple ones.

  28. Simon Greenwood

    BBC are considering other platforms

    I have a Neuros OSD, which has support for YouTube and, according to Neuros' website, is being considered by the BBC as an iPlayer platform. I would have thought that the principle is relatively simple where the Flash player is concerned as if the platform can run one, it should be able to run any Flash based viewer, so the BBC are at least looking at other platforms.

  29. Joe K

    NO complaints here

    So i'll be able to watch Beeb stuff almost anywhere now on my iTouch?


  30. Mark

    @David Webb

    If there's only 8 of them, you should be able to name them, yes?

    HD DVD had a LOT more protection against pirates than the BBC can afford to have delivered to UK citizens. It is still cracked.

    DRM doesn't stop pirates and once there's ONE copy out there without DRM, there are an indefinite number out there without DRM.

    DRM does make implementation, reception and legitimate use more difficult and/or expensive and/or error prone.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Stop Moaning....

    Will people please stop moaning.... the BBC are obviously bringing their content to many devices - and seem to be continuously progressing this!

    Last year, everyone was moaning as at one point it only ran on Win XP.

    The people moaned, when it was only extended to Vista.

    Then people still moaned, when they started online streaming!

    Now people are moaning, that they are extending their support to a further huge mobility market! Arghh.... grow up!

    Anyway, I pay my licence fee - so want to view iPlayer on my Nokia 7110 (its got a big screen), my Acorn Archimedes, my TomTom, and the LCD panel on my microwave. :-)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The Dirac codec is impressive, although it still requires optimisation.

    It's open source GPL too.

  33. Paul Biggs
    Thumb Up

    iPlayer on BT Vision

    "The next platform iPlayer will be available on is Virgin Media set-top boxes at the end of March, however."

    BT Vision has approx 70-80 BBC shows from the last 7 days available Free of charge at any one time.

    I'm considering picketing the BBC until they make it available on my RISC PC and my 3rd Generation ipod - why should early ipod buyers be discriminated against by the Beeb simply because the machine doesn't play video.

  34. Gordon Jahn
    Thumb Up

    Flash should be purged from the web anyway...

    I'd be tempted to give a tentative "well done" to the Beeb on this, as long as something better for cross-platform viewing comes along. Adobe still haven't produced a 64bit flash plugin despite the, albeit slow, proliferation of 64bit desktops.

    I support any move that marginalises Flash and eventually purges it from the web.

    As someone who did complete the BBC survey requesting cross platform (at least Linux and Mac) support for iPlayer, I'd welcome something better than Flash. If they can rollout an iPlayer Wii Channel whilst they're at it, that'd be very cool. Surely there are more Wii users who'd like that than iPhone users demanding it??

  35. Rob
    Thumb Up

    go for more devices...

    I would also like to see more wifi device support added. Get in bed with Sony, then people can watch on their PS3's in their living room (where you should be) and I can watch something streamed on my PSP in bed, whilst the missus watches yet another crime show on the telly.

  36. This post has been deleted by its author

  37. Tom
    Jobs Horns

    Quick! quick!

    Rose, quick! Jump on the next techno-crap bandwaggon to prove your worth, QUICKLY! Otherwise your bosses might realise they're employing you for nothing. The people that will actually be bothered by your move are the ones you're cucolding with your jobs worthing! IE, it's than your steve jobs worth.

    I'm seeing an annoying trend with high-level female IT staff not actually knowing what the hell they're doing, and displaying this for all and sundry via the nations media.

  38. Ben Bradley

    DVD Sales?

    Surely as a license fee payer and basically paid to make many of these programs... I should be given the BBC DVDs of all content absolutely free?

    Either that, or split the profits from the sales.

  39. Neil Hoskins


    ... and you propose this as a viable technical setup for the man on the Clapham omnibus? Do you work at the BBC, by any chance?

  40. Vulpes Vulpes

    @ Giles Jones and @ Craig

    Giles: "If the BBC are so worried about DVD sales then their business model is wrong."

    It is not the BBC who are worried, it's the rights owners. Don't conflate the two.

    Craig: "For something that was tacked on at the last minute"

    Wrong, it was on the plan way back in 2007, don't believe everything you read, here or elsewhere. But don't take it from me.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Video Recorders, DVD recorders, HDD Recorders,.....

    Who needs 7 day prayback when I have What's on TV, a Sky+ box and DVD Recorder.

    I can happly play back in any room in the house with a DVD Player and even rip them down to my PC in any format I like for playback on my PSP/Phone/iThang*

    Plus I don't have to worry about buffering, ISP data caps, or waiting hours for programmes to download.

    Get with the programme people, plan ahead.

    * delete as appropriate

  42. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Quick! quick!


    "I'm seeing an annoying trend with high-level female IT staff not actually knowing what the hell they're doing, and displaying this for all and sundry via the nations media."

    That would be *Anthony* Rose. Suggest you get your facts right before displaying your attitudes for all and sundry via the nation's media. Regards,

    - Chris

  43. Paul Manzotti

    @Neil Hoskins

    It's because the version of Opera on the Wii only has support for Flash 7

    So, it's more of an issue with Adobe, rather than the BBC, I'd say.

  44. Rob Beard
    Gates Horns

    Re: Moving forward to the post broadcast future

    Ummm... okay, if the BBC did that, what would they be called?

    The British Web Streaming Company?

    I would have thought the BBC would leave IPTV to telco's like BT and Tiscalli and just stream the video to them for re-delivery (as they probably do to deliver the video to transmitters.


  45. Frank Bough


    Hot, standards-based action for all.

  46. Mark

    Re: Dirac

    It will probably be LGPL.

    You can include the Dirac codec library dynamically and keep your player closed if you want. If you make your player work only with your specific (or one specific) then you've made a derivative so you'd have to open it up (which means for the user, they can upgrade to the latest version of Dirac whether the manufacturer wants to make them pay for the upgrade or not).

    It probably won't be BSD'd because the BSD doesn't address patents, either ones placed in code you the patent owner own under BSD or patents someone else takes out after the fact on your code. Either one making BSDing the code worthless under any modern "IP" regime. For that reason, it probably won't be LGPL2 either. It doesn't cover all the patent issues either, and is less compliant with other licenses than LGPL3.

    And if it were GPL, you'd not be able to use it with any other program that was incompatible with the version of GPL used for the library, so that's a non-starter (Trolltech do this so that there's a market for their commercial closed license code that is the *exact same* as their GPL'd code).

  47. Andy Mellor

    I can't wait to watch it in bed without overheating the laptop!

    A story which has finally made me register!

    When it comes to any of these public services I always do the 'could my mother do it' and I think this is a great step forward! I've loved the iPlayer from the start but the streaming service really marked the beginning of what could truly revolutionise the way some people watch telly. Allowing even more people to access the service in as simple a way as possible is undoubtedly a wonderful thing. To be honest I've never found a mobile device that I can imagine enjoying watching video on more that the iPhone/Touch (except maybe the PSP) so I think opening the iPlayer up to users of these devices is a great thing. I'm sure I read that the majority of mobile browsing was done using mobile Safari - surely it makes sense to open up a mobile version of the iPlayer to this market first?

    The vast vast vast majority of people (so I'll respectfully ignore the Linux fanboys) don't really need to care what format the service is delivered in anyway as long as its relatively simple to use.

  48. Marcus Bointon
    Jobs Halo

    H.264 is not Apple's technology

    Yet again we're seeing this peculiar mindset that thinks that H.264 is some kind of weird Apple proprietary thing.

    H.264 is just MPEG-4, same open spec as everyone has access to.

    The main reason it's associated with Apple is that they were the only ones who noticed how much better it is than anything else several years ago. The other reason is that Apple is about the only manufacturer that makes non-crap H.264 players. I mean UMD on PSP? What a joke!

  49. Frank Bough


    H.264 MPEG4s also play fine on the PS3, many telephones and free media players like VLC. H.264 is, of course, also heavily used in Blu-Ray and AVC devices like modern HD and flash-based camcorders.

  50. Chris Walker
    Thumb Down

    Leave the Flash alone

    Its perfectly good quality for watching stuff through the browser.

    I am not going to install that bullshit iplayer app, which is the biggest pile of crap I think the BBC have ever produced - and I include Eldorado in that.

  51. Patrick O'Reilly
    Jobs Horns

    Time to market

    Isn't it questionable how the Beeb can turn around a player for the iPonce in no time at all but can't even be bothered with linux.

    Did they not get the memo? Linux is taking over, they'd only have to build once and roll out on phone's, PDA's, desktops and set top boxes. (with some customisation)

  52. Quirkafleeg

    Re: Time to market

    “Did they not get the memo? Linux is taking over, they'd only have to build once and roll out on phone's (sic), PDA's, desktops and set top boxes.”

    They're using Java? :-)

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Time to market

    "Isn't it questionable how the Beeb can turn around a player for the iPonce in no time at all but can't even be bothered with linux."

    Not really. Given the iPlayer streaming service for Linux is *already available*.


  54. Craig

    @ Vulpes Vulpes

    Sorry if I'm missing some irony or sarcasm, but 'way back in 2007'? You mean just a few months ago... as opposed to 2005 when the trials started?

  55. Chad H.
    Thumb Up

    @video recorders...

    tell me ac, how good is your sky+/whatever recorder good at recording stuff on last nite, that you didnt know about?

    Alas, dr emmet brown enterprises are yet to release a pvr with an inbuilt flux capacitor so iplayer is definately better!

  56. Oldfogey
    Thumb Up

    Why iPlayer is better than Sky+

    Quite simple - it's totally free.

    Sky+ etc all cost loads of cash - starting with buying a TV licence, through to the Sky subscription and all the hardware.

    I have a PC and internet connection for other reasons, no TV so no licence.

    Hence - iplayer is FREE!

    Just like BBC radio!

  57. Nikolaus Heger
    Thumb Up

    iPlayer FTW!

    I was always wondering why the Beeb didn't just do Flash like anyone else. I was annoyed iPlayer didn't work on the Mac for the longest time.

    But the Dirac codec as well as iPlayer ports to different platforms make this suddenly a very interesting proposition. The Beeb's programming is good enough to single-handedly carry a revolution away from the proprietary Flash towards... well I do hope they make the iPlayer open source and free for now and forever.

    We need a free video standard that's not Flash.

    The main reason the iPhone doesn't have Flash and probably won't have it is purely political. If Apple supported Flash they'd basically hand Adobe a free win in internet video applications. Apple won't do that, most certainly not for free.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Radio Licesne

    I didnt think BBC Radio was free?

    if you have a TV License it covers your for Radio,

    if you dont have a TV License I thought you had to buy a Radio Licence?

    or have times moved on?

    of course, thats if you can find a post office that has not been shut by teh "Peoples Government"

  59. James Looker
    Jobs Halo


    By Neil Hoskins

    Posted Wednesday 20th February 2008 13:30 GMT

    I can't wait to see how quickly the H.264 format flattens the batteries :->

    Erm, no. The iPod / Touch / iPhone all use h.264 video already and are perfectly fine battery wise.

  60. Nigel

    Why The iPhone !!??

    Talk about spending tax payers money to support a minority platform! The iphone has not taken off in the UK, and nor is it likely to until it supports features that UK users are used to having (3G, HSDPA, MMS, Video !!).

    Why not pick a platforn thats actually *used* and support that i.e. Symbian/WM


  61. stuart byrne


    they should make this for all, i pay my TV Tax, sorry Licence, and i want this on my N95 and my PS3.

    the problem is they go where the money is.

  62. Paul

    I LOVE the BBC!

    I do i really do, i think its the best thing since sliced bread!

    Its becoming the UK's own little (well, maybe not so "little") business that every householder in the UK has been paying into for years, and this could well be where our "investment" comes good and makes us some money.

    If the BBC can "sell" its programming worldwide then it could make BILLIONS aka iTunes, The BBC might one day make so much money from this that they wouldn't even need me to pay my TV Licence anymore! I don't object to paying it now mind. Its always paid and is one bill were its a pleasure to pay it cause i know where its going.

    God Bless Project Kangaroo! Leaping over everyone in media today!

  63. Matthew Smith

    Why they can't ditch DRM

    The BBC can't make its programs freely available for download, or for streaming outside the UK, for a very good reason. It isn't the DVD sales they are worried about, it's the sales to overseas broadcasters which I seem to remember reading provides half their income. Top BBC programs tend towards the "timeless classics" (e.g. David Attenbourough) rather than the "latest blockbuster" (Lost, BSG?) so the solution of simultaneous premieres is not so obviously attractive.

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