back to article BBC new media boss defends iPlayer Flash, slaps Microsoft

The BBC has defended its use of Adobe’s proprietary Flash technology in the Corporation’s iPlayer service. “Our use of Flash is not a case of BBC favouritism, rather it currently happens to be the most efficient way to deliver a high quality experience to the broadest possible audience," said BBC new media boss Erik Huggers in …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very efficient...

    So much so that for the past 3 months HD streaming has been brought down to a slide show:

    Which BBC blamed on Adobe, and Adobe blamed on the beeb.

    and then even SD Streaming was also having major problems with high CPU usage due to no hardware acceleration.

    And now they've semi fixed it so that the audio is completely out of sync on HD streams....

    1. Phil Lewis


      which is why I use get_iplayer ( ) for all iplayer viewing - I can even view iPlayer HD streams on my Intel atom/ nvidia ion based Linux PC at seemingly full framerate in VLC or mplayer. That same PC struggles with standard/low quality streams from iplayer in flash...

      Of course by using such an enabling tool I have, overnight, miraculously morphed into a ravaging pirate who uploads all of my dvds, videos, casettes, LPs and cd collections on bittorrent and have retro-fitted a hook to my left arm so that I can carry the bag containing all the DVD copies I make of teletubbies for sale at the local pub and car boot sale. Or, at least that's what the beeb would have you believe.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        I'd not heard of that, I'll give it ago thanks!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It's my understanding

          get_iplayer also lets me download all my HD stuff in the middle of the night, which is pretty useful since 3 hours a week of HD streaming would totally use up my daytime allowance.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        @Phil Lewis

        "and have retro-fitted a hook to my left arm"

        just remember to wipe with the right, m'kay?

      3. Nebulo

        Thank you, Phil Lewis

        I hadn't heard of get_iplayer, but shall certainly be trying it out now, because I'm sick of having to put up with jerky, eyestraining video while the accursed Flash thing canes my processor (and _not_ just in HD). Don't know how those poor beggars with 1.5GHz netbooks fare - maybe they just give up in despair, as I had until a few minutes ago. (Anyone from the Beeb reading these comments?)

        Perhaps sometime we can meet and shake hooks, me neither. Most TV hardly bears watching once.

    2. David Gosnell


      We've been suffering from this for the last few days. We've resorted to the hacked Flash player to ignore the botched format flagging. Seems to work, but really shouldn't be necessary. Not the first time the BBC have ridden roughshod over Flash video format conventions, it has to be noted.

    3. Tom 15


      Actually, reading that thread it doesn't really seem there's an issue. Lots of PCs couldn't play HD in Flash 10 and then could in Flash 10.1 Beta due to experimental hardware acceleration which was disabled in 10.1 Beta 2 onwards because it was buggy. Seems like a non-issue to me, unfortunate for those with the issue but they're way below Adobe's required spec for HD.

  2. ColonelClaw

    He aint wrong

    Huggers is correct - until this ridiculous pissing match between all the browser creators regarding which video codec to support in HTML5, Adobe will remain the de facto standard for web streaming delivery.

    Frankly I don't care which codec they go for, I just want them to agree on one right now.

    Adobe must be loving it

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I have to agree

      HTML5 video is not going to take off until all the parties with a vested interest in trying to lock the whole world into their particular "standard" so that they can screw money out of everyone.

      Like many people, I loathe flash. But right here and now, it's the only realistic game in town for streaming video in a reasonably platform-independent manor.

      It seems to be a damned if they (the BBC) do, damned if they don't scenario.

    2. rhydian

      Hammer: Meet nail-head...

      That is the one advantage of flash in the real world. 90%+ of consumer systems can use it with no issues. Until HTML5 is an agreed standard flash will remain on top.

    3. Piro Silver badge


      Surely is the only sensible choice

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Adobe must be loving it

      After all it is their last hurrah!

      In response to another post: Who said Adobe get to set the spec for HD playback? Flash is poor. Just because it's sort of cross platform doesn't mean we can't knock it!

      Just back from the pub...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "After all it is their last hurrah!"

        Hardly. I don't suppose Flash amounts to that much in terms of Adobe's revenue. They still seem to have the world tied up in all sorts of other areas like Acrobat and Photoshop. When it comes to revenue have you seen the price of CS5? Every keen amateur photographer seems to think they need a full featured copy even though they don't use any more features than you'd find in Elements or even something like PSP.

  3. CD001


    Not using HTML5 because it's not ready - what a novel idea.

    HTML5 is a PR stunt, it's more marketing than IT - here's a hint, it's a flipping markup language, it's not anything special. Worse yet, even when it's complete it'll be a non-standard standard as you'll be able to hack about with it XML well-formed or not. The point of a standard is, surely, that there is one standard way of doing things.

    The only real improvements I see with HTML5 are semantics like using video to denote that something is a video, or nav to denote a navigation list. Other than that, it's just another markup language - and one that's worse specced than XHTML 2 was.

    I'm glad the Beeb, at least, haven't bought into the whalesong (in this instance anyway).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      While HTML5 isn't ready...

      Using plugins in web browsers degrade both security and accessibility.

      I can't wait for an HTML standard with better support for new/wider multimedia.

    2. Maliciously Crafted Packet

      But what about...

      stuff like Cross-document messaging -a sanity saver if you have ever worked with ifames-.

      Or Client-side SQL Database Storage or Canvas and SVG. There is allot of cool stuff going on in HTML5 in addition to video.

      I just wish the parties concerned would hurry up and ratify the thing.

  4. Brent Longborough

    Worry about important stuff

    We all know Adobe = Bloatware.

    Erik Huggers should be worrying about the epic cock-up his team have made of their surgery on the Beeb's website.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    He'll get a slap from me..

    if I ever meet him. why do the BBC constantly think that they are the friggin nazi/police? Why are they blocking iplayer from my device? its down right wrong! iplayer should be available to all in the uk no matter how you choose to get it.

    I have an unlimited data contract on my phone and the bbc say no I cant use iplayer.. well fuck u bbc you do not have the right to make those rules. its my phone my contract and my sp's network NOT YOURs. anyway I just tether the laptop to the mobile 3G and watch on the pc! Fuck your rules! but it shouyldn't happen in the first place.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Are you talking about the requirement to use WiFi?

      If you are, I believe the reason for that is that the BBC were forced to do that, or risk the Mobile operators restricting access to iplayer (and possibly other BBC services). iPlayer would place a significant load on the network if they allowed it over 3g. Something which the Mobile Phone companies would not like.

      Remember, while your contract may say unlimited, your mobile operator does not want you to use it as an unlimited service.

      1. paulf


        Note that Vodafone and Three allow streaming iPlayer access over 3G data only [I have beeb player on my Android handset which seems to work well streaming over my Voda 3G tariff]. As Stuart Castle says - its ultimately an operator restriction not a BBC restriction.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        yes wifi requirement

        BBC were forced? so explain how that works... what other website capitulate to 'force' of an isp? where is the legal basis for this FORCEing? (aside from the google china thing.)

        if the service provider wish to block it they can do so (see vodafone). What I get is the BBC saying it is not permitted. This is what I Object to.

        I know that unlimited is really fair use, but that is between me and the SP to agree on and is definatly NOT for the BBC to decide. As an example: if I use a 3G broadband dongle on a netbook its allowed, yet I put the same sim into a mobile, and the BBC say its not allowed. WHY?? its a proper 3g Broadband contract..

        It seems that the bbc are basing their rejection on the mobile browser and connection type, which is wrong, as they should not be doing the job for the SP. And if the SP wish to block it it should be in my contract. by getting the BBC to bend over, the service provider can say its not thier restriction, and nothing to do with my contract.

        So it all boils down the the BBC making the rejection and not the SP. which is just not right.

        1. Lawrence 7

          I understand your rage....

          But trust me, Its your Service provider, not BBC.

          Its just the implementation is very ad hoc: The Service providers identify that users with <Handset> are going to kill thier network because there are so many of said handset on the network capable of doing streaming video very well. iPlayer is one of the biggest in the UK.

          You should ask yourself why would the bbc randomly restrict an iphone on o2 but not a droid on voda, for example.

          the fact it works on your dongle is precisely because of what you say, they use device//browser ident to do the filtering.

          Its your Service provider. Not the BBC.

          I wonder if your ISP can tell that your traffic is coming from your laptop instead of your phone.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Thumb Down


            Whilst I appreciate your reply, I'm assured by my SP that it is the BBC.

            It is a BBC page that says the following:

            Streaming BBC iPlayer Programmes on a 3G connection is currrently only available to users on the 3 Network and contract users on the vodafone network.

            It does not say that the service provider forbids it. or there is no connection avaialble, or connection is not possible due to network settings.... becausde they cant its not true. The BBC is taking ownership of the restriction.

            Further more: The BBC goes on, in there more info page: blah blah blah.. we dont have the capacity to encode a 3G stream for these devices.... This is just nonsense.. I dont want a 3G stream I want what they already provide... I can watch iPlayer on this device, using wifi, I can watch iplayer on this device using wifi tether to another identical phone and identical contract. IT IS POSSIBLE! It is just the BBC page checks the connection type parameter of the browser and rejects it. this is BBC's code on a BBC page. and nothing to do with the SP.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      letters and/or digits

      > I have an unlimited data contract on my phone

      And you actually believed that them when they said it was actually unlimited as opposed to the carriers' definition of unlimited?

  6. Jan 0 Silver badge


    So where are Dirac/Schroedinger, the BBC's Open video codecs, on his map? Wouldn't they avoid the whole Flash/HTML5 mess?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC will never use HTML5

    The real reason HTML5 will never be adopted by the BBC or Hulu etc is because you can't lock down the streams like you can with flash (ok, the flash method of preventing copying/unauthorised viewing is easily bypassed but that's not the point).

    "content providers" will not allow their programs to be available in a properly open video format that they can't fully control so iPlayer and friends will always remain flash.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Digital Rights Management Bad

      "The real reason HTML5 will never be adopted by the BBC or Hulu etc is because you can't lock down the streams like you can with flash (ok, the flash method of preventing copying/unauthorised viewing is easily bypassed but that's not the point)."

      As you've shown DRM is the wrong way to bolster a business model. As long as digital becomes analogue as an end point DRM will be circumvented.

  8. Skymonrie

    To the people "complaining" about use of Flash

    Please, recommend a serious alternative that we can use today and is available on a multitude of Oh right, I forgot there isn't one!

    I use Linux and don't have any problems with iPlayer, at the same time am routing for WebM to eventually be the codec of choice. Honestly though, even if it does become one of the de-facto codecs used, adoption isn't going to happen overnight.

    Flash, like squashing an ant with a battleship. None-the-less, it gets the job done properly

    1. Richard Porter


      I use RISC OS and I can't stream iPlayer at all. A proprietary product that isn't supported on all platforms isn't an option. Anyway, why can't we just download MPEG video which should be universally supported? Or at least with open source solutions it gives someone a chance to do a port.

    2. Stuart Castle Silver badge


      You did, however, forget the rather unfortunate fact of DRM. Content Providers will always want their content protected, and will charge a lot more if it is not, even assuming they allow the content on iPlayer unprotected in the first place.

      Also, as you say, there is the problem of availability on multiple devices. Flash, for all it's faults, does embody the idea of "Write once, run anywhere" well.

      The problem that HTML 5 has at the moment, which, I believe will stop it becoming a defacto streaming standard is that content providers will want to use one codec that they know will play on everyone's browser. They don't want the hassle and expense involved in supporting multiple codecs. For HTML 5 to be widely used by the Media companies, it needs two things to occur.

      1) It needs working DRM, and

      2) It needs all the browser manufacturers to agree to offer the same codec, or both codecs.

      Sadly, No 2 is not likely to happen. Microsoft and Apple get royalties from H264, so they are unlikely to want to give it up. Mozilla and Opera need to keep browser costs down, so it's in their interest not to pay royalties if they don't have to.

      Oh, and for the record, I do not like DRM. Being a Mac and iPhone user, I consider Flash a necessary evil rather than something good and despite it now being owned by Google, I'd like to see webm succeed.

      1. A J Stiles

        No. 1 is not likely to happen either

        No. 1 is not likely to happen either. Digital Restrictions Management is a flawed idea: it's mathematically impossible to make it work in practice.

        The sooner someone realises this, the sooner companies can stop spending money on useless schemes that get in the way of legitimate use without preventing illegal copying -- and maybe even start selling media cheap enough not to be worth the bother of copying.

  9. gripusa

    Reg's title is too far from the content

    I dont know the issues between TheReg and Microsoft but as usual this article and editor's comment inside is totally mis-leading. being myself as Technology manager from a media company, i know whats he is talking about and it has nothign to do with microsoft. He is just pointing the mis-match between video standard and support in leading browsers and if microsoft is culprit here then probably Apple and in part Google too. so pointing fingers to one company do not make sense

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I hate the BBC - they're wankers

    I tried to download a SMALL clip from Little Britain - Where Andy and Lou were in the park and some kids call out "Hey Davros" to Andy - and when Lou starts to feed the ducks, Andy gets out of the wheelchair and beats up all the kids..... and then comes back to the wheel chair.

    But the twats at the BBC, RATHER than encourage the sharing of bits and pieces of the show with other fans and people who have not see it, they encoded it in that fucking awful Real Media format, and the idiot who encoded it, compressed the video down so far that they were pixellating and the sound was that tinny chirpy voices, - that only comes when you compress your audio wayyyyyyy too small....

    When I complained, rather than fix it up and encourage the sharing of fun moments from the show I got an idiots guide to beaurocratic arseholedom....

    Where they defend the indefensible with bullshit - the 20 second clip - rended almost completely unintelligible and in a proprietary format - fix it up by reencoding to mpg or avi and at a friendlier rate - instead of treating fans as enemies.....

    As far as Microsoft goes..... they can stick that up their arses.

    MS's vertical integration and forced use of Microsoft only products such as Silverlight on MS infected websites......

    Some of these people at the BBC are just sooooo fucking stupid.

    1. Alastair 7


      "Some of these people at the BBC are just sooooo fucking stupid."

      While I don't believe that some are, they're also extremely limited by agreements with production companies, distribution companies and a myriad of other external organisations.

      "When I complained, rather than fix it up[...]"

      I understand that the BBC is publicly funded, but do you really expect them to re-encode a video just because you asked them to? Surprising though it may sound, I suspect that the (recently cash-strapped) Beeb has better things to be doing with it's time.

    2. gurner


      'When I complained, rather than fix it up and encourage the sharing of fun moments from the show...'

      Damn right. As a licence payer I'd be pretty pissed off if the BBC had succumbed to your petulant demands.

      Grow up.

    3. A J Stiles

      Oh, come on

      Come on. Even if it wasn't already on YouTube somewhere, just how hard would it have been to pull the clip from a DVD into your favourite video editor?

      Worst case, you'd have had to decrypt the whole episode. If it was a home-recorded DVD (UK Gold used to show Little Britain a lot .....) then you wouldn't even have to do that.

      Mine's the one with the printouts of the manpages for ffmpeg and mencoder in the pockets.

  11. Tom 7

    While HTML5 may not be ready yet

    Flash has never been ready and probably never will be.

    Iplayer jumps more than an 8 track in a rally car. get-iplayer is the only way I can actually watch any BBC content with any level of comfort. Want to watch HD on a 1Ghz machine that wont play a standard Iplayer window - I can!

    1. Mahou Saru

      Flash 10.1

      Flash 10.1 full release has impressed me a lot. I have 1020p YouTube HD videos streaming to my Acer 1810T (CULV 1.2GHz with 4500HD) lappy with only the slightest of jerks. I run 64bit Ubuntu on it so it is refreshing to see it just work.

  12. xj25vm

    iPlayer over 3G + iPlayer website

    @Stuart Castle

    I don't know about other networks, but I have watched plenty of times BBC iPlayer over Three with 3G dongle on my laptop. So at least they don't seem to ban it. Maybe it is BBC who detects and stops mobile phone browsers from accessing it?

    On a different note - what do people think of the 'new' and 'improved' BBC iPlayer website. As far as I'm concerned, it looks like they tried to fix what was not broken. They turned a fully functional website, which could be accessed easily and content could be found with a simple search or by browsing categories, into a more modern looking, but useless jazzy interface. All of a sudden page content is structured all over the screen, with things laid out in columns, rows, expanding boxes and everything in between - all at the same time. Menus left, menus right, suggestion boxes. I really can't make heads or tails as to how this is better then the old layout. It certainly looks slicker - but it's twice as difficult to find something.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge


      Yes, it *is* the BBC who does the checking. I never said it wasn't.

      Try viewing the mobile iplayer site on a phone using 3G.

  13. Dick Emery

    Win32 command line haters

    For those that hate command lines there is also the free StreamTransport. Just paste the url into it like any browser and click on the link listed at the bottom to download. It's very easy to use although not as configurable, a bit slower and a bit more buggy (Well mine was prone to crashes until the last update).

  14. Jon Press

    Open standards “fundamental”

    So where's the Project Canvas spec, then?

  15. Anonymous Coward


    is no longer active because the developer got pissed off with the Beebs lack of respect for open standards. Consequently, it don't work as well as it used to. It still awesome for recording any beeb radio show, thus making their entire content available as podcasts for those of use without smartphones.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge


      get_iplayer has been forked, and someone else is actively developing it. The forked version works just as well as the original used to

      1. C Yates

        iPlayer Grabber

        Brilliant app for mac users (sorry everyone else, I'm not trying to be a git on purpose :P), saves files as mp4!

  16. heyrick Silver badge

    "a winner-takes-all scenario, with one proprietary standard at the top of the stack"

    Wait, what, so Flash with DRM is not a proprietory standard being promoted? Oh, don't say Flash is open, for if it is then this would be a non-issue, but the DRM hacks suddenly turn you into a rampaging pirate with a parrot on your shoulder. I've watched BBC's iPlayer turn from an acceptable service into something that struggles to play sub-SD already cached on the harddisc without stuttering. This is progress, huh?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blah blah blah

    In these days where everybody seems to have a PVR why is everybody so concerned about iPlayer. I generally set a series record for the stuff I really like just in case I miss an episode. However - and this is the biggy - there is nothing on TV that I can't do without. So if I miss something and for some reason haven't recorded it I think "ho hum" and chalk it up to experience. If I get to see it on repeat some time then that's great, but I won't lose any sleep over it if I don't.

    So what exactly is the point of any of the catch up/on demand services? If you're a the sort of tosser who thinks there's such a thing as "unmissable" or "must see" TV then you are probably never more than ten feet from the TV anyway. If you see TV for what it really is then you won't be that bothered if you miss a programme. So either way what is iPlayer for?

This topic is closed for new posts.