back to article Fancy watching 'Bake Off' together with mates and alone at the same time? The BBC's built a tool to do that

The BBC has launched a new service that will let users watch or listen to its programmes over the internet in the company of friends and family. Named "Together", the system is built on top of BBC's Standard Media Player and works with any video or audio BBC content, including BBC iPlayer, BBC Sound, Bitesize, BBC News, and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By requiring Authenticated login for online viewing ...

    ... the BBC appears to be more interested in watching you than you watching it.

    Presumably then "Together" will allow the BBC to extend their reach by seeing who your friends and associates are.

    1. davenewman

      Re: He made one mistake

      It isn't so much watching us as making sure we have paid the licence fee and are in the UK.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: He made one mistake

        They dont do that currently. Well they just ask if you have a licence and that seems to be it.

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

          Re: He made one mistake

          Yeah, but this is a long term plan. If they don't weave themselves into our Internet lives they will increasingly become irrelevant with younger viewers. It's driven strongly by the need to find excuses in the future to change the law to keep capturing as many as possible in the 'you need a licence' trap.

          The Beeb will lose millions if they lose the licence fee -- I saw somewhere they said it would cost them £200m if the removed criminality from licence fee evasion.

          This keep getting people to continue to pay for the licence is a real headache. :-(

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: By requiring Authenticated login for online viewing ...

      I was thinking something along those lines.

      Are there actually that many people who care about watching any programme at the same time as their friends/ family etc?

      I ask as someone who only turns a TV on at New Year's Eve for my wife who likes that kind of thing.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: By requiring Authenticated login for online viewing ...

        Well yeah lots of people watch sport together of course. Lots of people (used to) get together for shows like Bake Off, Masterchef, as a social event. Probably others. When we relied on live TV this was actually much easier so this is recapturing something that's lost through on-demand services.

        I am sure it's a bit of a niche thing, but it seems a nice enough feature especially during lockdown.

      2. MonkeyToast

        Re: By requiring Authenticated login for online viewing ...

        Maybe there are people in this world who aren't married and maybe live alone and/or away from their partners - talking to someone on Teams and watching a TV program might be the difference between serious depression and loneliness or not while still sticking to the isolation rules. It seems very short sighted of people right now with family and loved ones around them assuming everyone else is the same.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: By requiring Authenticated login for online viewing ...

      The BBC still hasn't rolled out sign-on for iPlayer on Kodi.

      1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: By requiring Authenticated login for online viewing ...

        I can't find the login page on get-iplayer either

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But...

    Bake off is on Channel 4! Although a group watch of Doctors is more abpt

    1. xeroks

      Re: But...

      you can watch reruns from the BBC2 days, maybe.

  3. smudge Silver badge

    Network latency?

    I am not a network person, so please bear with me. My question is, how much could the synchronisation be screwed up by network latency effects?

    Different viewers could be in different parts of the country, using different ISPs, and with different equipment and quality of connection between them and the Beeb.

    To enable people to enjoy a big reveal or a punchline together, the sync would have to be pretty good - no more than a second out, say.

    Even assuming no buffering, which would really screw things up, how feasible is it to maintain almost perfect synchronisation over, say, an hour?

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Network latency?

      Even assuming no buffering

      You need at least enough buffering so that the lowest latency link is delayed to match the highest latency link. At least in principle, each frame has a time code defining when it should be presented to the user (relative to the start of the programme). If you can measure the latency, or estimate it, you can adjust the effective reference clock to ensure each frame is presented to everyone at roughly the same time.

      You can use direct feedback from the player app to give you latency information or estimate it based on the requests you're getting for the next chunk of programme material. You can change the effective reference clock either directly in the data stream, by adding and removing frames from individual streams or by adding further metadata. If there's a substantial difference in bandwidth, you can use adaptive streaming to change the quality. I'm not sure exactly how the BBC are doing it, but it should be possible to do it with less variation than people chatting about it on their mobile phones at the same time will experience.

      1. smudge Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Network latency?

        Many thanks for that - a very informative and helpful answer!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Network latency?

          I learn more in the reg comments than pretty much anywhere else!

      2. overunder Silver badge

        Re: Network latency?

        Technically you don't even need that if you're willing to drop packets, as already seen in live sports on broadcst TV or streams.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "together even when they are physically apart"

    I must then be an antisocial abnormality, because I can't get it why the fuck would anyone watch in sync something, anything, remotely with their "mates" (as in "friends", rather than "sexual partners") hundreds of miles away, etc. I get that you might want to watch something together, because a) there's something interesting on the telly / usb stick AND b), you happen to be living in the same household, aka "a family", (and 50 years later it gives you those fond memories you were one loving family, cause you 'always' watched robin the hooded man together. But I don't get the remote ersatz at all. I might just as well watch the same youtube video with millions of other mates at the same time. Or do something better with my time.

    ...

    on the other hand, probably million of Brits sat at exactly the same time - "together" - to watch Boris Johnson say nothing one day and not much earlier, they sat "together" to watch a rather old lady say nothing, they got up and felt, presumably, some much more "we're all in it together" (never mind those wrinklies dying quietly away from their mates in care homes). And an unspecified number open their windows every Thursday and clap their hands "together", rather than start thinking why it is that they pay their 1st world taxes in 1st world country and, in return, get a non-1st world country daily health care system because the health care system is chronically underfunded and mis-managed by every next government?

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: "together even when they are physically apart"

      Don't worry, nobody wants to watch with you.

      You mention YouTube... YT and FB both allow scheduled viewings. FB has "watch party" so you can have a online chat built in as you watch together (I haven't used it myself but I think that's the idea).

      In the modern world, people view being together remotely as still being together. Video-chat probably makes a huge difference compared to just being on the phone.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I might just as well watch the same youtube video with millions of other mates

      Yeah, cos you have multiple millions of mates.

      But don't understand the need for human contact.

      I guess you're just so lovely they flock to you....

      1. Lunatic Looking For Asylum
        Coat

        Re: I might just as well watch the same youtube video with millions of other mates

        Mate, we're IT nerds, WE HAVE NO MATES :-)

    3. Fred Dibnah Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "together even when they are physically apart"

      I'd give a you a downvote for the first para (it's nice to watch stuff with friends & family who can't be in the same location, and to be able to make comments like you would if you were together), and a big upvote for the second. So, overall -->

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "together even when they are physically apart"

        perhaps I am strange, i.e. I watch something when I want to watch something, not because I want to be with someone. If I want to be with someone, then I am with someone. If I want to talk to someone, I talk to them, directly, or on the phone. If I want to fuck them, I fuck them, as long as they want the same thing. I don't need a telly to help me facilitate "being together". Perhaps that's why I don't 'enjoy' restaurants and such, as places that facilitate human interaction. If I want to talk in private, I go to a private place, rather than one full of people. That said, it's hard to find such a private-public place in urban environment. Still, the beeb idea is bizarre. I mean, it's not like you can exchange those meaningful comments on the show you've seen x times already, etc, unless you sync with whatsapp or whatever. You're just watching the same show at exactly the same time, nothing to do with "together".

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "together even when they are physically apart"

          >If I want to be with someone, then I am with someone. ...

          In the current lockdown, you can only do this (and some of the other things you list) with someone who is a member of your immediate household...

          I did a variation of what the BBC is offering (same time different place) with a movie for my teenage daughter's birthday recently, she and her friends watched the same film, whilst in a 'meeting' (*), so whilst not as good as being in the same place at the same time, did permit some real-time interaction and viewing control (pause, rewind).

          (*) Need to be careful about sound feedback. I would hope that someone will implement some form of noise-canceling (on the movie) which would enhance the meeting experience ie. would permit audio/spoken word conversation.

          >Still, the Beeb idea is bizarre.

          Given the omission in your comment, I suspect you also don't see the point of multi-player gaming and in game chat - something my teenage son does a lot with his friends.

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: "together even when they are physically apart"

          Stand-up comedy is better with mates.

    4. MonkeyToast

      Re: "together even when they are physically apart"

      Not everyone is living with their loved ones at the moment - a lot of people are isolating from their families because they work on the front line or obeying the rules. Do you now "get why the ****"?

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: "together even when they are physically apart"

      "hundreds of miles away"

      Or, thanks to "social distancing", your mates who live next door, or in the next street, or you would normally meet at the pub every Friday night that you now rarely, of ever see face to face. Why not have an easy to use technolgical solution to "movie night" or getting some of the feel of going to the pictures with your mates? Just because you don't do things like that and clearly have no issue with being isolated (or are you one of the lucky ones who gets to go to work and meet people?) doesn't mean that many other people are not suffering at one level or another because of it.

  5. JDX Gold badge

    Wonder why Netflix doesn't have this

    As a trendy tech company I am a little surprised Netflix hasn't added 'social' functionality so you can have 'friends' on their system - recommend shows to each other, see your mates' reviews and comments, etc. Adding communal viewing would then be a natural evolution. Integrating their own chat, or Twitter, even VOIP (like multiplayer gaming but for TV).

    I am not saying I WANT these features because I fear it would be a mess of "Jeff just watched Tiger King" but it does seem like something a lot of younger users would use!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Wonder why Netflix doesn't have this

      "I am not saying I WANT these features because I fear it would be a mess of "Jeff just watched Tiger King" but it does seem like something a lot of younger users would use!"

      Likewise. When looking for something to watch I rarely, if ever, look through the "Currently Trending" or "People are Watching" simply because by definition those are lists of lowest common denominator shows. I might, but usually don't, look at the list of "Because you Watched..." The first few recommendations may show similar shows I might like, but by the time I scroll off to the right they similarity with the show I watched seems to tail off exponentially just so they can fill the row, Based on that, I suspect it's unlikely I'd want to watch a show just because someone I happen to know has already watched it. Individuals might personally recommand something to me and I might even watch it, but I don't really want a blow by blow account of every recent show each of my friends has just watched. It's possible there may even be shows I'd like to watch that I'd rather my friends DIDN'T get told about. :-)

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Wonder why Netflix doesn't have this

        It's not supposed to show you things similar to what you watched. It's supposed to show you things you might like based on what you watched (it assumes you liked the things you watched).

        Netflix have invested millions into this algorithm - they ran a contest for programmers to tune it years back.

        Have you tried watching suggestions? If you do, you should rate them and it will get better.

        I have often been put off shows recommended, only to find they ARE exactly something I'd like.

  6. John Robson Silver badge

    And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

    On streamed content.

    It's really not that hard BBC...

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

      The subtitles are probably there but only availably on the Teletext channel.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

      iPlayer supports subtitles. I use them, and can't remember the last time I watched something on iPlayer where it didn't have subtitles available

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

        Even get_iplayer handles them!

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

          As far as I am aware get IPlayer doesn’t handle streamed content at all, only on demand.

          Streamed probably a bad choice of word on my part.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

            In that case, what did you mean? Unless it's live, then it's all streamed from iPlayer. Did you mean subtitles on live shows?

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

        IPlayer does have subtitles, but only on past content, not live streamed content.

        They generate the subtitles (because they add them to the broadcast version) but they don’t put them in streamed content (streamed live as distinct from on demand)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

          If it's live and being broadcast, there can be subtitles and are sometimes. Neither my wife nor I need them, but there are odd time when a word or phrase is unintelligible so it's possible to rewind a bit on the PVR and switch subtitles on to find out what was said. I'm not the best statistical sample because as I said, we don't normally use them, but when we've needed to, they were there, at least on news programmes, maybe others.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

            PVR not using IPlayer though...

            The BBC make them, they just don’t add them to the stream.

      3. Rufus McDufus

        Re: And yet they still can't manage subtitles....

        I've not yet seen subtitles on programmes played at their scheduled time. They seem to be added on catch-up though. No idea why and it makes viewing "live" pretty hopeless for someone deaf like me.

        More annoying with BBC4 as they changed the multiplexes around for S London (and elsewhere?) a couple of years ago and many people with fairly standard-type TV aerials can't get BBC4 terrestrially, so the only option is via iPlayer. The claim is that it's temporary so I don't want to change aerial for something temporary. Plus it looks like they're dumping BBC4 at the end of the year anyway.

  7. Jan 0

    Does this use multicasting in an attempt to cut down on bandwidth? This could be a blessing in disguise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      AFAIK no as it's on an ISP level and no one in the UK currently uses multicast. At least the last I heard for consumer lines. It might be the same for the backbone too?

  8. William Towle
    Coat

    Paging Mark Williams:

    ..."We want to BBC Together"?

    (I shall avoid googling whether anyone else already thought of that...)

  9. TheProf Silver badge
    Trollface

    BBC bashing

    Oh heck! The technology was developed by 2- IMMERSE, an EU-funded 3 year collaborative project that finished in November 2018. https://2immerse.eu/

    Wait until The Daily Torygraph find out about that. No right-minded Little Br(it)ainer is going to have anything to do with that.

  10. BenDwire
    Boffin

    BBC Taster

    I'd read about this earlier today, and it uses a site called BBC Taster that I wasn't aware of. Before I knew it, I had decended into the hole that is the BBC Computer Literacy Project 1980-89. I started watching Series 1 Episode 1 and just couldn't tear myself away from the nostalia and amazing predictions. If you remember 1980 and have 40 minutes to spare, treat yourself.

    https://clp.bbcrewind.co.uk/

    I'd forgotten how good some BBC programs could be.

    1. 96percentchimp

      Re: BBC Taster

      It's so typical of the BBC these days to have a site like Taster that shows off the amazing work of BBC Technology (often through international collaborations with the EBU and NHK), but not promote it because they're worried the licence fee refusenik wankers will moan about their money being wasted on something that doesn't directly benefit them.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020