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Beeb's iPlayer reaps streaming traffic dividends

Viewers skip swarms to join streams

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The BBC's Flash-based streaming service has gifted a massive traffic boost to the iPlayer site since it went live in mid-December, independent figures have revealed.

Traffic analysis firm Hitwise reports that in the five weeks beginning 2 December, iPlayer visits rocketed 14 times over. Flash streaming launched 13 December, and the iPlayer marketing blitz began on Christmas day.

It's a remarkable turnaround for a project that was floundering a few months back. The DRM-timebombed and buggy P2P version limped into the limelight in summer 2007 after years of troubled development.

It had attracted consternation from Apple, Linux and Windows Firefox users, who were shut out by the use of Microsoft DRM, despite being the people most likely to be early adopters of new net services.

Swiftly cobbled together in response, the Flash version emerged slicker and faster. It's also more friendly to both average punters and tech-savvy viewers, who don't want their bandwidth chomped by Kontiki, the always-on P2P platform behind the download iPlayer (though this has recently been updated to switch off when the client is closed).

We've written at length on why the desktop client is a non-starter for the mass market. With the case for streaming now proven, the BBC would do well to silence the interoperablity grumbles for good by killing it off. ®

Bootnote

Some Reg correspondents have observed with frustration that the popular Top Gear in Alabama episode being used by the iPlayer's "making the unmissable, unmissable" marketing isn't actually available on the service. iPlayer is the "free" seven-day catch-up end of the BBC's on demand ambitions. Any longer after broadcast and law-abiding licence fee payers must buy DVDs, or wait for Project Kangaroo, the upcoming internet collaboration with ITV and Channel 4, which will charge and carry adverts.

A search for the show pulls up the message: "You may have seen the Top Gear BBC iPlayer launch trail on TV. As Top Gear is currently not available on BBC iPlayer we have chosen another unmissable moment from the series for you to enjoy."

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