Beeb's online music stations get rewind button

iPlayer buffed up

The BBC has launched a raft of updates to its iPlayer on demand service, including the long-awaited ability to rewind music radio stations online.

The new version is set to go live in beta on Thursday and will run alongside the current site for a few weeks. The most significant structural change is the full integration of the BBC's popular on-demand radio player, which until now had merely been superficially rebranded to fit in with iPlayer's video site.

The new on-demand radio streams will be 128Kbit/s MP3s, replacing the current Real and Windows Media "Listen Again" offerings. Integration of live radio streaming into the iPlayer site is in the pipeline.

Successful negotiations with music rights holders mean the new radio player will let listeners fast forward and rewind in smaller increments. Licensing restrictions on the old BBC radio player mean music stations cannot be rewound, and can only be fast forwarded in chunks of five or 15 minutes.

Radio shows will now be categorised by the recommendation system alongside TV shows, so if you're a Have I Got News For You? fan, iPlayer might offer you Radio 4's The News Quiz. Which makes sense.

Many who have been kicked off an iPlayer stream by dodgy Wi-Fi or other gremlins will also welcome a new "Last Played" feature will remember where the session left off. The Flash video window is boosted on the new iPlayer site to 640 pixels wide. There's no accompanying increase in bitrate yet, but BBC reps said there were plans to implement one in the near future.

The new site learns viewing preferences and retains settings using cookies, but BBC execs are big on the idea of personalisation. We're promised that integration with a BBC-wide registration system will follow later in the year and allow more sophisticated bespoke settings. "Amazonisation" is the stomach-churning descriptor for the plans favoured by soon-to-depart BBC new media chief Ashley Highfield.

These latest streaming iPlayer updates (or "next generation" iPlayer per BBC PR) serve to further demonstrate the lame duck status of the Windows-only P2P version, which doesn't even merit a mention in the press release. ®

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