BBC Trust says no to kit-specific iPlayer apps
Standard platforms only - unless the vendor coughs up
If you're eagerly waiting for the BBC to pull its finger out and implement iPlayer on your TV, set-top box, games console or smartphone, forget it. The Corporation will almost certainly not help you, its governing body, the BBC Trust, has said.
The Trust has been pondering how the BBC should syndicate its content and it today stated that it believes iPlayer should be made available only in "standard formats" which service providers and telly manufacturers can readily adopt.
Hardware- or service-specific versions of iPlayer should be developed only in "exceptional cases”, the Trust said.
These are early conclusions - the review of the BBC's approach to making its programming available to on-demand and catch-up services will continue. There now begins a four-week consultation period to allow stakeholders - licence payers, service providers and the like - to have their say.
If these "provisional views" make it to the final policy document, it is essentially a big thumbs up for YouView, the would-be standard platform for both providing and playing IPTV content.
The BBC is obliged to make iPlayer as accessible to as many licence payers as possible, but there are clearly limits. Even the Corporation lacks the resources to build versions of iPlayer for every possible platform that might present its content to the viewer.
Better to focus on open standards that allow anyone to equip their kit with the technology safe in the knowledge that iPlayer - and other IPTV services, for that matter - will just work. If, for instance, the BBC won't do an iPlayer app for the iPhone, any third-party can using YouView tech.
Virgin Media will be annoyed by this since it wants to offer iPlayer through its set-top boxes but disapproves of YouView. It currently delivers on-demand content over its DVB-C feed, which, it says, delivers better results than a broadband internet link can. It fears that if iPlayer and other such service are explicitly tied to YouView, it will have to use IP, reducing its competitive advantage.
That may not happen. The "exceptional cases" clause provides the BBC with a get-out that lets it work with YouView-phobes on dedicated players for their boxes. Even so, the Trust said such cases should only be considered when "the BBC's costs for development and maintenance would also be fully reimbursed". ®
What about offline viewing
All of the above comments are debating the streaming of iPlayer content, and many rightly point out the contradiction in the BBC saying on the one hand, that only they will only support "open standards", and then, on the other, supporting the closed Apple environment specifically. Clearly keeping up with the media tw@t crowd (and I am part of it, albeit without the Apple fixation) and their iOS fetish is the unwritten rule.
However, what about offline viewing? At present they use a horrible resource hungry desktop app that most netbooks can't play, and the only mobile support is via DRM'd WMV - on what level is that an open standard? There must be a massive market of people who want to download and watch (offline) later but this simply isn't possible on the majority of portable devices. Relying on our decrepit, hopeless 3G network is a ridiculous pipedream, even in the supposedly comprehensively covered southeast, so enabling offline viewing is a must.
So come on BBC, follow your own rhetoric, and if you want to provide offline viewing, do it in such a way that we can use it. Thanks.
Typical BBC Bullshit
***"The Trust has been pondering how the BBC should syndicate its content and it today stated that it believes iPlayer should be made available only in "standard formats" which service providers and telly manufacturers can readily adopt."***
So the BBC is going to stop providing Apple proprietary streams, then? Streams that only iThings can use, and stop blocking access to non-device specific formats (e.g. 3GP) as they do with Android (All Android phones are quite capable of playing the 3GP streams intended for Nokia phones, but the BBC actively prevent access from the web interface, and send in the lawyers against 3rd party developers who have the audacity to circumvent these restrictions).
Another flypast by the Porcine Air Force......
What about third party apps then?
Multiple third party Android iplayer apps have been taken down after BBC cease and desist notices - the assumption has always been that it's because an official app is coming soon.
So now, presumably, this isn't the case. For platforms that can't play the flash video on the iplayer website, what options are there?
The idea of using open formats, rather than writing something specific for devices, seems fine.
But as others have noted, I'm concerned that this isn't what they do. There's the argument of whether things like "Flash" is open, I guess. But also the problem that they are spending resources on writing things for say, the minority of Iphone users - whilst at the same time, locking out non-Apple devices that try to use them!
I don't know why Iphones can use the standards like everyone else. But if the BBC does spend extra resources just for Apple, why isn't this then made available for all?
Virgin Media's iPlayer
"Virgin Media will be annoyed by this since it wants to offer iPlayer through its set-top boxes but disapproves of YouView. As it stands, it has to stream iPlayer over its cable TV feed rather than the internet, yielding a lower quality image."
Why would Virgin Media be annoyed? They already offer a higher quality BBC iPlayer and iPlayer HD service via their cable set tops. Their new TiVo boxes also offer a dedicated flash based BBC iPlayer app. This is a blow to Sky, not Virgin Media.
"The solution is obvious: eat humble pie and join YouView."
It's up to YouView to eat humble pie. Virgin will meet or beat anything YouView is able to offer including a superior quality BBC iPlayer service.
"But it may not have to. The "exceptional cases" clause provides the BBC with a get-out that lets it work with YouView-phobes on dedicated players for their boxes. Even so, the Trust said such cases should only be considered when "the BBC's costs for development and maintenance would also be fully reimbursed". "
Virgin already covers the costs of providing a dedicated iPlayer service via its set top boxes. As such, it's able to offer, as noted by the BBC, the highest quality iPlayer service in the UK.