BBC iPlayer 2.0 (the-not-so-much review)

After Anthony Rose posted the “Sneak Preview” photos of the new version of the BBC iPlayer (You can see my previous blog post about this here) the new version has been released in public beta, After a few hours of looking around the updated version and trying its new features out, Here are my initial thoughts.

Above is the iPlayer Radio Window. A few problems with this photo, First you’ll notice the black Flash player bar above the RealPlayer player bar. (As I mentioned above, The RealPlayer bar is not supposed to be there any longer. All Radio Feeds should play via the Flash player which should result in better audio quality for those listening with a high-quality connection. | Corrected: Comment 33)  The other problem is the schedule at the bottom of the page. You’ll notice “LIVE: Edith Bowman: 27/06/2008”

That data isn’t actually current. Its based off a Hard-Coded schedule from the iPlayer. If the new iPlayer were to work like the rest of the iPlayer Service and the current version of the Radio iPlayer it would actually display “LIVE: Nihal 27/06/2008 || NEXT: Scott Mills 27/06/2008” Oddly enough, The BBC requires Backstage developers to use the RSS schedule for any “Creations” made as a result of Backstage resources. But, When it comes to internal development they have no problem going against this and using a (less effective) schedule method. (Corrected: Comment 33) I’ve yet to find a higher quality audio stream as was noted by the blog post made by Anthony Rose only a few days ago, Streams still play at 64kbps quality in RealPlayer. This may be fixed once this version of the iPlayer becomes final.

Now, To the part of this that most of you are probably actually reading this for. The iPlayer (Video Version)

iPlayer - BBC News at 10

The new version of the iPlayer sports a new larger player window, It now player content is either 640×480 or 720×310 at 25FPS. In my tests, I’ve been able to load the iPlayer and begin watching content within 15 seconds. Without any need for the video to stop for buffering. As you may have noticed, The video is a bit “blocky” due to the fact that content has not been updated to the new display resolution. I expect this will change when the iPlayer 2.0 goes from beta to final (On the 7th of July at exactly 6AM, 10:30PM for much of America.)

Yet to be included in this update or supported at all is video downloads for Mac. If your a Mac user (Like I am.) you’ll still need to go on-line to the iPlayer website and stream the video from there. The BBC has said that its planning to create a solution to allow Mac users the option to download programmes rather than stream them, But I’m not aware of any media format on the Mac that would allow the BBC to do this. As the BBC enforces strict copy-protection methods on downloaded content (Downloaded content is encoded in Windows Media format,With the requirement for an authentication key to be obtained from a BBC server before the video is able to play. Downloaded programmes are also disabled after 7 days, When the server no longer provides the authentication or “Unlock” key for the video.)

To close, I don’t currently have a review. Since the iPlayer 2.0 is only in its public beta form, None of the enhanced video playback features have been enabled (I’m guessing that the higher resolution content has yet to be uploaded.) So I’ll revisit this post in a few weeks once the iPlayer Beta goes from Beta to Final. The new interface is actually fairly nice! (No, I’m not saying that because I’ve gotten a comment from a member of BBC staff!)

Once the iPlayer Beta changes from Beta to Final, I’m guessing it’ll be as good as the current version but with the advantages of a new higher quality content playback resolution, new interface and better Radio Player.

Sidenote: A lot of things I complain about in this not-so-much-of-a-review, Have either been addressed or I’ve found the reason / cause of so I’ve decided to re-review this in a few weeks, After the new iPlayer launches. Do be sure to “Stay tuned” to read that review. I should also be more awake during the writing of that review. As of now I’ve been up for over 20 hours, without a bit of sleep. Meaning I’m a bit drowsy.

You can see the response of James Cridland of whom is head of Future Media & Technology in the Audio and Music Interactive team. Phew! What a title!

Blimey! Alan Connor, the co-editor of the BBC Internet blog has featured this post in a wrap-up of news and posts about the iPlayer beta on the 30th of June. If you notice this site to be a bit slow for the next few hours, You now know why. This site is experiencing a jump in traffic. I’ll again note, I’ll be re-reviewing the iPlayer service/programme after its launch, On the 7th of July.

6 responses to “BBC iPlayer 2.0 (the-not-so-much review)

  1. As you seem to be in the states, might this not explain the RealPlayer controls: “Finally, my friends outside the UK get the improved navigation and everything except the Flash player (it should drop into Real Player for on-demand content). Let me know if it does. Or if it doesn’t.”

    From here:

  2. Hi, Donald,

    Thanks for checking the new iPlayer beta out.

    Live radio is not in Flash yet; only on-demand content (for national radio). There’s a ton of additional information here if you want to find out more – – and you’re seeing RealPlayer because you’re using a Mac; PCs get Windows Media Player by default.

    The schedule data is coming from a different place – in fact, it’s the same schedule used by – and I’m confused as to why iPlayer showed a different schedule to the feed serving the BBC Radio 1 website. Thanks for that report; I’ll look into it.

    Finally, “None of the features that the BBC has been going on about are enabled yet” – I think those that designed the entirely newly-designed interface might have a small word about that! (grin)

    Thank you for your blog, and do keep listening to BBC Radio.

  3. Thanks for your comment. That answers my question as to why RealPlayer showed up. I also found it intresting that the Radio iPlayer didn’t follow the normal BBC Programme feed. Hopefully I didn’t seem entirely negative about the beta, I actually quite like the iPlayer (both the Radio and video version, On the occasions that I’m able to use it.) and the new beta. I’ve been using various BBC services since I moved to America in 2005. I’m also quite a fan of the BBC’s use of Podcasts (For example the Radio NewsPod and the Best of Chris Moyles enhanced.)

    (And I’m listening to Radio 1 via the iPlayer Beta as I type this comment.)

  4. I should report back about the conflicting programme schedule, since I asked for you.

    iPlayer uses what will be “the normal programme feed” – something we know internally as PIPS (and something that also runs ). The Radio 1 page is currently driven by the older programme feed – something we know internally as WhatsOn. They both come from the same company that puts our schedules together for us, but occasionally (very occasionally) they get out of sync. You spotted such an occasion, which means you can pat yourself on the back.

    You mention the Backstage RSS feeds above; developers wishing to play with our schedules (for non-commercial reasons) might like to take a peek at the “alternate serialisations”, which you’ll find here: which are officially supported and hence should be rather more robust.

  5. Hi Guys
    I am wondering if you can help. I could watch programmes with iPlayers with my MacG4 and MacOS 10.4.7 until th echange this week. Then nothing: I can have access to iPlayer and vbrouse the propgrammes but if I try to watch any, thyere is not the usual arrows to click and select to watch the programme, just the still picture (no option at the bottom of the pics lights up no nowhere to click). Does anybodt knows what’s going on? What the BBc changes that now nothing works? I don’t want to download, was happy to stream…
    Many thanks for you help, I was away last week and would like to watch my favourites before they are gone. Cheers. Candida

  6. Pingback: BBC iPlayer 2.0 (the-not-so-much review) | donald kelly

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