BBC iPlayer Available on Virgin TV

Technology, TV & Film 1 Comment »

In the latest move to expand to expand the reach of the BBC’s iPlayer , the publicly funded corporation has signed an agreement with Virgin Media that will see its service available on TV.

As a result of the deal a soft launched version of the service was launched this morning by Virgin Media. Currently the service is only available through the red button when viewing BBC1, however there are plans to add it to Virgin’s programme guide for direct access.

Customers of Virgin Media will be able to use the service to catch up on the past weeks programmes without the need to download any content or playing software.

The deal is expected to be available for 3.5 million Virgin Media customers who can each view up to 350 hours of free TV programmes that have been aired over the previous seven days.

Virgin Media’s content chief Malcolm Wall said of the deal

“The enormous success of iPlayer online has demonstrated the desire TV viewers have for viewing quality programmes at a time that suits them, and now it’s available from the comfort of the living room. Virgin Media is proud to be working with the BBC to continue to lead this revolution in TV viewing.”

The BBC’s director of future media and technology echoed statements made when the player struck a deal with games manufacturer Nintendo to enable the service to be played on the Wii, in a step to bring the service from PC’s into users living rooms.

“We have always envisaged [the] BBC iPlayer on a TV platform and in the living room. By working with Virgin Media, this ambition has been realised. This partnership takes us a step closer to transforming the way our audiences watch TV.”

Other deals over the past year have seen the iPlayer become accessible on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and the PS3 is also widely tipped to jump on board, with a download for the Apple Mac also planned.

“Where technically feasible our ambition is to bring iPlayer to as many platforms as possible” said another BBC spokes person

BBC iPlayer Available on the Nintendo Wii

Gaming, Technology, The Interwebs, TV & Film No Comments »

In more news regarding the BBC iPlayer and following on from last months post about the service launching on both the iPhone and iTouch, iPlayer Launched on iPhone and iPod Touch, it seems the service has stepped up a gear and is now available on the Nintendo Wii.

Having struck deals with Apple to be the first mobile platforms to support the service, it seems the BBC is now pushing the service into living rooms of the public through the Nintendo Wii.

It has been rumoured that both Sony and Microsoft were eager to sign the iPlayer for their respective PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, but the deal feel through due to increasing demands of the games console manufacturers.

“If you want to get [iPlayer] on the PlayStation or Xbox, they want control of the look, the feel and the experience; they want it done within their shop, and their shop only.” - head of BBC Future Media and Technology Erik Huggers

Darren Waters, BBC technology editor said “The BBC’s announcement of a deal with Nintendo to put the iPlayer’s streaming service on the console makes something of a mockery of claims by Sony and Microsoft that their consoles are the true multimedia machines.”

With Xbox live having no browser it seems Microsoft are unwilling to work with the BBC without retaining control over the look and feel of content delivery, however with the ‘open platform’ of the PS3 it does seem inevitable that the iPlayer will find its way to the PS3 before long.

“[Sony] has said often that PS3 is an ‘open platform’ and all it would take is a small update to let gamers access iPlayer in the web browser.” – Darren Waters, BBC technology editor

With the majority of iPlayer customers currently accessing BBC content through a PC, the publicly funded broadcaster is taking steps to make its services available directly to the big screen television set, and it sees the Japanese games console as a means of doing so.

Currently users can view content downloaded from the iPlayer through their television sets, although it requires using the S-video output on most notebooks and a suitable S-Video to Scart cable. For LCD or plasma screen screens this could be replaced by a higher quality VGA input/ output.

The advantage of this latest deal for the iPlayer is that the Wii consoles are already rigged up to TV set, and therefore programmes can be viewed directly on the console.

Wii players will need to install the Internet Channel which will cost 500 Wii points or £3.50 but there are plans for a free alternative in the future.

The service will remain in beta initially as the BBC experiments with the optimal video encoding techniques for superior playback. The BBC already encodes all 400 hours of weekly iPlayer video, and now must do the same again for the high quality H.264 iPhone streams, and the Wii.

Wii encoding will be of a poorer quality as the Wii only supports Flash 7.This is because of the fact that initially the Wii was only designed to support lower quality Youtube style video.

“Our regular Flash content is encoded at 500Kbps. We chose that bitrate because it’s the highest quality that could be reliably streamed on pretty much any UK broadband internet connection. However, for Wii we had to increase the bitrate to 820Kbps because the Sorenson codec used by Wii simply needs more bits to achieve the same picture quality,” – BBC’s Anthony Rose

iPlayer Launched on iPhone and iPod Touch

Mobile, Technology, TV & Film 1 Comment »

Following a post on The Shelf about the BBC’s new free on demand TV service being delivered through iPlayer in January, the BBC has today announced that a version of its iPlayer on demand service will be available for both the Apple iPhone and iPod touch.

Marking the first time the BBC’s on demand service will be available of portable media devices, the iPhone and iPod touch will stream shows from the iPlayer website over wi-fi networks.

“We started with iPhone because it is the device most optimised for high quality video currently available.” – Anthony Rose wrote on the BBC blog

Currently the iPlayer software is available in two versions, one which will download content from the BBC archive to a Windows PC, the other a streaming service available to all users over the internet.

The iPlayer version used for both the iPhone and iPod touch will allow streaming over a wi-fi connection, however the EDGE mobile network that the iPhone utilises is to slow to support a video streaming service.

Wi-fi firm The Cloud has recently secured a contract to provide all the BBC’s online services for free in 7,500 wi-fi hotspots across the country.

BBC iPlayer Offers Free On Demand TV

TV & Film 2 Comments »

I for one am pleased to see the increase of free on demand services that are being offered online as part of terrestrial TV’s catch up to digital services. With services such as sky plus losing there appeal thanks to these freely accessible achieves, I find myself looking more toward buying a new PC compatible flat screen TV than a 12 month sky plus package. In all honesty I would mainly use such a facility to record programmes produced by the BBC and Channel Four and there digital counterparts, and with all this content now available online for free I ask myself what’s the point?

I even got to the stage where I almost invested in BT’s offering of BT vision, at £30 for a set top box which recorded preset programmes I thought it was a good deal. This until I realised I need a new 12 month BT broadband contract, and as I have 6 months left I refuse to pay the “otherwise £199” fee.

For these reasons I was quite pleased when I read that over 3.5 million programmes have now been watched by more than a million people on BBC iPlayer – the catch up online service launched by the BBC.

According to an article on the BBC, on average over 250,000 programmes were either streamed or downloaded each day following its launch the day after Christmas day, and nearly half of all programmes streamed or downloaded were otherwise placed outside the top 50 most popular shows.

I took part in the trial for this service in the summer of 2007 and thought it was a fantastic service, a great chance to watch quality programming free online. I have not been so happy to pay my license fee for a long time, and if it supports more projects like this then I am even more willing to pay it.

Sky, Channel 4 and ITV, have also launched rival online video services in the last 12 months, and on the back of the BBC iPlayer I am currently foraging around in Channel 4’s 4OD service which also looks good.

Internet TV On Demand In 2008

The Interwebs, TV & Film No Comments »

The next product featured on The Shelf as part of a five part series for technologies that will make it big in 2008 is internet TV.

In the past home internet speeds have hampered internet TV, as connections have not been fast enough to deliver a reliable service.

This trend is however beginning to change, with half of all UK homes now having a broadband with an average speed of 4 megabits a second. These internet speeds are also increasing, and in 2008 ADSL2+ comes online, offering internet connection speeds of up to 24 megabits a second.

Because of the developments in broadband speed we are also seeing more and more internet protocol television services, and it is not just the big players like BT vision and Virgin Media who are gunning for this market, plenty of smaller operators are also offering a range of services.

Mobile phone operator O2 has launched a successful service in the Czech Republic, and plans to launch in the UK in 2008. Orange is also tipped to enter the market soon too.

iplayer was launched in Beta in 2007 as part of the BBC’s offering, a service that allows people to catch up on the corporation’s output over the web. In November a partnership was also drawn up with ITV and Channel 4 to launch a joint on-demand service.

In terms of domestic broadband sign ups Tiscali recently stated it is signing up broadband customers at a rate of 250 a day, showing the desire UK customers have to get broadband connections in the home.

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