BBC to consider switching compression used for streaming iPlayer service
The BBC iPlayer is not without its critics but it has attracted 2.2 million people who have watched a total of 17 million programmes. What is interesting is that the recently launched streaming service may be due a make-over later this year according to The Register.
The Flash based streaming service expanded the number of video playing devices the service would work on and crossed the hurdle of getting DRM protected content to work on a non-Microsoft platform. Planned changes to the service to provide iPhone and iPod content may also see changes to the streaming via iPlayer which will improve the quality of the content available. The iPlayer content should also be available on Virgin Media cable network set-top boxes by the end of March 2008.
Currently a typical one hour show will be a 600MB download, but streamed it would use around 250MB. A lot of this reduction is down to lower frame rates, lower resolution and higher levels of compression. This means that the streamed content while adequate is not ideal for viewing on a large monitor. While the director of new media technology Ashley Highfield is on the record as saying the impact on ISP networks has been 'neglibible' and represents a just a few per cent of the overall bandwidth traffic, for a single application on a single TV network to represent just a few percent could be significant. If other catch-up services such as Sky Anytime and Channel 4oD account for similar levels the overall impact is much higher.
While the streaming service currently allows the service to be available on a wide variety of platforms there are still devices that can play Flash based video content from sites like YouTube that cannot play BBC iPlayer content such as the Sony PS3, Sony PSP.
Correction: The 70MB payload for watching one hour of streamed video was wrong, the 70MB equated to just 15 minutes of material. Measuring another stream we have seen 40.5MB in ten minutes of streaming. This is around half the amount for downloading the material, and with the download if you broadband provider counts upload also the peer to peer nature of the system will add to the total.