If you have kids who always sit on your laptop while you're trying to work, you'll appreciate the distraction value of being able to shuffle them over to another PC and put the official CBeebies web stream on. (my old boss suffered from this 'affliction', but his daughter is quite, quite happy about the whole thing.)

However, many others bemoaned the lack of the main BBC channels, as first BBC Three, then Four, were first rolled out as a trial after BBC News' move to Flash streaming (followed by CBeebies and a couple of other channels). However, on New Years' Eve, they finally made BBC One and BBC Two's web streams public - with a bbc.co.uk front page promo for the New Year's Eve and Jools Holland's Hootenanny shows, finally available as online streams. Woohoo. The quality's not spectacular, being pipped by TVCatchup - but the fact that it's being run by the BBC means that its future is almost certainly secured, and no doubt the quality will increase, mirroring the subsequent "High Quality" stream introduction for iPlayer on-demand programming.

However, given things like the ISPs' unwillingness to have to cough up for all this sudden upsurge in Internet usage, combined with Anthony Rose's recent, somewhat misguided suggestion that ISPs should consider options such as charging an extra monthly fee for high quality stream access... Well, it doesn't exactly inspire unbridled hope, but there's still scope for change.

(A little aside by way of explanation: Mr. Rose's suggestion to ISPs was that they consider charging an extra fee, maybe upwards of £10 a month on top of the customer's existing service charge, in order to offset the cost of all the bandwidth consumed by viewing iPlayer - and other online video - content. However, vocal opponents of this idea have argued that customers are already paying for access to iPlayer, both in the form of their TV Licence and their standard monthly charge. If ISPs begin to charge extra for access to the High Quality streams, it's effectively a two-tiered Internet via the back door, and the end of net neutrality while we're at it as well. Rather grim, and I'm completely against the concept of charging extra for something we should already have full access to. Happily, I'm with Be* once again for my broadband, after moving to Virgin Media last year from Be* (due to my old house's awful phone line - the main problem for ADSL2+ customers - before VM introduced the doubled speeds, STM and P2P throttling... And unlike Virgin up-shit-creek Media, Be* aren't frustratingly backward with tiered access or restrictive bandwidth caps.

Back on point now...)

Anyway, my point of view in a nutshell: if ISPs can't afford to offer the bandwidth customers are paying for as part of their package, they should price their packages more realistically or lower the allowances. Surely they've learnt something from the mistakes the Banking sector have made over the past decade?

That aside, official online streaming of all the main channels is a welcome step in the right direction, as people like me (who've paid for a TV Licence but don't have a TV at the moment) can finally watch all the BBC channels without having to rely on grey-area platforms like the reinvented TVCatchup (which is still albeit slightly better quality, although I'm not sure how long it'll last) or Zattoo (which is so-so in terms of quality, but has some other interesting channels). The fact that it's Flash streaming means that it's not fully accessible yet across every single OS, and is not available to watch on all devices - but hopefully MP4 or H.264 streaming in a regular MKV or MP4 wrapper will be available once they sort out the rights issues (I believe they're still forced to use Flash due to DRM and geolocation restrictions). Anyway, if you want to check out the streams for yourself (UK viewers only, unfortunately), here are some links I'm sure you'll enjoy:

BBC One: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcone/watchlive/
BBC Two: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctwo/watchlive/
BBC Three: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/livearena/ (from 7pm daily)
BBC Four: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/watchlive/
CBBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/watch/cbbclive/ (7am to 7pm daily)
CBeebies: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/watch/cbeebieslive.shtml (6am to 7pm daily)
BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7459669.stm
BBC Parliament: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/playlive/bbc_parliament/

Now, the interesting thing to note is that BBC Parliament streams from the /iplayer site. So, I decided to delve a bit - if you substitute bbc_parliament for bbc_one ... You get the BBC One stream... except those streams don't work at the moment. The same goes for "bbc_two", "bbc_three", "bbc_four", but "cbeebies" and "cbbc" do work. "bbc_news24" gives you the BBC News channel - finally, an easier to remember link than that stupidly long news.bbc.co.uk link! And, although "bbc_one" doesn't work, "bbc_one_england" does, and the same goes for "bbc_two_england". Do you smell forthcoming regional variations? All the channels' streaming pages also show the Now and Next information (and this goes for the channels' respective iPlayer live stream pages and their Watch Live pages on their respective minisites). Very handy.

Oh, and BBC Alba's also available to watch online - but as I can't understand it (it's for the Scots), I don't really care. ;)

Direct links to all of the available live streams in the /iplayer style (which I vastly prefer over the minisite-designed pages) are available via the "Watch LIVE" links at the top right of each page once you click onto the main channels. To do this, go to bbc.co.uk/iplayer and click on one of the TV channels' names in the "TV" pane - or click on TV Channels at the top of the page then click on the channel's name. Once you're there, and the channel is currently streaming, you can click the 'Watch LIVE' link. Simplicity itself (although I'd prefer a single click from the front /iplayer page to get to it, but never mind).

This is a far cry from the first public implementation of iPlayer, isn't it? Whilst not every single programme is available to view online (again, due to rights restrictions - mostly films and older programmes I would expect are not available to simulcast online, as the CBeebies "information for adults" page cryptically explains). Who would've thought that we'd still be watching Flash streams in 2009? I thought we would've been at H.264 inside an MP4 wrapper which I could stream in VLC, Media Player Classic or (shock horror) Windows Media Player, but we'll get there eventually. Hell, even a WMP stream which I could stream over my smartphone's 3G connection would be a better option, but hopefully that's in the pipeline. For the moment, Flash streams are a good warm-up for the next development :) (which hopefully should be with us soon, fingers and toes crossed on that one everybody).

Oh, and welcome to 2009 everyone! May your tech and gadget purchases be many and wonderful and without buyer's remorse.


Post a Comment


Copyright 2006 onwards Christopher Woods. Some Rights Reserved.
ITU uses a (highly) modified version of the K2 theme by GeckoandFly,
originally Bloggerised by Blogcrowds. Credit where credit's due. :)

Into The Unknown is licenced under a Creative Commons License.
(Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales, Some Rights Reserved).

Creative Commons License