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Why the BBC's iPlayer is a Multi-Million Pound Disaster

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the interweb-kersplosion dept.

Television 152

AnotherDaveB writes "As part of 'Beeb Week', The Register discusses the 'multi-million pound failure' that is the iPlayer. 'When the iPlayer was commissioned in 2003, it was just one baffling part of an ambitious £130m effort to digitise the Corporation's broadcasting and archive infrastructure. It's an often lamented fact that the BBC wiped hundreds of 1960s episodes of its era-defining music show Top of the Pops, including early Beatles performances, and many other popular programmes ... The iPlayer was envisaged as the flagship internet 'delivery platform'. It would dole out this national treasure to us in a controlled manner, it was promised, and fire a revolution in how Big TV works online. For better or worse it's finally set to be delivered with accompanying marketing blitz this Christmas - more than four years after it was first announced.'"

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That's heavy... (4, Funny)

avronius (689343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454683)

Why would someone choose this device over any other?

Re:That's heavy... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21454719)

Because it's not a device. It's a piece of software.

Re:That's heavy... (2, Insightful)

avronius (689343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454751)

That spoils the joke then, doesn't it?

Re:That's heavy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21454893)

Oh. Was there supposed to be a joke in there?

Re:That's heavy... (4, Insightful)

James_Duncan8181 (588316) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454747)

Well, the idea was that it would be DRMed and thus in some ways easier to negotiate (even though Freeview is clear text). Since they sold their excellent tech division, let Siemens gut it, then hired half the Windows Media team, it has become some hellish app that is so portable it doesn't even work on Vista but still has all the DRM goodness you might want. Oh, and there is now no Mac or Linux clients as 'no DRM extends across all platforms', even though they previously had a relationship with Real, who have DRM that does.

Also, I have noticed that the BBC online management is now prepared to lie more - witness them claiming that news.bbc.co.uk has 'about 600' GNU/Linux users. Umm, yeah.

Nice to see the freedom of information, public service ethos die...

Re:That's heavy... (1)

Oliver Defacszio (550941) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455129)

Also, I have noticed that the BBC online management is now prepared to lie more - witness them claiming that news.bbc.co.uk has 'about 600' GNU/Linux users. Umm, yeah.

Do you have *any* proof that this is a lie, or is it just because their claim doesn't jive with what you really, really want to be true? I'll wait here for your evidence...

Re:That's heavy... (3, Informative)

Zunt (559814) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455221)

Re:That's heavy... (1)

Oliver Defacszio (550941) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455611)

Well, fair enough -- I'm wrong. The comment to which I responded sounded like wishful thinking to me.

Re:That's heavy... (1, Troll)

iago-vL (760581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456431)

Woah woah woah, slow down now. Admitting a mistake isn't how things are done on the Internet. You're supposed to grasp at a thread and continue arguing!

In any case, I agree with you: it probably wasn't a lie, it was more likely a mistake. Who was it that said, "never ascribe to malice what ignorance will explain"?

Re:That's heavy... (1)

yahooadam (1068736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456599)

Kudos to you for admitting it :)

Back on topic, i cant say the BBC fascinate me, most of their programs are boring, or on other channels first (to me anyway), i dont think i ever visit their website, and i use Linux (probably 70% of the time anyway (excluding gaming))
Besides if i want news off the BBC, it usually goes through a 3rd party who focus's stories im actually interested in

Re:That's heavy... (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455241)

1) it is obviously not true. The BBC has a very popular site. 2) The BBC's own numbers show it is wrong: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2007/11/linux_figures_1.html [bbc.co.uk] 3) Even the revised BBC numbers may well undercount: Linux users are much more likely to change their UA strings.

Re:That's heavy... (1)

blowdart (31458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455251)

That comment was made; then revised to around 30,000 (using a different methodology) over the whole bbc.co.uk web estate. That's still only 0.3% to 0.8% of users. The original figure was just for news.bbc.co.uk;

Compared to the rest of the BBC, more people visit the News site from an office computer, during the day. We have data from independent sources which confirms this

So the original figures [bbc.co.uk] for the news site could well be that low.

Mind you I find it hard to see anyone from the BBC saying GNU/Linux unless they're trolling for RMS.

Re:That's heavy... (2, Funny)

thebagel (650109) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456343)

You, sir, are now deemed Captain of the Failboat. Way to miss the joke.

Re:That's heavy... (4, Insightful)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454895)

Why, indeed?

It looks as though the BBC is the latest of a very long line of companies to learn an important lesson -- you cannot strong-arm a mob. And that's what the Internet is, it's a mob. And like a mob, it can change direction unpredictably and almost instantly if the self-interests of the individual members is satisfied. (think of how Napster changed the music industry... after 100 years of stagnation, it hit them like a heart attack.) However, you cannot force your standards on a marketplace. Sony has proven this time and time again (nobody, NO-BOD-E, wants to re-encode all their music in Sony's crappy proprietary format) and until the other companies learn from these mistakes, money will be pissed away time and again.

In other words, if the BBC wants to play, they've got to come up with a BETTER way of presenting video, not just a DIFFERENT way and certainly not a more restrictive PROPRIETARY method.

Re:That's heavy... (2)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455031)

Call me NO-BOD-E, but back when hard drive mp3 players still had limited space (20 Gig in this case), I did willingly and voluntary transcode a big part of my mp3 collection to Sony's atrac3+ even though my mp3 player would've supported mp3. I chose to do so to increase it's battery lifetime and storage capacity (when expressed in a number of minutes of music; not bytes) and of course, kept the original files.
While I usually tend not to like proprietary formats, in this case the hardware's potential could be used to a larger extent than if I had chosen to go the somewhat proprietary (mp3) or totally open (ogg, which my player doesn't even support) path.

Re:That's heavy... (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455191)

I think that this proves the GPs point more than anything. As long as a format provides tangible benefits it will be accepted to some extent.

Re:That's heavy... (5, Insightful)

Smauler (915644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455651)

You are missing the point here. The BBC is not a company. The BBC has a guaranteed source of income - the license fee. This is not affected if it puts stuff online, goes and hides in the corner with regards to the internet, or whatever it decides to do outside of certain parameters. The BBC Mandate [bbc.co.uk] is here. If the BBC decided to sit in the corner and ignore the internet, it could.

What I would be much more pissed off about is the fact that all British people watching television pay directly to the BBC, by law, and some (ie those who run Linux, Macs etc) are excluded from some services because of this DRM. People have _already_ paid for the content with their license fees (nearly $300 a year), that is the problem. The BBC is giving preferential treatment to those who have bought a particular American company's operating system, despite those who fund it all paying the same.

Re:That's heavy... (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455835)

The BBC mandate you quote is a heavily abridged version of the BBC Charter. This has a number of requirements, including one stating that the BBC must attempt to get educational and cultural material to as many people as possible in the UK. I would argue that sitting in the corner and ignoring the Internet does not meet this requirement.

Re:That's heavy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456821)

People have _already_ paid for the content with their license fees (nearly $300 a year), that is the problem.

Most people think that we've paid for the content, the BBC owns it, so why should we pay for it again? But they're wrong. The BBC pays independent production companies to make programmes, and the production companies keep the rights. Why would the BBC agree to such a deal? UK TV is a small world. The system is a scam to transfer huge sums of money from taxpayers into that small world. Hey, the executive who agreed the deal may be working for the BBC today, but he won't be next year!

And that's why we have to keep paying for content we've already payed for.

Re:That's heavy... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457451)

"The BBC is giving preferential treatment to those who have bought a particular American company's operating system"

I have often pondered the idea that Americans might do the world some good by being even bigger jack asses than usual. If the rest of the world abandoned MS, they would not survive here in the states either. That being the case, I how long it would take for, say the British government, to abandon Windows if every time they turned around, Americans were calling them their "Bitch". Consistently, making disparaging remarks that pointed out that they are just vassals to the US, as they cannot even run their own government without MS to prop them up. Do you think that other governments could be shamed into dropping MS?

Re:That's heavy... (1)

edis (266347) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456897)

If something cuts into retro-style, it must do it properly.
For certain, I am picking this device over any other.

BBC iPlayer Links... (4, Informative)

Virgil Tibbs (999791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454699)

These, too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21454839)

Irellevent negative spin (5, Informative)

Marcus Green (34723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454701)

"It's an often lamented fact that the BBC wiped hundreds of 1960s episodes of its era-defining music show Top of the Pops, including early Beatles performances, and many other popular programmes."

At a time when video tape was very expensive and it made sense to re-use the tape rather than loading a huge amount onto the cost of each apparently ephemeral program. This "lamented fact" seems to be utterly irrelevent to the main "story" that the Register is reporting, but it does add a nice up front negative spin to everything.

Re:Irellevent negative spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21454789)

Yes, but even the briefest engagement of brian clls would show you that you just DO NOT erase BEatles tapes or other culturally signuficant stuff

Re:Irellevent negative spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21454831)

The Beatles are culturally significant?

Re:Irellevent negative spin (2, Informative)

Marcus Green (34723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454873)

"The Beatles are culturally significant?"
There were not seen as such at the time.

Re:Irellevent negative spin (1)

bvimo (780026) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455407)

Will Duran Duran or Take That become culturally significant sometime in the future? What about Hawkwind or Fairport Convention?

Re:Irellevent negative spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456331)

You're either lying, or just a goddamn fucking moron. Seriously. There was never a phenomenon before like The Beatles at their peak.

Re:Irellevent negative spin (4, Informative)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454869)

Who could've said back then just how 'culturally significant' they would be? It was just another episode at the time, nothing era-defining. Another episode that was sitting on a big, expensive, broadcast-quality tape that they needed for other shows.

Re:Irellevent negative spin (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457977)

If it is possible to recover drawings/paintings that are hidden under other paintings, and it is possible to recover data from hard drives that have been overwritten several times, would it not be possible to see if old recordings can be recovered off these magnetic tapes? Perhaps the alignment would be different every time they were overwritten?

Re:Irellevent negative spin (1)

jeremyp (130771) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455783)

You are obviously not aware how Top of the Pops worked. Almost all of the acts on it were just miming. I don't think there's anything culturaly significant about the Beatles miming to a recording of "She Loves You".

Re:Irellevent negative spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21454897)

One of the strange, but lovely, twists of the PC revolution - actually, the subsequent explosion in hdd size - is the fact that damn near everything that can be saved is saved.

Even video clips - in 320x240 res, baby! - of you lighting your own farts on fire... by yourself... wearing Sponge Bob Square Pants boxers... and then... not wearing anything....

Oh, you don't have anything like that? Nevermind....

Re:Irellevent negative spin (4, Informative)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454967)

At a time when video tape was very expensive and it made sense to re-use the tape rather than loading a huge amount onto the cost of each apparently ephemeral program. This "lamented fact" seems to be utterly irrelevent to the main "story" that the Register is reporting, but it does add a nice up front negative spin to everything.

There is some truth to this. Even in the USA, similar practices were followed. NBC saw no value in keeping copies of "The Tonight Show". I don't know the numbers, but a large amount of Johnny Carson's early years as host are gone forever because NBC reused the tapes.

However, it's worth noting that this was not an isolated practice and the BBC is well worth criticizing for its poor judgment at the time. They also routinely wiped audio tapes of BBC radio performances that were recorded uniquely for the BBC. In the 1960s the BBC had limits on how many records it could play on the air, so to get more music on the air, popular artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and so on would appear on BBC programs like Top Gear and record special versions of their songs for radio broadcast. This also provided an opportunity for the artists to record cover versions of songs they liked, many of which were never recorded for release by these bands. The Beatles easily recorded over 30 songs for BBC radio that they never recorded anywhere else. Audio tape was fairly cheap at the time, certainly a lot cheaper than video tape, yet the BBC still wiped it. It wasn't until around 1966 that they finally saw some value in keeping tapes of these special recordings. It was only through the work of fans who taped shows on primitive recorders and collectors of BBC radio transcription discs that many performances were preserved (albeit in poor sound quality) that would otherwise have been lost forever. Even into the 1970s, the BBC was routinely still wiping video tapes and several Dr. Who episodes exist only because some fan with access to primitive video recording equipment was able to make a copy of the show at the time it was broadcast. Let's not cut the BBC too much slack as they have shown consistently poor judgment over the years about what to keep and what to get rid of.

Re:Irellevent negative spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455025)

Let's not cut the BBC too much slack as they have shown consistently poor judgment over the years about what to keep and what to get rid of.

And again, the value of any of it is only seen in hindsight.

Re:Irellevent negative spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455871)

Give me a fucking break... You'd have to be an idiot to not see the value of rare beatles recordings of not-recorded-elsewhere covers without the benefit of hindsight. Same goes for basically every other example the poster gave...

Re:Irellevent negative spin (1)

Tim Browse (9263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455063)

Let's not cut the BBC too much slack as they have shown consistently poor judgment over the years about what to keep and what to get rid of.

Taping over Top Gear? Sounds like fecking excellent judgment to me!

Re:Irellevent negative spin (1)

bvimo (780026) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455475)

Where do I sign up, I'll even bring my own tools. Please, BBC give me the chance to wipe Top Gear.

Re:Irellevent negative spin (1)

benbean (8595) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455827)

Burn the heretic!

Re:Irellevent negative spin (1)

asbestospiping (607061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456401)

and what is so wrong with top gear?

Re:Irellevent negative spin (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456651)

Taping over Top Gear? Sounds like fecking excellent judgment to me!
That'd be the unrelated 1960s radio show of the same name [wikipedia.org] , not the TV show [wikipedia.org] . Sorry, but I couldn't figure out if this was an intentional misunderstanding for a humorous excuse to slag off Jeremy Clarkson and co, or you were just.... slagging off Jeremy Clarkson and Co. :)

while on the other hand (1)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455283)

In the case of Reality TV shows they would be doing everyone a favour by recording over them

Losing old material (1)

ultimate_fish (979156) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457699)

Even now large quantities of broadcasted material isn't kept, mainly because of the resources required to do so. Across the BBC hundreds of hours of radio are broadcast each day. Keeping all of that in a meaningful archive, that's easily accessible, backed up, etc wouldn't pass a 'public value test'. The problem is that it's very difficult to determine what's culturally significant. For example I present a music show on BBC Local Radio. Some of the bands who've played sessions on my show could go on to be huge megastars. But I don't know which ones. Probably not those I expect. Deciding what's kept is often down to individual programme producers, and frankly they're busy enough working on the next show. I know I am.

it wasn't all wiped (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454987)

A load of early filmstock and programs from the bbc in the fifties and sixties was destroyed when the bbc's storage vaults flooded.

I can't seem to find a web reference, but David Attenborough discusses it, and some of the resultant problems in his autobiography 'life on air'.

Re:Irellevent negative spin (4, Insightful)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455335)

"It's an often lamented fact that the BBC wiped hundreds of 1960s episodes of its era-defining music show Top of the Pops, including early Beatles performances, and many other popular programmes."

At a time when video tape was very expensive and it made sense to re-use the tape rather than loading a huge amount onto the cost of each apparently ephemeral program. This "lamented fact" seems to be utterly irrelevent to the main "story" that the Register is reporting, but it does add a nice up front negative spin to everything.
And they had no problem reintegrating to their collection the bits that were recorded by individuals on these very expensive tapes.
And now they're doing everything they can to make sure that we can't save the content that they don't bother to archive safely!

Copying saves content. That was the lesson to learn, and they are selling out rather than applying it.

Re:Irellevent negative spin (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455913)

It wasn't just that tape was expensive (it was cheap compared to the total cost of producing a program). The BBC had no central archives back then. Everything had to be stored by the department responsible for creating it. This is directly relevant to the article, since the iPlayer was part of an effort to digitise both distribution and archiving of material. The fact that the BBC destroyed a lot of (what is now seen as) culturally significant content before they had proper archives is, in part, motivation for this modernisation. They want to avoid this kind of loss in the future, and that means digital archives so they can replicate them losslessly.

The mistake was ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21454705)

using the internet.

They should have just enabled the cable companies to have one demand access to all the BBC stuff within the cable/freeview environment. It would then use the cable fibre bandwidth and had no need to develop DRM etc.
They would have avoided the DRM/OS fiasco completely.

Warnings? (2, Insightful)

Zelos (1050172) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454707)

the iPlayer's Kontiki P2P system is distributing programming on the BBC's behalf - via their bandwidth

I hope they're going to put very clear warnings that the iPlayer uses your bandwidth (and CPU time and memory) even when you're not watching video, or there are going to be a lot of complaints from people who exceed their bandwidth limits.

Re:Warnings? (1)

caramelcarrot (778148) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454913)

Indeed, a large number of people in my college have been fined £40-50 for going significantly over bandwidth limits, 20gig uploads etc..

Why is this modded insightful and not funny ? (nt) (1)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454917)

Cat got your tongue? (something important seems to be missing from your comment ... like the body or the subject!)

if only (4, Interesting)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454709)

If only they had spent those 4 years getting Dream [google.co.uk] working so that they weren't tied to Windows.

there is no such thing as "open DRM" ... (3, Informative)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454953)

... and there won't ever be.

consider this: in traditional crypto Andy wants to send Bobby a message. Evey wants to decipher it, therefore she needs some kind of key. now in DRM, Bobby and Evey are the same person. BUSTED.

yeah, it's copypasta, i know. but it had to be said.

Re:there is no such thing as "open DRM" ... (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455355)

... and there won't ever be.

consider this: in traditional crypto Andy wants to send Bobby a message. Evey wants to decipher it, therefore she needs some kind of key. now in DRM, Bobby and Evey are the same person. BUSTED.

yeah, it's copypasta, i know. but it had to be said.
In traditional Crypto, you're missing persons with names starting in C and D ;-( ...pretty sure you ought to alternate male and female names too... or is that just hurricanes?

Re:there is no such thing as "open DRM" ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455479)

In traditional Crypto, you're missing persons with names starting in C and D ; ...pretty sure you ought to alternate male and female names too... or is that just hurricanes?

I could swear the standard names in use are Alice, Bob, and an evil Eve (for "eavesdropper").

Re:there is no such thing as "open DRM" ... (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455779)

didn't DVD John reverse engineer Apples DRM [google.co.uk] and offer to sell it, efectivly making it open.

So there already exists an Open DRM system.

One sad part about it : (1)

aix tom (902140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454753)

I really liked some of the BBC programs that were broadcast here in Germany in the 70th and 80th.

I would gladly pay for them, If I could get them in some way, but the whole internet distribution seems to be planned UK only, at least it was that way when I investigated a few weeks back.

Re:One sad part about it : (1)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454905)

70th and 80th? Man, you guys have long months.

Re:One sad part about it : (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21454973)

Hey! Dude'th can't help if they got a lithp. Don't take the pith!

Re:One sad part about it : (1)

aix tom (902140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455217)

Hmmmm... Maybe thath why at the end of the monthth there is never any money lefth. I meant seventies / eighties and got mixed up it seems.... eehh.. I mean seemth.

Re:One sad part about it : (1)

Ramble (940291) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454939)

Are you talking about BFBS? Becuase you should be able to get access to that system for free.

Re:One sad part about it : (1)

aix tom (902140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455357)

British Forces Broadcasting System?

Not really. I thought about old BBC series/films that were dubbed and broadcast in the normal German channels.

Re:One sad part about it : (1)

Ramble (940291) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455487)

Possibly, when I lived in germany I did most of my watching on the BFBS channels rather than the German channels (I don't speak German, so that's why).

What would make it acceptable to me... (4, Insightful)

Cheesey (70139) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454783)

You can get a TV licence discount if you have a black and white TV, or if you are registered blind.

How about a discount for everyone who is either unable or unwilling to receive the iPlayer service?

Since they have deliberately locked the service away from a percentage of the viewers, it seems only fair to offer a discount to those people. (I wonder how many WinXP users would also decide that a discount was preferable to access to the iPlayer service?)

Re:What would make it acceptable to me... (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455227)

How about a discount for everyone who is either unable or unwilling to receive the iPlayer service?
No, that's not how taxes* work. Hmm, I've got private health insurance - I'll stop paying NI contributions. I don't approve of the war in Iraq - I'll not pay the proportion of my Income Tax that goes on military spending.
I'm not going to/won't be able to watch iPlayer stuff - so I'll withhold part of my licence fee.

*Maybe it's not technically a tax, but it walks like one, and quacks like one.

Re:What would make it acceptable to me... (2, Informative)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455381)

What are you talking about? You don't need to pay for a TV license if you have only a PC. Only if you can receive TV signals through a device (which includes pc TV cards).

Re:What would make it acceptable to me... (1)

Cheesey (70139) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455657)

That's not my point. My point is that you shouldn't have to pay for iPlayer unless you (a) can use it, and (b) want to use it.

Perhaps this is a bit like arguing that the BBC shouldn't be wasting the licence money on game shows, digital channels, football matches, the World Service or films, as many people have done during the Corporation's history (without success). But I think it's a bit more like asking for a licence fee discount because you've not got a colour TV. Sure, I could buy Windows XP and get access to iPlayer, but I don't want to.

Re:What would make it acceptable to me... (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456471)


That's not my point. My point is that you shouldn't have to pay for iPlayer unless you (a) can use it, and (b) want to use it.


You have to pay even if you only watch itv, you have to pay if you're deaf, you have to pay even if you dont have freeview. It's the way the license fee works.

Re:What would make it acceptable to me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455509)

Come on! You are being ridiculuous. There are more than 600 blind people in this world! [slashdot.org] Plus those with Black and White T.V.!!!

Re:What would make it acceptable to me... (1)

struansemail (1178835) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456213)

We need a new Viewers Charter for lonely virgins.

Multi-Million pound disaster (1)

sokoban (142301) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454801)

Maybe it would have worked better if they hadn't made it so heavy. I think something that is several million pounds might have problems with cracking the tubes that the internets are made out of.

Re:Multi-Million pound disaster (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455427)

thats why they should have used a huge dump truck instead of a series of tubes...

Value for money? (5, Informative)

chrb (1083577) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454835)

The article lambasts the BBC for spending £4.5m on the iPlayer. While it seems a lot, it should be viewed in the context of other media distribution systems: it will be accessible to 10 million homes with broadband in the UK. Given the popularity of BBC content, I'd expect at least 50% to use it at least weekly. Which would work out to an initial cost per home of £1, or about 35p per user, which seems more reasonable. Remember that YouTube sold for $1.65 billion, and it owns no content.

Re:Value for money? (0, Flamebait)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455297)

Expect no one will use it and still just download from bittorrent, meanwhile that 4.5m could have been used to digitise more rotting historical footage that we'll never get back again.

Re:Value for money? (3, Interesting)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455703)

Given the limitations, you'd be better off buying a DVR (really quite cheap nowadays) and just recording shows on that - at least they don't disappear after some arbitrary time limit, you can move them to your computer, and your bandwidth isn't chewed up by the P2P application. I'm disappointed the BBC has used our money to pay for such a pointless service, and on top of that it's paying a known monopolist for the privilege of serving only a proportion of the population.

They could have used this opportunity to drive the transition from TV to Internet broadcasting, but instead they're trying to make the Internet into Television. There are already many avenues for selling their content online, and they should be focussing on that, rather than trying to broadcast over the internet.

PS Re the histrionics in the article - you shouldn't expect better of a rag like the register, it's very close to the tabloids in style - not news but entertainment.

It beggars belief... (2, Interesting)

DrXym (126579) | more than 6 years ago | (#21454837)

... how they could screw this up so bad.

I really don't understand what the hell possessed them to lash together Windows Media Player, IE, ActiveX and some proprietary P2P downloader. It doesn't even work on Windows properly. Just using a different version of Windows, IE or WMP from the ones requires will break the software.

They could have produced something akin to Azureus 3 - a channel listings and downloader application written in Java that more or less ran anywhere. They could wrap a native control for video playback on Windows and let other systems launch with default system player for the content. Let users decide how long they want to keep content and which player / device to use to watch it on. If the BBC were paranoid about the massive market for bootleg episodes of Eastenders, they could even watermark the content to the user who exported it and prosecute them as appropriate. It means users can do what they like with data for their own personal use and the BBC is not burdened with DRM issues or supporting issues with all the versions of WMP, IE & Windows in existence.

Re:It beggars belief... (1)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456433)

... how they could screw this up so bad.

I really don't understand what the hell possessed them to lash together Windows Media Player, IE, ActiveX and some proprietary P2P downloader. It doesn't even work on Windows properly. Just using a different version of Windows, IE or WMP from the ones requires will break the software.
Classic design by committee.

Re:It beggars belief... (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457015)

It beggars belief...

These are not just PHBs we are talking about here, these are British Public Sector PHBs.

Meanwhile over on ITV.com (2, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455011)

I can watch swathes of (DRMd) content running in Windows Media Player inside my browser, with nothing further to install. Total cost to ITV - the DRM key. Time to market: 0 days.

Still, I'm sure a lot of consultants got some very nice expenses-lunches out of designing the iPlayer.

Re:Meanwhile over on ITV.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455137)

I can watch swathes of (DRMd) content running in Windows Media Player inside my browser, with nothing further to install.
Except that the BBC intends to make iPlayer cross-platform, while Microsoft has not yet announced any plan to release Windows Media Player for Linux.

Re:Meanwhile over on ITV.com (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455507)

I can watch swathes of (DRMd) content running in Windows Media Player inside my browser, with nothing further to install.
Except that the BBC intends to make iPlayer cross-platform, while Microsoft has not yet announced any plan to release Windows Media Player for Linux.

Yes, I'm sure that it "intends" to, at some point in the future, and at further cost to itself. Good intentions and a dollar will buy you a twinkie. Right now though, the iPlayer is a second rate solution to a problem that the BBC chose to create.

Fucking whiners. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455033)

Seriously. "It took too long, waaaaaaaaah!" this time instead of "You didn't take long enough! It has bugs waaaaaaaaaaah!"

Seriously Slashdot, FUCK OFF already. The very fact that this system exists is worthwhile. Think you can develop something better? THEN FUCKING DO IT. Don't bitch and bitch about how it doesn't compile on Linux or run on Mac when that's a SHITE percentage of total users. I use a Mac and you know what, I'm not pissed. They wanted DRM, and that's fucking hard to do cross-platform.

FUCK. OFF. WANKERS.

Re:Fucking whiners. (2, Interesting)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455459)

Seriously Slashdot, FUCK OFF already. The very fact that this system exists is worthwhile.
Based on what? People will keep using bit torrent and ignore this piece of crap.

Meanwhile 4.5m pounds that could have been spent on digitising important historical footage has been wasted on executive lunches and meetings.

Think you can develop something better? THEN FUCKING DO IT.
OK. First cancel the iPlayer and raise more funds to Digitise the remaining old footage. At the same time we should be looking at backing up that data at a separate site.

When we have digitised all that footage which is rotting away right now then we can think about wasting money on crap like the iPlayer to make it available, but since the copyrights would have expired they might as well just put it on youtube or bittorrent it.

Re:Fucking whiners. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456989)

TWAT! Give us back our FUCKING money and then we'll FUCK OFF. This is a PUBLIC broadcaster. It should all be open source - free access for all and no it isn't better than nothing since it IS nothing, inaccessible, useless, nothing.

Sack the wanker from Microsoft!

That money could have... (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455157)

... been spent on digitising all the rotting archive footage that is just sitting in a warehouse down south.

Re:That money could have... (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455211)

Let me just clarify that I am talking about archive footage from over 60 years ago, not the archive footage that the article talks about which they are trying to desperately make money off before the copyrights run out.

No mention of associated licensing costs (2, Interesting)

BristolCream (102658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455203)

While the article covers off the development and infrastructure costs for iPlayer (stated at 4.5 million), it makes no mention of video royalty fees, which I understand to be around 7.8 million mark.

~$260 MILLION?? (4, Interesting)

lobosrul (1001813) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455219)

Can someone explain how this program cost them roughly 260 million USD? Seems like one of the biggest wastes of money in history. All of their recent programming was already digitizes, how else could it have been broadcast on freeview? All they needed were a few "geeks" to re-encode them to a higher compression tech (xvid or x264). Here's how you can make your money back. Sell your back catalog to people not in the UK. I really like a lot of programs on BBC (& ITV and a few Channel 4 shows). I'd gladly pay $1/hour for older programs and $2/hour for anything less than one year old. Heres the catch though. I demand something thats at least nearly DVD quality (720x576 2mbs x264 would be nice), and I demand to be able to play it on any device of my choosing, so no DRM. Or (wink wink nudge nudge) DRM that is easy to strip.

Re:~$260 MILLION?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455263)

I know the greenback is going through a tough time at the moment, but it's not THAT weak. £4.5m is around $9m.

Re:~$260 MILLION?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455549)

You think this is the biggest waste of money ever? Try again! We in the UK never fail to waste public money on never-ending projects. The NHS (National Health Service) computer network was started at the turn of the decade and has cost £20 Billion ($40 Billion) to date. It will never work, and it will never be finished.

Re:~$260 MILLION?? (1)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455743)

Biggest waste of money in history?

That'd probably be the new Wembely stadium, which cost £778 million pounds, and have a roof that doesn't even close. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and the Stade de France in Paris both cost a fraction of that.

Actually, I'm wrong. They sunk £779 million pounds into the Millennium Dome, which was open for only a very short time before being demolished. Complete and utter waste of money.

Both seem like daylight robbery of the British tax payer to me.

Re:~$260 MILLION?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455935)

They sunk £779 million pounds into the Millennium Dome, which was open for only a very short time before being demolished.

This news will come as a shock to the owners of the O2 Arena. They only just opened and someone came along and demolished it!

Re:~$260 MILLION?? (2, Informative)

laird (2705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455879)

I'd have to think that the vast majority of the cost is in digitizing and cataloguing all of the content. Imagine paying armies of people to go through vaults of aging films and tapes, often unlabeled. First you have to physically handle it all, so that you can play and digitize it. And playing it is harder than it sounds - a lot of old material is recorded in formats that can't be played by anything manufactured in decades, so you have to track down a compatible wire recorder, 8mm film setup, etc., and figure out how to get a high quality recording of the original. And since some originals are in bad shape, they can only be played once. Then you have to pay people to watch it all to build an index so that you could find stuff. The idea of doing this on the scale of the BBC archives is stunning!

Compared to that, the cost of putting it online is minimal. I can believe a few $million, to implement a video content management system, transcode everything into online formats, load everything into the CMS, build a web front-end, and actually run the whole thing (hosting, bandwidth, etc.).

Let's tag the story... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21455289)

"!apple"

What I want to know (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21455575)

  • Why did no-one think of the Flash Player option sooner? True, while it's not open source, it is multiplatform, which is more than can be said for Kintoki...
  • Why was so much attention paid to the eye candy on the iPlayer, which made it slow, clunky, not very usable, and in the end caused the death of my PC?
  • If the service was not compatible with Macs, iWould seriously like to know why the iPrefix was given to the iPlayer's name. iAm confused by this, as are several readers of the Radio Times.
  • Nevertheless, iThink the software design of iPlayer 1 was lousy, mainly due to the dreadful Kintoki system. But the bottom line is that as long as content providers will demand DRM, the BBC will have to apply it. Someone in the TV industry has to see sense.

A daring and radical proposal (5, Funny)

Budenny (888916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456143)

As you know, all media in the world and much shopping right now are funded on the BBC model. This model is that you shall be legally obliged to subscribe to one service, in order to be allowed to buy other competing services. In the UK, if you want to watch any TV you are obliged by law to subscribe to the BBC, or you will go to jail without passing GO.

This is the standard practice in many areas of life, doubtless in imitation of this great British innovation.

It is the norm in the US, I hear, for you to be obliged to pay for the New York Times, whether you read it or not, because that is a condition for being able to read Newsweek or the LA Times. And quite right too. One can only legally read novels in Australia if one can prove paid ownership of the complete works of John Barth. This is just as well, since otherwise no-one would buy them. Not to mention the general practice of supermarket management. If you have not visited Belgium recently, you may not be aware that if you are caught in a supermarket without your Delhaize loyalty card you will simply be thrown in jail. I could go on. In France, for example, a man can drive whatever car he pleases, as long as he has a Peugeot in his drive. Not his garage, his drive. And not financed - owned outright.

So I fully realize that what I am going to propose is a wild revolutionary and radical idea, and fellow slashdotters, I am delighted for you my dear friends to be the first ones to hear it suggested. I do not think anything like this has ever been suggested before on the subject, and while I am aware of the revolutionary implications for the way in which we buy goods in general, we must start small, and start carefully, where the need is most obvious, and that is why I confine the present suggestion to the way we fund the BBC.

What we need to do is very simple. We need to make this fee voluntary. We need to stop making everyone subscribe to the BBC, and instead let them subscribe if they want to watch it, and not if they do not.

Now before everyone bursts into howls of anger, or tells me I have taken leave of my senses, which I agree is quite a natural reaction to a proposal to treat the BBC so differently from all other goods and services in the Western World, let me point out that it might solve a couple of the problems the iPlayer reveals.

The BBC would no longer be drowning in a flood of money, and it would have some slight incentive to offer services which its voluntary subscribers wanted. It might even focus its efforts on giving them what they want, instead of what it chooses to give those who have been forced to pay, and now will take whatever they are given.

Yes, it is shocking and radical, and it could lead to a shakeup of the whole of Western Society. But, we are only talking about one broadcaster in one small country. I think fellow slashdotters you may agree when you think about it, that this is an experiment worth trying.

Re:A daring and radical proposal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21457017)

"some slight incentive to offer services which its voluntary subscribers wanted"

This is the reverse of the logic under which the BBC was set up. The idea is not to give people what they want (which is, basically the common denominator tosh that they don't actually like) but stuff that they don't want but will like anyway.

That seems pretty radical doesn't it? Which is amazing given how old the BBC is (yes, it was around before this new-fangled television you've heard so much about recently) but there you are, some radical thoughts just keep shining brightly. Of course it's true that this is paternalism, and that's why the BBC is often called "Auntie", but the problem is that it's also true that it works. Giving people what they want results in less programs they actually like than just ignoring what they want and having experts decide what to make. To do that requires funding that's certain for longer than just until the next weekly viewing figures.

There already exist public service broadcasters that operate on the basis you proposed, and I do watch some of their shows, but when I look at the list, I see that everything I watch was actually produced very cheaply abroad, making it an exercise in increasing our trade deficit. In contrast the BBC's work, even that which people "didn't want" has been tremendously successful as an export.

The public service broadcaster I'm particularly thinking about, Channel 4, actually has an even more critically successful and popular arm which makes movies. The movie-making arm loses money. Every. Single. Year. So according to your model it should be long gone, and we'd have to do without great British movies like "Shaun of the Dead". Doesn't that seem a shame?

[ Don't bother saying something like "Channel 4 isn't a public service broadcaster". Or if you must, at least read the Wikipedia entry for "Channel 4" before you comment. It's also worth consulting a list of PSBs around the world, taking a big gulp, and then not posting at all ]

Re:A daring and radical proposal (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457269)

There already exist public service broadcasters that operate on the basis you proposed, and I do watch some of their shows, but when I look at the list, I see that everything I watch was actually produced very cheaply abroad, making it an exercise in increasing our trade deficit. In contrast the BBC's work, even that which people "didn't want" has been tremendously successful as an export.

Yeah but the problem (which is what the GP sarcasticafulirifully comment is pointing) is that, even if I ONLY watch those public, non-BBC channels or even if I have a TV to kick it when I arrive from work. I must pay the diezmo to the fucking BBC.

As a poor student, I hate that...

But does it play on XBMC? (1)

Amphetam1ne (1042020) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456563)

I think this is the question that anyone distributing TV over the internet should be asking themselves. I don't want to watch shows on my PC, I want to sit on my sofa and watch them on my tv. Given the choice of using a legal but DRM'd content delivery system, or using an illegal system that let's me actually watch tv on my tv, then I'm going to choose the later option every time. Honestly, why would I want to watch TV sat at a computer when I have a big tv and comfy sofa? Do the people who came up with that idea even have a clue about how people consume entertainment? I will continue as I have been, downloading anything that looks good via P2P and watching them on my tv when I want to, probably watching an entire season in 1-2 sittings rather than weekly. This is how I consume entertainment, adapt to me or be ignored by me.

dirac? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456597)

Anyone else remember this?
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