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The BBC iPlayer 'launch' that wasn't

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Channel 4 works..

Despite the fact I don't really watch TV, I idly found a link to Channel 4's 4oD service. It works fine.

OK, it's still evil DRM and Media player 10/XP based, but given C4 isn't a public service broadcaster viewers don't have a leg to stand on.

Might be fun to have a comparison with other things like the crap Joost, too.

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Does the BBC know what 'beta' means?

>We know that some technically expert users are able to

>run BBC iPlayer Beta on Vista but we do not feel it is

>appropriate to advise the general user to try to use BBC

>iPlayer Beta on Vista until we have completed our

>programme of testing.

Err...isn't that what a beta programme is for - testing?

So they are not allowing use of the Beta on Vista until

it has been fully tested and is no longer Beta?

My head hurts....

Ashley

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Recent?

"Microsoft Vista is quite a recent development..."

The first beta of Vista was released to developers on the 27th July 2005, exactly two years before last Friday's "release". Did no-one at the BBC think that maybe, just maybe, Microsoft might actually ship the product?

Mind you Windows XP x64 has been around for even longer and they haven't bothered to support that so who know how their quaint little development process works.

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Silver badge

Limited numbers of competent testers required

Of course, if they'd written one that was only available on Linux to start with, they'd have had a smaller user base and would have had less problems with the demand, plus a significant proportion of users would be a bit more technical and able to work things through.

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iPlayer is a bad way to do it

I am on the iPlayer Beta and I have to say the way it is done is not very good.

Sure it looks slick but having to download the files to my comp, why? I can stream on 4od and that is good enough for me.

Is iPlayer supposed to be competing with Sky +?

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C4 Public Service

Actually it is a public service broadcaster. Under the terms of their licence they do have a public service remit albeit quite limmited

They also receive a small fraction of the license fee.

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Anonymous Coward

It is rubbish

Sorry - to use the BBC iPlayer you need the following

Windows XP

Internet Explorer

Windows Media Player

<< Return to the programme details

Thats what Im greeted with when I try to download "Mountain" I have all three of those...........

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360 streaming?

Since my PC is in the other room, I stream all my downloaded media to the 360 connected to the telly. Does the iPlayer stuff work with that? I'd have thought Microsoft would trust that device for remote output if anything.

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It was bust yesterday

I got into the beta yesterday... so I excitedly logged in only to find that it wasnt working!

I was getting an "unexpected error" and told to try again later.

Humph

Also I found that, ontop of it requiring Windows to run, it requires you to view the page in IE :(

Its just like them bringing out a new channel you can only watch with a Sony freeview box

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RE: Does the BBC know what 'beta' means?

It seems the BBC has the complete opposite approach to google when it comes to releasing products to beta test!

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Anonymous Coward

Something doesn't add up ...

"Microsoft Vista is quite a recent development and BBC iPlayer Beta was designed to work on Windows XP. We need to test BBC iPlayer on Vista fully before we can recommend to our users that it works properly on this operating system."

.... so how do you explain this article post in March 2006 (16 months ago) showing the BBC's Ashley Highfield demonstrating iPlayer on Vista with his pal Messrs William Gates III? - http://tinyurl.com/lb2eq

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What makes this hard?

It could have been extremely simple to set this up - and no 'iPlayer' application required. Just stick a few Bittorrent trackers on the BBC's network and put links on the programme pages.

I'm guessing it's the DRM requirement that's making this painful. Any other suggestions?

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Anonymous Coward

Tried It, uninstalled it.

I tried the beta when my invite came through on Friday, downloaded 2 episodes of hyperdrive (the only show I could see that I was vaguely interested in. Download speed was good but the shows encode was AWFULL, there are literally hundreds of better rips available online these days, why does the bbc have to screw up the video so badly, I know there stuck with using .wmv, but there are some very high quality wmv rips available so it's just them encoding there episodes to resemble a LEGO recreation.

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Anonymous Coward

4od doesnt work if you have .net 3+

Channel 4's service doesnt work if you have a higher version of the .net framework that .net 2. I contacted Channel 4and they suggested removing the later .net versions.

You get what you pay for. With Channel 4 thats nothing.

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Anonymous Coward

BBC: Start over and take the lead.

I can see this dying a death for now and a good job too. The BBC should work out there own open standards for the Player and DRM (if needed) then start over. After all they need a standard for archiving (and may already have one) , so material is not lost because of changes in how a player works or because it's a proprietary format which they can no longer source.

As for the DRM argument, the easiest way is to not have DRM and only make available the material that has been allowed for DRM free online use or created by the BBC. Producers who refuse, may find that their material is suddenly not been shown so much on FTA because of lack of interest from the consuming public, especially if the viewings of downloaded material are taken into account. I think that would lead to them opening up a least some of the stuff.

There are no technical issues only politics form the producers. In the end the producers need to have their stuff out there being watch, therefore they need us and the BBC more than we need them.

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@Mr Weeble

"Did no-one at the BBC think that maybe, just maybe, Microsoft might actually ship the product?"

Weren't there people at Microsoft who thought they might not ship the product?!

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Lock In, Lock Out

"Its just like them bringing out a new channel you can only watch with a Sony freeview box"

Oh no, it's MUCH more insidious than that.

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Couple of points

Streaming through a 360 should be fine.

The LEGO versions should improve with planned transcode tweaks.

Vista's no problem, but you need to muck about with some tweaks the Beeb don't want to suggest to Joe (Doh) Public.

DRM is behind almost all of iPlayer's pains.

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Dreadful

I've managed to install it on my Mac, via XP running on Paralells:

Sadly, it's a slick looking, bud dreadfully implemented interface, that forces the user into a very tightly controlled viewing interface that seems to confuse, rahter than benefit.

Why is it American TV channels have got it so right? Distribute for money over ITunes, and stream for free, in HD, over their own websites using a plugin that works via your browser, on Macs and PCs in IE and Firefox.

For all the money they are investing in this thing, I'd rather they just abandon it and wait until a better solution comes along.

I can see it being a novelty that wears out after a few weeks of frustrated people being hit with DRM related problems.

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@Dennis Re: C4 Public Service

You said C4 "[...] also receive a small fraction of the license fee."

No they don't - at least not yet.

There is talk of C4 receiving some licence fee money - talk that primarily emanates from C4 themselves - but it is by no means a done deal. It's all part of the Ofcom-ignited debate about the future of public service broadcasting in the UK - indeed one of Ofcom's own ideas is that there should be a "Public Service Publisher" that might itself be funded from the licence fee, though detractors of this idea state such a thing broadly already exists in the form of C4 (hence C4 should get some licence fee cash).

The BBC meanwhile aren't at all keen on letting any of the licence fee go elsewhere, arguing that it will break the long-established link in viewers and listeners minds that the licence fee solely funds the Beeb, will strain the notion of public accountability, and will ultimately mean the concept of a licence fee will be rejected by the public at large.

There is a vast panoply of information regarding the Public Service Television Broadcasting debate on the Ofcom and BBC websites, and a tonne of comment regarding it on the web (and some of it might even be - shock horror - vaguely informed comment! See Media Guardian, The Economist etc).

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Anonymous Coward

BBC iPlayer in It's Bloody Awful Shocker

I got my invite through last week, so I shoved it on my XP box. It's painful to use. Poorly thought out menus are the first thing that greet you, showing you nine things at a time in a tiny cramped frame. Here I am using 1280x1024 and the Beeb are designing for 800x600. Then, when you find a programme you want to download, you have to go and download their client first, which is an app that contains an IE browser in a frame. A browser that crashes with script errors that you can't get out of, meaning you have to track down the process that spawned it in the Task Manager. Is it under BBC iPlayer? No. Under Internet Explorer, the title of the dialog box? Pfft, of course not. It's under the first place anyone would look, KService.exe.

The K in KService comes from Kontiki, an abhorrent peer-to-peer 'solution provider' that will happily piss your bandwidth up the wall with gay abandon, and remains running (if you're not savvy enough to kill it off) whether or not the iPlayer is running. If you're on a limited monthly bandwidth package, get used to paying for the extra gigabytes as you host chunks of EastEnders for the poor sods who want to watch it. The other ingenious thing that Kontiki does is drive your CPU usage up to 100% for several seconds every couple of minutes, stopping anything else that you're trying to run from responding. Forget about having it running in the background and trying to do anything even moderately useful.

The quality of the encoding is pretty poor, considering they have mastertapes and what-not at their disposal, and it's not down to the bitrate they're using which, while varying massively (between 1400 and 2200bps), is higher than 4oD's default, 1011bps. And the size is bizarre - 672x384. Where'd they come up with that from? How is it that 4oD has a higher resolution at a lower bitrate but looks better than iPlayer's offerings?

On the upside, FairUse4WM can strip the DRM off each file in a matter of seconds, so I can watch In The Night Garden with my son with VLC on a Linux box. Nice to see that the money spent with Microsoft has been worthwhile.

I doubt I'll keep using it. Everybody's favourite UK torrent site has better quality caps and encodes that play anywhere, and can be downloaded using software that doesn't hammer your processor and you can control the bandwidth of. What could've been a really neat service has missed not so much by a country mile, more of a country light-year.

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Gold badge

Typical British bungling

This shows why Britain doesn't have many world class IT and technology giants.

We can't even get a simple streaming TV service working, never mind produce complex electronics.

Why waste your net bandwidth? get a couple of DVB cards and record it all instead. Given the lack of anything decent on TV these days I find dual tuners is sufficient.

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Good TV?

"Given the lack of anything decent on TV these days I find dual tuners is sufficient."

Giles, Giles, Giles. Don't you know that everything worth showing on TV is either copied from the UK or simply rebroadcast? After all, where do you think we got Big Brother and Eastenders from? </sick humor>

BTW, is Hustle still on? AMC will run 3 or 4 episodes, then stop, then run a few more. I don't know if we're tracking the current season or if this is from a thousand years ago.

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Anonymous Coward

A quick dirty idea over a plate of Spag Bol

Recognising the amount of brain strain this must have caused in the development process. I have an idea.

What if they decided to only let people who had a TV License number sign up, then they would be sent via good old carbon foot-printing, unsustainable Royal Mail (according to the address on their license) an account number and password; which would give access to a nicely designed secure area of the Beeb's website with a whole bunch of video on there and use some wizardry to stop the user downloading the file.

Now my idea might be a load of crap, but it's a lot better than that disastrous iPlayer thing I had the misfortune of trying over the weekend and I managed to think it up over a hot plate of spaghetti bolognaise.

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Anonymous Coward

GPL

Do you know if there is any GPL code being used in the iPlayer?

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Take it away and shoot it please..

As a supporter of the open source community, and someone who’s about to switch from a PC to a MAC, can I just request that the BBC doesn’t spend ANY time and cash on making this pile of b*llocks available on anything other than Windoze, which is exactly where it belongs.

I received my signup mail the other day; bravely ventured onto the site using my supplied username and password and got as far as selecting a program to download before it informed me that Firefox was on it's blacklist of evil software. Over to IE; trawl through the same process to find out that I have to install the player. Done that; back to square one, try the download again and it wants to install a Kontiki active X control (thanks for the warnings and up-front information about this Mr. Beeb). Why does Kontiki make me think of lashed-together lumbering barges? Taking my life in my hands, I install the player and go through the whole damn thing again. Now it wants my username and password, but rejects the password because it too short (insert set of suitable expletives here). Worked out that it wants me to register for an iPayer account and the username and password they sent me isn’t REALLY a username and password (how silly of me to think it was…). Set up the account, log-in, go back to the download and…… it tells me I’m not in the UK and I can sod off until I am. Cripes; that’s going to make it a bit difficult to get to work in the morning; wonder where I am? The iPlayer has seemingly teleported me to another country. Next steps; delete iPlayer, delete invitation e-mail. Problems all solved now.

BBC; go to the bottom of the class. 0 out of 10. Just because it was a good idea 3 years ago, that doesn’t mean it makes any sense whatsoever now. Go away, and don’t come back until you’ve come to your senses.

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Anonymous Coward

absolutely laughable

not only is it using the awful Kontiki P2P app - which in itself is almost malware in its nature - and therefore this service will clash badly with 4oD and/or Sky by broadband... and if you've tried either of these offerings then I'm afraid that iPlayer is roughly the same..but the image quality is far worse(!)

but then the DRM is already broken. by several easy to get hold of apps.

the final insult is that you have to compromise your security to even have the chance of getting the player. IE6? not thanks. WinXP? err, no. Vista or

MacOSX thanks.

hey. BBC. 1998 called. they want their horribly conceived application back.

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Bronze badge

c4 on demand

well, I booted XP to see what the c4 on demand was like... everything was fine until it wanted to install dotnet, so I killed it off.

weren't the Beeb going to use Zudeo (www.zudeo.com)? Hmm, just checked that site and it looks like it's replaced azureus home page... so not only has bittorrent sold out but so has azureus. sigh.

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iSlow

Well I remember seeing the guy incharge of the iPlayer demonstrating it saying it takes 30 minutes to download a show, well I have been sitting here for 5 hours now waiting for top gear to download the iPlayer claims its downloading at 566Kb/s.

Yeah right 300MB at that speed should be done in less than 10 minutes. Still waiting for mine all these hours on.

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What a waste of money and people's time

Tried in Firefox first... obviously that was not allowed, so I loaded up the old IE6 and tried again. After I finally managed to download (couldn't download it with FlashGet) and install the player I logged in but kept getting messages saying they're experiencing technical difficulties. I quit out and then launched the app again to be told I had signed out and needed to sign in again... that would have been fine if it hadn't told me my password was too short. WTF?! It's bad enough that my username and password is unmemorable gibberish but it's slightly worse when it doesn't even work. This is an absolute farce! Very limited support (XP / IE6), very limited number of users and they still can't get it working even close to smoothly.

I remember seeing the video demonstrating a Vista sidebar gadget for the player yet I can't even get it working nicely on the ONE OS that they "support". I understand the need for DRM but there is NO excuse for a player as shody as this. They have had years to design the program and yet they tie it into to proprietary software / protocols for no good reason and even then it's barely usage (I'm guessing it is actually usable... I haven't actually managed to watch anything myself yet).

The BBC is going downhill rapidly. Programs like the Daily Politics and News24 have become very dumbed down and it doesn't seem the BBC knows what it's actually trying to do with them. I find myself watching CNN international news far more often now - the reporting is better and less sensational, even if you do have to put up with more overt sponsorship/advertising. I'm usually a staunch supporter of the BBC but I'm starting to see less and less worth in what they do. I expected better of the BBC iPlayer as the BBC website is one of the few things they've done very well.

They need to bin this and start again... it's junk. It's not worth trying to save - they'll just be pouring good money after bad.

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Top gear downloaded to me in about 12 minutes.

I guess this demonstrates the quality of the service. I registered the other day, and downloaded the top gear special (being the only thing on there I would ever watch). It was done in about 12 minutes, possibly a little sooner.

When you get it, the picture's crap but the show is as good as ever ;-)

I'm thinking about removing it actually. There's nothing worth watching anyway and I hate watching TV at my computer.

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No problems here

I don't see what the problem is. I haven't had any difficulties. The interface is easy enough to use - just type in the name of the program you want and it gets downloaded soon enough. The quality is good too. I haven't had any problems with DRM or installing things on my PC that I don't want to. It's been a painless trouble-free experience all round.

Oh hang on - we are talking about ThePirateBay, aren't we?

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RE: iSlow

I just watch top gear straight off the site, launching the stream in realplayer on my mac. works great! instant on, no waiting to download. Why oh why doesn't the beeb use realplayer to distribute all the TV, and forget iPlayer? It works fine for their radio programmes.

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DRM, what DRM?

Check out Wikipedia to find out all about Windows Media DRM, there's some interesting links that iPlayer users might find useful.

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Tried it, binned it

Bloody awful.

Peer to peer app with no ability for the user to throttle the bandwidth usage and distinctly unreliable downloads.

Try harder BBC

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Griff Rhys Jones up a Monroe on a Macbook

OK, so everyone agrees the picture isn't as good as it could be but as a back-up to a VHS recorder and my innate ability to forget to programme it to record, its fine. Download speeds are good and the picture is acceptable when you're not ten inches from the screen.

iPlayer also works great through the latest build of Parallels on my Macbook for anyone who's interested...

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Rod

Kservice bandwidth hog

BBC Iplayer uses kservice.exe for p2p which even when Iplayer is closed hogs your bandwidth!!!!

that is poor even for beta

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There's a joke in there somewhere...

There's a joke in there somewhere about partnering with Microsoft and releasing a product that is half baked.

Leave it with me I might figure it out.

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Works fine for me

Well despite all the negative comments on this article, the iplayer worked fine for me.

On sunday night the download speeds varied from 10s of kbps through to 3.2 Mbps... so the Top Gear special I was downloading took an hour odd to download. Two other downloads have been faster. My broadband connection isn't exactly reliable, and I reset it once during the Top Gear download and it picked up from where it left off.

Picture quality is OK, but I wouldn't call it exactly high resolution.

So I think it is a good way to catch up on some missed programme, but hardly a great revolution in the way I watch TV.

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How to get iPlayer on Vista

"We know that some technically expert users are able to run BBC iPlayer Beta on Vista but we do not feel it is appropriate to advise the general user to try to use BBC iPlayer Beta on Vista until we have completed our programme of testing."

Any ideas how?

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Disappointing

I was so excited when I got my username and password. I know I was only falling for the oldest salesmanship trick in the book. Artificially restricted supply to create some more hype. But damnit, I was excited anyway.

It's such a disappointment though. Ewen Bruce describes quite nicely what a pita it is to install, so I won't do that again. I got a different error at the end though. Instead of telling me I wasn't in the UK, I clicked a link in iPlayer that took me to a web page which told me I didn't have iPlayer installed.

Deleted and forgotten about.

I'm glad that it exists though. I'm not sure about legally but morally I feel that the existence of iPlayer means I can download those programs from more user friendly places.

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Anonymous Coward

Kontiki

Have you tried to uninstall this yet? I tried the beta some time ago.

I fully support the "malware" comment above. Makes the old Sony "rootkit" look positively user-friendly by comparison.

Running the beebs uninstaller doesn't remove Kontiki (allegedly 'cos it could be used by something else - is there anything else this stupid?). Trying the "official" Kontiki uninstall gives you a message that it's really useful, could be supporting other things on your machine, you shouldn't remove it and other FUD (a favourite malware ploy). Continuing anyway produces a crash in the uninstaller.

Kill processes, remove program directories, sysinternals' "autoruns" to get rid of the startup entries, Norton Windoctor to remove the orphan registry entries, regedit to remove anything else "kontiki" related.

OK, this was a while ago now and they may have fixed it since, but I'm not prepared to run the risk meself.

Companies that ship sh*t like this deserve to go bust. Let's all stop paying the License fee..........

TeeCee

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I cant get it to work

I still havnt managed to get it to work yet.

It constantly wants me to reinstall instead of download. Well i have given up

To be honest like the Sky anytime, 4OD the Iplayer wont impact me that much as id rather watch TV on a TV.

I have Sky Plus and using their online remote recoed is 10 times better than watching a program on your Laptop.

Lets be honest BBC repeats that much you will never miss a program anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

First thoughts

I finally got my iPlayer e-mail yesterday, logged in, all seemed fine. Until I attempted to get the programme I wanted (Mock The Week), to find that despite it saying "three days left", it wasn't available for download. Huh?

I really am willing to give this a try, but when I have a cable box and a hard-disk-recorder anyway, unless the reported quality improves is it really worth it?

And anyway - of the programmes that we really want (say I miss an episode of Dexter on FX), there is always Bittorrent, and most of that is in HD format!

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Stu

Testing!?

That paragraph that the author Chris Williams wrote -

>>>Reader "UndeadDevil" reports the iPlayer works "perfectly" on his Vista setup.®

Well thats it then, it works on ONE persons setup. Testing completed.

Run that one by some of the journos who write Reg Developer articles, they'll laugh!

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final verdict....?

..... And here's me thinking that whole point of the latest iterations of Media Player were designed to foist DRM on users..... Why re-invent the wheel..... oh wait...... That's right, the point was that .wmv + DRM was unsupported on other platforms than Windoze..... oh errr........

As for the beta test...... I've re-visited the site many times, and always found a nice message saying all slots were taken. On the one occasion I actually got as far as a download link I was informed "an unknown error" had occurred. Doh !

Bearing in mind the point of the project was to avoid MS lock in, I think that auntie beeb has wasted their money. Very, very dumb, but then again exactly what I expect from the powers that be and big IT projects in this country.

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Anonymous Coward

The problem is the BBC

The BBC is about broadcasting - that's all it will ever be good at. In this area, it has a monopoly, it has complete control over delivery to the 'customer', it's what it's good at (how could it not be?). Everything else the BBC touches not related to wireless broadcasting, it screws up. The BBC used to have a record label* - seriously, it did! It never had any hits (unless you count Keith Harris and Orville!!?), it was never a trendy label, it didn't 'get' the music biz. It doesn't 'get' the Internet, despite the money it throws at it. iPlayer? Ahem, Youtube! I doubt it will 'get' the media player business either. Ever. The BBC is a dinosaur. For wireless PSB this is probably a good thing, for everything else it's a joke.

* Someone will tell me it still has, won't they? I rest my case...

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Law

omg

Just download the programs via bittorrent or better still, usenet.

If you get it through usenet, it downloads at maximum speed of your broadband connection (depending on who your with), best of all it's DRM free and excellent quality. I do this for all bbc programs I miss, basically because I don't see the difference between that, and borrowing a DVD/VHS from the guy next door who did manage to tape it. I pay my license fee, I don't keep the video anyway (why would I once I seen it?) and I don't sell it on!

From the sounds of it, if everybody did the same our license fee would be put to better use... like better programmes and broadcasting infrastructure!!

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Title

Have a look here for a laugh (registration may be required):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbiplayer/F7331805

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Surely Hefner or Flint could help

How is it possible for a company to completely mess this up, there are dozens of (ahem) reputable companies that have been streaming and downloading video satisfactorily for literally years.

Oh well, glad that my licence fee is helping to keep some useless pseudo-civil servants in a job.

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