Posted in: BBC, Broadband Video Companies, Internet HDTV, News, Video Distribution, Video Sharing & Video Clips, Video on Demand by Dave Parrack on April 22, 2009

The BBC iPlayer is constantly evolving to better suit the needs of its users. The latest innovation – high-definition programming, just one of a number of new improvements made to the service.

iPlayer = Awesomeness

The BBC iPlayer is already awesome. So much so that I’m sorry for people outside of the UK who aren’t given the chance to use the service without employing some proxy server shenanigans. Just think of it as payback for Hulu and all the other U.S.-based premium programming services off-limits to anyone who isn’t blessed enough to reside in the States.

As awesome as the iPlayer is, there is always room for improvement. And the BBC is great at keeping on top of new advances in technology and new ways of delivering and packaging television content. Which is why the iPlayer has now gone HD, and had a host of other improvements tacked on at the same time.

High-Definition Online Video

High-definition is becoming more popular by the day. There are obvious uses already out there – Blu-ray, video games, paid-for HD channels, but online video is slowly yet surely catching up. And the BBC is the latest to jump on the bandwagon of offering high-def streaming and downloads.

According to BBC News, only selected programmes will be available in HD through the iPlayer. Doctor Who, Kerwhizz, and Dragons’ Den are three of the shows being promised to receive the treatment. The BBC already offers some HD content via its BBC HD channel on Sky and cable but this is the first chance for the average viewer without one of those services to have instant, up-to-date access to high-def programming.

The HD streams on the BBC iPlayer have a 1280×720 pixel resolution and encoding bitrate of 3.2Mbps. This does mean that users hoping to take advantage of them will need a speedy Broadband connection and a decent PC with a good graphics in order to do so. Also, no word yet on what the moaning ISPs have to say about all that extra bandwidth clogging up their tubes.

Other Improvements

To coincide with the HD offerings, other improvements have also been made. The most important being the adaptive bitrate feature which tests an individual’s Internet connection speed in order to deliver the best quality stream available to them. Which should please the ISPs about as much as the HD option displeases them.

These improvements to the service were unveiled at the same time that the cross platform desktop download manager was officially released. The BBC iPlayer Desktop was released as a beta in December but is now available to everyone. Everyone means Mac and Linux users as well as Windows users whose operating system has been supported from the beginning.

PC Pro notes that iPlayer users can also now download programmes directly in the WMV (Windows Media Video) format, bypassing the Adobe AIR-based desktop client entirely. This is important because it means Xbox 360 owners can now enjoy the iPlayer in the same way their PS3 and Wii-owning brethren have for a while.

Conclusions

The iPlayer was already an impressive service when it originally launched. But thanks to improvements and additions constantly being made, the BBC is managing to turn it into a must-have for any UK resident with a PC or media extender such as a games console. Now the corporation just needs to make it worldwide and expand its viewing figures by millions. A mere pipe dream?

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