What is the BBC platform strategy?

Up until now, I could have believed that the BBC’s iPlayer platform strategy was plausibly based on customer reach. Thus, they targeted Windows first, then OS X and Linux and any platform that Adobe Flash supported, then the iPhone and a random smattering of other mobile devices.

But what about Android?


No Android, despite the fact that quite a lot of Android handsets have now been sold, and they’re all capable of playing video. The BBC did manage to make an iPad version before a single iPad had been sold in the country. But still no Android.

— Did you just tell me to go fuck myself?
— I believe I did, Bob.

(From here)

What a load of bollocks. The strategy isn’t based on anything measurable. It’s based on nothing more than the narcissistic gadget purchasing habits of the BBC executives.

Well, they’re a bunch of idiots. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing stopping the iPhone version of the iPlayer working on Android phones except for the fact that the BBC have specifically rigged it only to respond to devices manufactured by Apple, Inc.

It’s just regular HTTP with H.264 content. Except for the referrer/behaviour checks. If they’re operating under some misapprehension that the closed Apple platform prevents people from repurposing the content, then they must have been asleep for a couple of years.

The BBC say:

We’re currently waiting on Flash support on Android to deliver a service for that platform.

$DEITY wept. There’s no need to wait. Flash won’t save them (cough RTMPDump cough). Flash won’t run on most of the Android phones currently out there. H.264 will, and it’s practically there today, except for the boneheaded platform strategy.

Ah well. Their intransigence and disrespect gives me all the motivation I need to keep fighting.


  1. Stu

    Wrote at 2010-06-05 11:52 UTC using Firefox 3.5.7 on Windows 7:

    You may have noticed that the wonderful beebPlayer app has been removed from the Android Marketplace recently, and the developer is keeping very quiet about his reasons.

    A few entries back on his blog shows that the BBC is toying with Android using Flash, as you’ve said in this post. Most commentors make the same point as you by saying that their particular Android phone won’t ever support Flash.

  2. Richard

    Wrote at 2010-06-05 20:04 UTC using Chrome 5.0.375.55 on Mac OS X:

    Hear hear. Couldn’t have put it better myself. The whole “we must protect our content by whatever means possible… oh, unless it’s an iPhone/od/ad because they’re cool” policy is farcical.
  3. Piers Cawley

    Wrote at 2010-06-06 21:01 UTC using Safari 531.22.7 on Mac OS X:

    Yes, I work for the BBC. No, I don’t speak for them. These are my own opinions.

    It’s a rights thing I’m afraid. The iPad’s a closed platform, so the beeb can serve up h.264 over SSL with confidence that you aren’t going to snarf the file and use it outside the terms of the license the they’ve agreed with the rights holders.

    With Android being open source and substantially more hackable, that confidence isn’t there and, frankly, can’t be there, and that’s not something that rights holders can live with.

    The iPad player exists now because it was easy. There’s no doubt slightly more too it than a couple of config file changes and some new redirects, but it’s essentially the PS3 iPlayer accepting a different CA on the SSL client certificates.

    Rights are a political minefield and the BBC has to tread very carefully. No matter how much you or I may be of the opinion that opening access to content as widely as possible is both the Right Thing to do for both rights holders and licence payers, the rights holders themselves don’t believe that, and they’re the people who get to dictate how their content is distributed (by the BBC at least) on the internet.

    It doesn’t matter that the same content is probably available for download at the torrent site of your choice, nor that you’re a licence payer and you want to watch stuff how you want to watch it. The BBC has contractual obligations to the rights holders and it ignores them at its peril.
  4. Piers Cawley

    Wrote at 2010-06-06 21:06 UTC using Safari 531.22.7 on Mac OS X:

    @Richard the iPad streams are locked down using SSL and client certificate checks from a player that’s fully controlled by Apple. One would have a very hard time grabbing those streams in the same way as the relatively crappy iPhone ones, and if you do break SSL, there are probably more profitable ways of using that knowledge.
  5. Paul Jakma

    Wrote at 2010-06-08 00:02 UTC using Chrome 6.0.425.0 on Linux:


    At least one of the rights holders is “BBC Worldwide” (BBCW), according to BBC executives. So your point potentially boils down to:

    “As much as the BBC would love to open up access, it can’t because the BBC doesn’t believe in it”.

    No doubt you will claim there are other significant rights-holders besides BBCW, but I have no way of verifying that – the BBC has refused an FOI request to name them to me.
  6. Paul Jakma

    Wrote at 2010-06-08 00:08 UTC using Chrome 6.0.425.0 on Linux:


    Oh, I want to negotiate with the BBC to have the cert for the TV platform I have assembled recognised. Who do I talk to?
  7. Daniel

    Wrote at 2010-06-09 19:12 UTC using Firefox 3.6.3 on Linux:

    I don’t really care so much the android isn’t supported, I don’t have an android phone, I don’t have an iPhone either. What really annoys me is that the so called impartial BBC supports one mobile platform and not another. Better none, preferably both, but not just one.
  8. jj

    Wrote at 2010-06-22 04:55 UTC using Firefox 3.6.3 on Windows XP:

    I’m quite sympathetic to the bbc on this one. Piers explained it all pretty well. Regarding them favouring Apple, they fixed up my unglamorous low-budget (symbian s60) nokia 5800 with the ability to download tv shows straight to the phone, a great feature that didn’t make it onto the streaming-only iphone version, I think.