(‘Let them watch Flash’, after the phrase often misattributed to Marie Antoinette.)

I wrote a while back about the misguidedness of the BBC’s decision to use Flash for getting the iPlayer onto Android phones, and we now have some numbers to prove it. Here’s what I said:

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.

This is in the context of the fact that the iPhone version of the iPlayer would be a much better basis for an Android iPlayer than Flash could ever hope to be.

The BBC eventually released the Android iPlayer at the end of June. At that time, the only phone capable of running it was the Google Nexus One. On the 16th July, Google withdrew the Nexus One.

The only other phone available through normal channels in the UK that can run Android 2.2 (a.k.a. Froyo, the latest version of Android and the only one to support Flash) is, I believe, the HTC Desire. And the official release of 2.2 has only made its way to handset owners in the past few weeks.

Ben Griffiths submitted a Freedom of Information request about the take-up of the Android version of the iPlayer. As you might expect, it’s low.

Really low:

in July 2010 6,400 programmes were streamed from the BBC iPlayer to Android devices.

How does this compare to the iPhone version?

In July 2010 there were 5,272,464 programmes requested via the BBC iPlayer from Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices.

OK, that includes iPads as well, but even so, it differs by 3 orders of magnitude!

I’m not surprised, though. The BBC chose to implement an Android iPlayer that almost no extant Android phones can use, either now or ever.

It’s almost as if they wanted it to fail. But no, I don’t think it’s a conspiracy. It’s a cock-up. And all because of the BBC’s insane requirement that all video on the internet must only be available via a closed platform.

(Added) One other fact that stands out is the disparity in the number of programmes watched on each platform:

Platform Visitors per week Programmes requested in July Programmes requested per week (adjusted) Programmes per visitor
Android 1,106 6,400 1,445 1.30
iOS 230,016 5,272,464 1,190,556 5.18

One possible interpretation is that Android viewers are less satisfied with the viewing experience. Another is that they are just trying it out, and haven’t worked out how to fit it into their lives yet. I’m not sure that any safe conclusions can be drawn from the difference alone.