BBC responds in detail to why there is no iPlayer for Windows Phone

O iPlayer, Where Art Thou?

The on again, off again saga of iPlayer for the BBC and Windows Phone has been toying with anxious readers for months now. At first the Inquirer said it was coming and then Pocket-lint effectively squashed that rumor just three days later, leaving consumers with little hope for an effective media solution.

The hope was always that Nokia would some how come in and save the day for Windows Phone users but alas, that does not seem to be the case. One of our readers, Paul A., emailed the BBC asking for information as to their reasons for not supporting Windows Phone. Surprisingly, Daniel Danker who is the General Manager of Programmes & On Demand for the BBC gave a very thorough response to Paul’s question as to why there is no Windows Phone support.

WP Central

The response can be summarized as the following: Microsoft and Windows Phone use different “technologies” for streaming than iPhone and Android. While the latter two also have their own unique system, it is unique to both so the BBC can recycle their content across both platforms making a wise investment of funds and resources.

"Unfortunately Microsoft have also announced that Windows Phone 8 apps will be different yet again, so any Windows Phone 7 app we make would have to be rebuilt from the ground up for the next version of Windows Phone."

However, for Windows Phone 7, the BBC would have to build from the ground-up an app to handle that technology, costing them more than they evidently can spare. Here the phrase “return on investment” probably rings true especially with the low marketshare of Windows Phone in comparison to Android and iOS.

Another problem is the just announced Windows Phone 8, which changes things again for developers and would cause any Windows Phone 7 app to have to be “re-built” for the new system. The idea that Windows Phone 7 development would slowdown for some major companies in anticipation of Windows Phone 8 appears to be a valid concern after all.

WP Central

Finally, the matter of web-streaming is also brought up with blame being put right into Microsoft’s lap for an alleged browser bug:

“ there's a bug in Windows Phone that prevents our standards-based media from being played on those devices. Microsoft has been aware of the bug for over a year now, and we're hopeful they'll address it (on Windows Phone 7 as well as Windows Phone 8) so our Windows Phone audiences can access iPlayer.”

It seems clear from the email that BBC would be open to supporting Windows Phone if the conditions were more apt and inviting for them to do so. But with the phasing out of Windows Phone 7 over the next few months, the uncertainty of Windows Phone 8 and what is evidently an issue with Internet Explorer preventing web-based streaming, the chances of a BBC iPlayer coming in the near future looks slim.

Danker does close out the email with a bit of hope for users though:

“As you can see, there's no easy answer. I'm optimistic that one or both of the options above will become possible in Windows Phone 8, but that's little help to people like you who are using Windows Phone 7. Nonetheless, hopefully this additional detail helps you understand our thought process.”

Indeed it does. Once again, all eyes are on Windows Phone 8 to change things for developers and consumers, bringing them the content they want and deserve.

Until then, users will have to use the upcoming BBC Radio Player Pro from Igneous Software as detailed in our earlier hands-on coverage.

Thanks, Paul A., for sending us the email

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Bloody BBC were paying for it so they should make it.
  • Makes me wonder how long until we have Windows Phone 8 exclusive apps.
  • I seen this coming..
  • how long?  Day one of WP8 release.  Microsft is ditching WP7 as fast and hard as they can.  7.8 is just token lip service....if that.
  • I doubt that
  • This.
    I can't believe all these people are blind to this fact and continue to recommend Windows Phone 7 phones. BBC has said it now and Mint has basically shown it. Developing for Windows Phone 7 is a waste of time and resources. It's a dead OS. Any code you write will be abandoned within a year. Why waste resources?
    NO ONE should buy any WP7 phones, especially under contract. If you MUST have one, buy a $100 used first-gen one and use it for a few months.
    WP7 is DEAD and won't be getting any new good apps in a few months.
  • Throwing a bit lose with the term "dead" here don't you think? If WP7 is dead before WP8 is even out, then this website and my phone are probably unreal or something. Come on man. WP7 will phase out, sure, but it won't be dead for another year...
    way to exaggerate...
  • That is a premature statement, I expect WP7.8 to offer some compatibility to WP8 apps. It would go against everything microsoft if it did not. If it did I would be sorely disappointed to have to purchase a new WP8 device off contract.. I mean if they don't get it right with WP8 I will find myself using a 4 inch iphone. Recently my palringo app just decided not to log in anymore.. Sure the app is BETA but its annoying because I use it a lot and now my 3GS is sitting on top my desk with wifi on it.. >_>
  • Well you can be sorely disappointed now - 7.8 will NOT give you any special compatibility with WP8 apps. If it's built on the WP7 API then it will work on 7 & 8. Anything written using even 1 function from the 8 API will NOT work on 7 (without recoding around those functions, if it's even possible in the situation)
  • Let me guess, you've never owned a Windows Phone.
  • The problem is that the BBC iPlayer uses HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) technology for their streams.
    3ivx Technologies have developed an HLS Source Adapter to allow Windows 8 Metro app developers to simply use HLS streams in their Apps.
    According to their website they'll be supporting the AES-128 encryption that is needed for DRM and Windows 8 Phone
  • So 3 things:
    1) What is this "bug", reference, has someone asked Microsoft to comment?
    2) If iPhone and iOS have different codecs, why not support a 3rd?
    3) Return on investment?
     Are you kidding?
     These type of streaming app are hardly rocket science, they are just a UI wrapper around a player. The media images (thumbnails etc) are already done for the other platforms.
    Typical lefty BBC full of turtle neck wearing Guardian Readers, riding fixies to work - sipping Java and waving their iPhones and Samsungs Galaxies pointing at nasty Mr Microsoft and his corporateness. Honestly, the BBC are so full of s***
    The only reason there isn't an app, is they don't want to make one. The rest is a crock.
  • +10
  • Well said.
  • Did you read it correctly? It explicitly said that the streaming setup was unique to BOTH Androids and iPhones so they were able to recycle resources in the development of apps for those particular OS's.
  • Yes I did, but as I say, its a crock. Doesn't say what it is they "recycled" does it?
    [Hint: Thats because they don't]
    As according to the Internet, the BBC uses Apple specific stuff for iDevices.
    (By using H.264 with SSL. They use HLS, to shift H.264, and the SSL is providing a sort of DRM)
    *** PS: *** HLS is an Apple proprietary technology.
    But they use different techniques with different platforms.
    They use one technique with Apple, another with Android, their own plugin for Ubuntu!!!!
    Another for the Desktop. PS3, Blackberry, even my Panasonic TV.
    Basically, they will obscure the actual techincal facts with generic answers.
    Did you read any specifics in the response to Paul A? No, of course not.
    The BBC just doesn't see Windows Phone as popular enough so won't bother creating an App for it. They didn't for a long time with Apple devices until it was too big to ignore.
    The BBC don't like Microsoft, as they are full of weirdy beardies as I described :)
    iOS and Android use different tech, see answer from BBC droid Mo McRoberts here:
    Note this thread is full of Apple users hating on the BBC because it doesn't support their platform. The BBC "made it work" for Apple kit. They now need to do the same for Windows Phone. Period.
  • BTW also bear in mind, up until last year (I can't find a current list)
    that the BBC produced Windows Media versions: (WMV 9 that would work just fine on WP7 presumably)
    RTSP streamed H.264 @ 176 x 96, 80 kbps (for Nokia over 3G)
    HTTP downloaded DRM'd WMV 9 @ 320 x 176 (for Nokia download)
    RTSP streaming H.264 @ 320 x 176, 128 kbps (for Nokia WiFi)
    HTTP downloaded H.264 @ 483 x 272, 400 kbps (for iPhone)
    Kontiki Peer to Peer WMV 9 @ 672 x 544 (for Windows download) <- This has gone I believe.
  • PPS: iPlayer is already working fine on XBOX 360. Withouth Adobe Flash or HLS I suspect :)
    So if they can make it work on Xbox, they darn well can on Windows Phone.
    I look forward to reading your input and research on this matter Mr SnarkySnickerDoodle. :-)
  • And read this to get an idea of how weirdy and beardy the BBC are:
    They love Linux and Macs. You know the rest.
  • Agree.
    I believe it is evident with the Doctor Who games on the PS3 that aren't on the Xbox 360. 
    Xbox outsold PS3 3:1 in the UK, and the BBC makes the games console exclusive to the PS3? for serious?
    There is an agenda for sure.
  • Why doesn't MS step in and help fund the development. I thought that was part of the plan to bring top apps to the platform.
  • But that would be a MS funded app that can only be used in the UK. I would love to be able to access the iPlayer because I think the BBC produces great stuff but sadly you can't use the iPlayer from anywhere else without a (most of the time painfully slow) proxy.
  • Thought that it would be worth posting a BBC response from ages ago
    "The BBC want to bring BBC iPlayer to as many audiences as possible, across a range of devices. Unfortunately, as the Windows Phone 7 doesn't support HLS or Adobe Flash, the formats we use for streaming videos, we can't make BBC iPlayer available on this phone at the moment."
  • HLS isn't industry standard.  but their response may as well have said:
    As the Xbox 360 doesn't support HLS or Adobe Flash, the formats we use for streaming videos, we will encode in a format to support the platform and make the BBC iPlayer available where our customers want it.
  • Agreed the BBC would be better investing in HTML5 streaming that will work on all platforms
  • Why doesn't Microsoft just help a third party app to do what these boneheads won't.
  • because the UK is not the center of the universe you know... rest of the world don't give a shizznit about a BBC app. Like me.
  • Why even bother commenting if you aren't interested? A huge number of people would be interested, and we're not all from the UK. It would be really great if an iPlayer worked with ABC programs / iView, but I'm not sure if they are the same systems.
  • I guess we will have to wait for wp8 as im certain the bbc will make an rt app for win8 and then they can port it over to wp8.
  • My thoughts exactly. Its only a matter of time before it's released.
  • Frankly, this is excellent news. Im proud to wholeheartedly endorse a platform that can't show me hours upon hours of insufferable BS like the Graham Norton Show and Total Wipeout. 
  • Well I find the Iplayer good for watching Formula 1, TOTP2, good documentaries and the Olympics etc
  • What a crock of shit. Somebody should report this asshole fir blatently lying to the people who pay his wages, the general public. There is NOTHING to prevent the BBC from creating an iPlayer app - Netflix's app has not only proven this, but also showed that such a service can work pretty much flawlessly. The truth is, the BBC and all its staff are only interested in one thing, iOS. Whether the top guns are being paid off by Apple is disputable, but Aunty has been the biggest Apple marketing machine for some years now. Nothing will ever change their minds about supporting Windows Phone. I'm surprised the BBC Trust has not intervened as yet, as when the iPlayer was conceived, one of the guiding principles, was cross and neutral compatibility. These principles have long been forgotten. There is no issue for "return on investment"... The BBC does not have investors, and they have no shareholders to please. To put it in persepctive, they can't afford to developer the iPlayer for Windows Phone, yet the BBC Director General is on 4x the salary of the British Prime Minister. They can't afford to develop iPlayer for windows phone, but they can afford to pay actors millions more than their competitors. They are funded by the UK public, and thus have a duty to deliver to the UK public. They should start dropping the cost of the TV licence and come clean, if this neutral and unbiased philosophy has changed...
  • Just watch any BBC program, somehow an apple product makes it into the show. Top Gear and the One Show is the worst for this
  • Top post! Totally agree.
  • +1000
  • Dude, two words : Ross Kemp. See? Its all good.
  • That's such a bull response. If that's true (which I doubt) just write a codec.
  • Of course its bull. They use HLS for iDevices.
    Which should we be as taxpayers and licence payers, be locked into the technology the BBC decide to go with?
    If they can write an App for Apple, and their HLS streaming tech.
    And they have got it to work on Xbox.
    They can sodding well write an App to pick up that Xbox stream for a Windows Phone app.
  • Same responce EVERY dev has given.. Waiting on wp8
  • Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 still don't have built-in support for HLS - but at least they allow to add support by third party developers (even for Windows RT).
  • Bad and FALSE response by bbc. Even if a phone os does not support the codec, they can simply re-encode the stream to a different format, server side!!
    Azure media sevices for example can provide this service, with just 10 lines of code...
  • I'm not trying to stand up for the BBC but they may have a point. IPlayer has been available on Symbian. I had it on my 5800 and still have it on my N8, it was better in some ways to the version on my Archos Android tablet and my Playbook as programmes could be downloaded for offline viewing lasting for 7 days. However they are dropping supporting downloading for the older Symbian devices like the 5800. Guess it really is a case of the time and effort required. Which to be fair is the reason behind Microsoft not upgrading 7.5 devices like my Lumia 800 to Windowsphone 8.
  • Irconically, that Nokia stream is very likely WMV9. (Can I have a link to your source please?) Seems like the BBC are dropping WMV support.
    And only using HLS?
    They seemingly use Flash on Android, but I wonder if they are using H.264 underneath.
    (Might explain the "recycling" remark")
    But in any case, thats all codable for Windows Phone 7. Not expensive, not rocket science. They just need the BBC trust to tell them to get on with it.
  • It doesn't suprise me in the least. Look at how long it took them to accomodate the Xbox and release the iplayer app. If they finally decide to make one, they would probably make it for Windows Phone 8 rather than 7.8.
  • Spanish public TV provider RTVE has their own sort of i-Player with live streaming and on demand playback of all of their content. This app was available before the Mango update. And this broadcaster has far less money to spend on these experiments than the BBC. So, all I see are lame excuses.
  • TIL that people in the UK pay for BBC.
  • I don't get this, aren't they supposed to be supporting html5 ? So what's the problem?
  • Starting to regret buying the windows phone...but it still blows iPhone out of the water..Microsoft if you want to stop me going to Android start getting me what I need.. Stop telling people to adapt to your ideas
  • What does MS have to do with this? Go complain to the BBC for refusing to make an app
  • Where is that crap about something for windows phone 7 has to rebuilt for wp8 coming from? There are no breaking changes introduced with the framework. I have heard from 3 different developer evangelists, and heard once again when I went to the windows 8 development seminar that "ALL windows phone 7 apps will work in windows phone 8".
  • I'm not so sure that that is a "thorough response". It is, as most people have already said, a load of bs. If they build it for wp7, it'll work in wp8, that's the bottom line. Most video playing apps are all also just UI wrappers around standard video playing. it sounds more like their video content is built retardedly.  the comment about ROI is even more stupid. They are a large company and cannot spent a few thousand on an Intern to just crank out an app? Come on. Try harder.
    In any case. good thing I don't live in Europe or give a damn about the BBC.
  • +1 BBC can Suck my BBC**K.
  • HBOGO (albeit in Romania), Netflix and Crackle don't seem to have this problem so I call BS on the BBC
  • Ok, they're saying that they can't develop ot because of a new ecosystem that would require for a total new app to be coded when Microsoft said at the Summit that WP7 apps would work with WP8 with MINIMAL changes in code. Unless there is some API they need, they didn't say they couldn't make one for WP7 but they just don't want to right now.
  • Going to have to call BS on this for several reasons:
    1.  The technology is the same or very similar for WP7 video as the Xbox 360, and BBC is on the Xbox.
    2.  Their "standards based" video is claimed to be h.264, at least on their blog.  Many h.264 sites work just fine on Windows Phone.
    3. Could have supported anything they want if they just went MediaRoom on the back end in the first place :).
  • I'm constantly on iplayer for its radio, so I have to keep an iphone pretty much just for that! It would be out the window asap if the beeb sorted this out. What's this bug? Seems that's the quickest way to get it up and running. I'd hate to have to go back to another phone OS, but my jaw hit the flaw when I found iPlayer wasn't supporting WP, I'll give it a few more months and probably jump ship if it doesn't improve :(
    You can stream radio and podcasts from the BBC on WP7.  Search for "igneous" in the Marketplace.
  • Orly!? Bye bye iPhone :)
  • The argument is flawed from the start as there is no need to rebuild any WP7 app to run on WP8. It will run outright and can be put through a service provided by MS which will rebuild the app to optimize for WP8 without any additional work for free..
    It's the typical case of as much pretty words to basically say nothing and/or hide the fact you either have no intention or no clue. What a load of BS..
    Oh and one more thing.. Please explain how I can access iPlayer through Plex just fine on my Lumia? Seems to me that kind of make the case against any of this crap
  • I don't want anything that starts with a lower-case "i" anyway.
  • Don't blame them. I mean Microsoft keeps killings its OS's. From 6.5, then 7, and maybe even 8 later on. Why invest all time building an app to an OS that will be killed.
  • You obviously have no clue as to what is going on in the Windows ecosystem.
    MinMo 6.5 was a rush, WP7 was a completely new platform they needed to get out quickly before Microsoft became TOTALLY irrelevant, 7.5 was for almost catching up with others, 8 is for competition and surpassing others, using the same core as Windows 8 which will run on multi-cores too.
    From WP8 on, your phone's hardware will accommodate new updates for a number of years.
    Microsoft finally got its mobile OS up and running. P.S. What the BBC says sounds like a load of crap to me too, as many others have been streaming content on WP7 already.
  • killing its OS's?      REALLY?    Microsoft and the Windows ecosystem is the only OS that still runs software from over 30 years ago.  And they get labeled by fools as a company that is killing off their OSes?   WinCE 6.x still exist, WinCE 7.x still exists.  Just because they push 'newer' versions LIKE EVERY COMPANY DOES, does not make them OS killers.    Try running an App designed for iOS 5 on the original iPhone.   Or an Android 4.x App on any previous version.  Notice they DO NOT RUN as well.   Does that make Apple and Google OS killers too?    This is about developers being stupid, not about Microsoft.   Do you see developers waiting for the next version of Android or iOS before they write an App?    That is the same reasoning, as the backwards compatibility is the same, and actually even better with WP7/WP8 than Android or iOS due to a Server side recompile by Microsoft.
  • This is why the no wp8 upgrade hurts so much. Developers will wait for 8, then 7.8 will never be able to use that app.
  • "Unfortunately Microsoft have also announced that Windows Phone 8 apps will be different yet again, so any Windows Phone 7 app we make would have to be rebuilt from the ground up for the next version of Windows Phone."   
    Yet this is factually incorrect, and the opposite of what Microsoft announced.   WP7 Apps will work the same on WP8, and MIcrosoft is even going to recompile existing Apps in the Store to take advantage of WP8 and run natively.    Additionally, WP7 -> WP8 -> Windows 8  development has a clear and simple path, so even if they dedicated time to WP7, it would be minor code changes to add WP8 functionality and again to add UI differences for Windows 8 tablets.  And there is NO way they will avoid providing Windows 8 support.  So even if they build a Windows 8 App, porting back to WP8 and WP7 is again fairly simple.  Like a few hours of a single developer's time for UI code changes.
    (Facts apparently don't matter anymore.)
  • Wonder if they will jump on windows 8. I mean if you code for one may as well code for the other. People still have the MS is evil stigma and that Apple and google are somehow different. :P Once W8 apps roll out, WP8 apps should follow.
  • I deleted BBC and downloaded CNN European Edition for my phone and the new SKyNews App for my Windows 8 tablet. ....they can suck my American teabags.
  • I dont understand why want to use thier bandwith and battery to TV on their phone... what it later and enjoy it on the big screen.
  • It's just a want thing. I've got iPlayer on a Sony blu ray player, on btvision, on an Archos 101, on a Blackberry Playbook and a Nokia N8. The last 3 can all output it via Hdmi so I can watch on our other Tv's not just our main Tv. My son can use it on his PS3. So I do not need it at all on my Lumia, but would still like to have it. Its the same not having Spotify on my Playbook, I've got that on the archos, N8, Lumia and laptop.
  • Actually you are correct, I don't really care about having iPlayer on a phone.
    (Better be on WinRT though!)
    I found the BBC response offensive in its patronizing incorrectness, and the BBC in general for being a left wing organization who have outsourced most of their IT to Siemens and left a few weirdy beardy types to mess up the rest of the place.