Tuesday, 6 November 2007

BBC iPlayer

Here's a slice of personal opinion for you - DRM is what you use when you want to treat your customers like thieves.

The BBC has managed to do this with their launch of the iPlayer. Now for those of us in the UK the iPlayer is a pretty nice app to allow you to download BBC content to watch on your PC (content that your TV license fee has paid for by the way) - sort of a catch-up service.

The problem is that thanks to the BBC using Microsoft's DRM for the video they have effectively ruled out Linux users from using the service. Yes, there will be a web based service (using Adobe Flash presumably) "before Christmas" but as far as high resolution video goes - forget it. For now at least.

The BBC's head of technology has this to say: "We're totally committed to universality, to getting the service out to everyone, and to platform neutrality." And how, exactly does this fit with using a restricted codec? Answer: it doesn't.

Part of the BBC's justification for this has been the number of Linux users: "We have 17.1 million users of bbc.co.uk in the UK and, as far as our server logs can make out, 5 per cent of those [use Macs] and around 400 to 600 are Linux users." As one of the 600 I'm not too sure that their figures are correct.

As it turns out, is the BBC isn't too sure about those figures either: "Alternative analysis that we have run off which performs the measurement in different ways suggests that the potential number of Linux users could range from 0.3% to 0.8% (which, from a total UK bbc.co.uk user base of 12.2m weekly users [source: TNS] could imply a user base between 36,600 and 97,600."

Just think Mr Highfield - that's up to 97,600 viewers you are turning away.

Isn't it a shame that you didn't use an open video codec. You could have supported every platform without any real difficulties. This is what happens when you treat your viewers (who have already paid for the content) like thieves.

Thank you Auntie Beeb.

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