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BBC iPlayer to add more HD, decrease programme wait times, improve subtitles

The BBC has promised to speed up the time is takes for TV programmes to become available on iPlayer. 

Cloud services will allow the the BBC’s new Video Factory department to get more content available online more quickly. 

The previous On Demand Production Service team only had a fixed amount of storage, which limited the amount of content that could be loaded onto the iPlayer at any one time. Now as there’s virtually no limit, we should start seeing programmes appearing sooner. 

BBC iPlayer to add more HD, decrease programme wait times, improve subtitles
Cloud 9: Moving to the cloud will let the BBC push out more content to the iPlayer

Read our guide to BBC iPlayerMarina Kalkanis, core services head for the BBC’s online services says: “We are improving quality, increasing the amount of HD content, greatly expanding the online catalogue and the formats and getting live programmes available much more quickly.” 

On a BBC Internet Blog post, Kalkanis explains in more detail how cloud services will lead to improvements: 

“We capture live broadcasts and send these to cloud storage where they get picked up by a transcode job and either sent to an idle transcoder or if the queue is full and all transcoders are busy, a newly started transcoder. 

“Once transcoded the media either goes back to the cloud storage to be packaged on demand when a request from the internet comes in or it is pushed through to one of our other distribution services.” 

As well as this, the Video Factory team has promised to improve the quality of subtitles and accessibility features on the iPlayer catch up service. Subtitles haven’t always been great on iPlayer, with a recent bug reportedly removing every other line from some programmes. 

Kalkanis adds: “Behind the scenes there is a great deal of processing to capture the broadcast, [to] make sure the right media is created for each type of device, that all the access service components like subtitles are produced and that the correct online rights are respected.” 

Earlier this year, Ofcom launched a consultation into how the state of subtitles across all digital TV services can be improved. Subtitles are generated by teams of palantypists and stenographers who use specialist equipment to generate subtitles for live TV. Recorded TV often, but not always, comes with prepared subtitles. The TV regulator expects to make an announcement on subtitle reform by the end of 2014. 

The BBC will also be looking at overhauling iPlayer Radio with the help of a separate Audio Factory department that’s in the pipeline right now. 

BBC iPlayer is available for Windows and Mac machines and works with the majority of browsers. There are iPlayer apps available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 and you can also access iPlayer on Sky On Demand, Virgin Media, YouView, Free Time from Freesat, connected Freeview boxes and smart TVs.  

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