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BBC prepares iPlayer for Olympics and Wimbledon with chunky streaming

The BBC has given the iPlayer’s undercarriage a major overhaul ahead of a Summer of major sporting and cultural events to take the load off ISPs and networks.

The Live Restart upgrade announced last week was made possible by moving the iPlayer to a ‘chunked streaming’ system which fits the way the internet works.

As well as relieving the stress on broadband providers when viewers log on for live events, the BBC iPlayer team has also improved its video quality and made it possible to add more devices to the iPlayer family.

BBC iPlayer

Henry Webster, an executive product manager in media services at BBC Future Media, blogged: “The technology that allows us to offer this new functionality is part of a wider strategic move to embrace HTTP chunked streaming for delivering our online video.

“Instead of using a point-to-point streaming protocol such as RTMP as we have done in the past, this method breaks up the H.264 video into chunks and delivers them as HTTP packets in much the same way as the we deliver our text rich web pages today.

“We already use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to help us with video delivery, but a move to HTTP streaming means that instead of relying on their capacity to stream video from specialist video servers, we are now able to use their cheaper and more abundant HTTP serving capacity.

“The increased capacity that we can realise this way means that we are more likely to be able to support the ever growing audiences that are turning to their IP connected devices to watch TV and listen to radio.”

Combining chunked streaming with adaptive bitrate playback means that viewers on lower-quality connections will see far less buffering without losing video quality.

The same rewind technology employed for Live Restart will also be used to offer instant replays and other interactive video tricks during the Olympics.

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