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BBC adds H.264, AAC compression to streaming content

updated 03:25 pm EDT, Wed August 13, 2008

BBC upgrades to H.264, AAC

Later this week, the BBC will update its iPlayer streaming service with H.264 and AAC+ compression schemes, the UK broadcaster has announced. The move is aimed at supporting open standards, and additionally improving steaming quality, jumping bitrates from 500 to 800Kbps, according to Macworld. The compression schemes will offer improved visuals and sound for users streaming over Flash, currently the only way to access the BBC's media on a Mac. The network has already been broadcasting in non-Flash H.264 and AAC for its iPhone and iPod touch streams.

"The BBC has always been a strong advocate and driver of open industry standards. Without these standards, TV and radio broadcasting would simply not function. I believe that the time has come for the BBC to start adopting open standards such as H.264 and AAC for our audio and video services on the web," says Erik Huggers, the BBC's Director of Future Media & Technology.

Prior to the new codecs the BBC had been relying on On2 VP6 for its video compression. "Compared to On2 VP6," says Anthony Rose, the BBC's Head of Digital Media Technology, "H.264 delivers sharper video quality at a lower data rate, but requires more CPU power to decode, particularly on older machines, and the user needs to have the latest version of Flash installed. Back in December of last year, relatively few people had installed the Flash player needed to play H.264 content; now almost 80% of BBC iPlayer users have it. More machines now have graphics cards with H.264 hardware acceleration."

Rose notes in this regard that iPlayer now supports hardware acceleration in fullscreen mode, improving image quality while reducing CPU usage. For the next several weeks people will also be able to choose between H.264 or On2 VP6, after which time iPlayer will automatically detect bandwidth and switch to the appropriate option.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Geobunny

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Great news for us - better quality image and better sound. Any bets on when the ISPs will pipe up and whinge about how they can't cope with the bandwidth requirements again?!

  1. jpellino

    Joined: Dec 1969


    is it outside the uk yet?

    i stopped trying as the disclaimer said they only had rights to show the content inside the uk...

  1. jpellino

    Joined: Dec 1969



    still can't view video if outside the UK, and all radio still wants real player installed (shudder)

  1. horvatic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Useless in the U.S.

    Useless in the U.S., a worthless non-functioning service. This is why iTunes is the best at what it does, WORLDWIDE, not just in the U.K.! Why do they even bother doing any of it when nobody except people in the U.K. can connect.

  1. patrix

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Because there's millions of people living in the UK. Geez. You should think twice about confirming the perception the rest of the world has of Americans...

  1. Bengt77

    Joined: Dec 1969


    steaming quality

    Good. I've always found their steaming service to be sub par.

  1. ViktorCode

    Joined: Dec 1969


    UK only

    For all of you who don't know why this service is UK-only: britons pay for their public TV, it gives them ad-free channels if nothing else. If this service ever will be accessible from other countries it won't be free.

    Saying this, I tell ye I managed to watch it abroad by utilising UK VPN connection.

  1. patrix

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Nevermind the fact that many US TV channels also have content on their website, that is only available to the US....

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