iPlayer video and audio quality -- BBC response

Clem_Dye

Distinguished Member
As some AVforum members might have noticed, I've been pretty vocal about the rubbish video and audio quality provided by the BBC's iPlayer app., the service that we as licence payers, are expected to fund. To that end I've been exchanging my gripes with the BBC via a series of issue reports. I'd thought that I'd share the latest response that I have, as it's quite telling.

----- begin -----

Thank you for getting back in touch with BBC iPlayer Support, and I'm sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

Regarding HD playback, we did enable 1080p on a subset of devices before the pandemic hit. Due to concerns at the time about excessive bandwidth usage while people are working from home and also the increased distribution cost to the BBC, the decision was taken to stop serving 1080p. This decision is expected to continue until early next year, at the earliest.

We do share your frustration that we are not currently able to make the most of the BBC's content visually.

With regards to 5.1 audio, we do not have any plans to add that functionality in the short term. This is still quite a niche set-up in homes and does not currently justify the cost of implementing, especially as the BBC is currently under pressure to make savings.

We build our service on audience feedback so I've added your comments to our BBC iPlayer Feedback Report. This is read by senior management each morning and it's used to help develop the service we offer.

I hope you find this response helpful and it helps explain the current situation. Obviously this situation will likely change at some point in the future. Meanwhile, I hope you're still able to enjoy BBC programmes.

Kind regards,

Heather Moore

BBC iPlayer & BBC Sounds Support Team

----- end -----

It's the first response hat I've had that actually tells me something. The uplift, albeit temporary, to 1080p, was something that I was totally unaware of. Did anyone else here on AVF know anything about it? The other comment, that 5.1 audio is considered niche, is frankly lame. If 5.1 audio was so unimportant, why are the BBC HD linear TV channels now carrying more stuff with a 5.1 audio stream? Films have been so treated for years, but recent/current shows such as Roadkill, Industry and Battlestar Galactica are cases in point.

I've gone back to the BBC again asking when the 1080p service might actually become a permanent fixture, and highlighted the disparity in audio quality (yet again) between iPlayer and the BBC's HD TV channels.

If the BBC needs to save some cash, then why not stop paying 'talent' like Gary Lineker, obscene amounts of money, or cull little-used services like BBC News or BBC Parliament? I really don't believe that the additional development costs for improving iPlayer are that significant. To me, it's totally unacceptable for the BBC to continually push a sub-standard streaming service on we licence payers. 2021 is fast approaching, and we're still being expected to accept quality levels that looked OK sometime last century!

I know that a lot of people aren't that bothered, and find iPlayer OK. If so, fine. Just try watching iPlayer on a large 4K TV for any period of time. It will soon get pretty annoying!

If iPlayer's picture and audio quality do grate chez vous, please complain to the BBC. If enough of us do, perhaps they'll finally get the message!
 

Clem_Dye

Distinguished Member
A further update from the BBC:

——- begin ——-

Hello Clem,

Thanks for getting in touch with us again.

I can understand that the delay for this new feature of 1080p is frustrating.

But you must understand that we are working as hard as ever to get this distributed to all of the devices that can run BBC iPlayer and that does involve a lot of testing to make sure that there is no issues upon release.

Regarding 5.1 Audio, I can completely understand this point and I will make sure to pass it across to our Product teams at BBC iPlayer.

You make a good point about the TV Broadcast quality being matched up on iPlayer, this will be achievable, I know that it is frustrating now, but we are confident it will done!

Our service is built on audience feedback, so we really appreciate you getting in touch to share your point of view with us. We have a BBC iPlayer Feedback Report which is where we record the feedback sent by people such as yourself, and it's read each morning by senior management within BBC iPlayer. I've added your comments to this report - do rest assured that it will be read by senior management.

Kindest regards,

Jordan Moreland

BBC iPlayer & BBC Sounds Support Team

——- end ——-

More noise, or the promise that changes are happening? No idea. Time will tell, obviously, but for now, plus ca change ...
 

TheViper101

Active Member
Thanks for this. Interesting. Also a bit of a stupid reason for not going full 1080p due to concerns around bandwidth when Netflix, Amazon etc will happily serve me a 4K stream. Also serving content in 5.1, surely that will have no negative impact on non surround listeners will it and it's just the case of uploading them content with that encoding.
 

Clem_Dye

Distinguished Member
Yup. But I think that if the BBC up iPlayer quality, the other UK streaming services will have to follow at some point. That said, all most of us are asking is for iPlayer to at least match broadcast HD TV quality. The whole issue of 4K HLG plus full surround sound is years away, if it ever happens. For now, I’d be happy if I could get full HD picture and audio from iPlayer on either live or library material (where available, of course). I could then junk my PVRs, two fewer boxes to worry about. There’s very little non-BBC stuff that I watch on linear TV, so streaming, even in lower quality, would be OK.

The trouble with the responses above is that these aren’t the people that make the decisions, they’re just gatekeepers. Whether what’s suggested will ever surface is anyone’s guess.
 

mikeysthoughts

Well-known Member
Their response doesn't seem to appreciate that they used to deliver 5.1 through iPlayer, so our current service is a downgrade on their previous offering.

Much like the Sounds app is a downgrade on its predecessor in many ways. BBC resorting to lowest common denominator to save a bit of cash.
 

Clem_Dye

Distinguished Member
I didn’t know that 5.1 was available via iPlayer! In theory then, the whole exercise, subject to the BBC doing a bit of testing, is just a switch-throwing exercise. Jeez.
 

mikeysthoughts

Well-known Member
I didn’t know that 5.1 was available via iPlayer! In theory then, the whole exercise, subject to the BBC doing a bit of testing, is just a switch-throwing exercise. Jeez.
I think they deactivated 5.1 after a few people complained of mumbling in Poldark or some other flagship programme about 2 years ago. Of course, once someone says something on Twitter then OUTRAGE follows and big decisions are made. Never mind that the root cause is naff TV speakers not being able to project vocals properly.

I'll try to find their response to me when I wrote to them a while back.
 

grahamlthompson

Distinguished Member
Yup. But I think that if the BBC up iPlayer quality, the other UK streaming services will have to follow at some point. That said, all most of us are asking is for iPlayer to at least match broadcast HD TV quality. The whole issue of 4K HLG plus full surround sound is years away, if it ever happens. For now, I’d be happy if I could get full HD picture and audio from iPlayer on either live or library material (where available, of course). I could then junk my PVRs, two fewer boxes to worry about. There’s very little non-BBC stuff that I watch on linear TV, so streaming, even in lower quality, would be OK.

The trouble with the responses above is that these aren’t the people that make the decisions, they’re just gatekeepers. Whether what’s suggested will ever surface is anyone’s guess.


Iplayer has had 4K with HLG notably for Blue Planet and similar in the recent past. It looked great but was withdrawn when the 4K HDR Blurays were launched,
 

Sneak

Active Member
The second season of His Dark Materials is supposed to be in 4k on the BETA version. I watched the fist episode which looked nothing like the picture quality of Blue Planet for, instance. Tried to wat the second episode but it kept buffering so gave up and watched it on the BBC HD an the picture is better, go figure.
 

Clem_Dye

Distinguished Member
As I said earlier, if the rubbish iPlayer quality irritates you enough, lodge a case with the BBC. I’ve raised my concerns, which, if you can believe the responses above, will be noted, but if I’m the only one complaining then I think that the status quo will prevail.
 

MJH1962

Active Member
I find the quality of iPlayer picture and sound to be acceptable. It’s certainly not rubbish. But then again, I use it to watch programmes I want to see not to analyse whether it meets certain criteria. Evidence would suggest that the vast majority of the viewing public couldn’t give a monkeys as to whether it broadcasts in full HD or not.
 

shotokan101

Banned
I find the quality of iPlayer picture and sound to be acceptable. It’s certainly not rubbish. But then again, I use it to watch programmes I want to see not to analyse whether it meets certain criteria. Evidence would suggest that the vast majority of the viewing public couldn’t give a monkeys as to whether it broadcasts in full HD or not.

What evidence?
 

mikeysthoughts

Well-known Member
If the vast majority didn't care about full HD then Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV etc. wouldn't bother investing in broadcasting it.

It clearly has a positive return for them otherwise they wouldn't do it.

Main difference with the BBC is that it has a guaranteed income and captive audience, meaning customers can be more easily dismissed... We can't exactly refuse to pay.
 

Clem_Dye

Distinguished Member
I find the quality of iPlayer picture and sound to be acceptable. It’s certainly not rubbish. But then again, I use it to watch programmes I want to see not to analyse whether it meets certain criteria. Evidence would suggest that the vast majority of the viewing public couldn’t give a monkeys as to whether it broadcasts in full HD or not.
I agree if you are watching iPlayer output on a phone, tablet or smaller TV, but to my eyes, the picture is soft and smeary. I don’t see anything like it from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, NowTV, etc. As I said earlier, if you’re happy watching stuff on iPlayer as is, that’s fine. Many of us aren’t, and the tone of the email responses that I’ve received suggest to me that there are a lot of unhappy users out in TV land.

I am pretty certain that in a year or so’s time I’ll be able to resurrect this thread and comment that nothing has changed, because I seriously doubt that anything will. Far better to waste large chunks of licence payers money on ‘talent’, TV channels like BBC Parliament, which have very low viewing figures and expensive salaries than to deliver a modest update to the archaic platform that is iPlayer and drag it into the 21st century.
 
D

Deleted member 765458

Guest
Do the BBC advertise their TV broadcasts as a 4K service?

If you want 4K pay for a 4K 5.1 or 7.1 service, just as you paid for your expensive 4K TV, expensive sound system and expensive broadband to stream it on. You bought into 4K now pay for the 4K content.

I players knows what equipment it is running on. Hence how popular.
 

TheViper101

Active Member
Do the BBC advertise their TV broadcasts as a 4K service?

If you want 4K pay for a 4K 5.1 or 7.1 service, just as you paid for your expensive 4K TV, expensive sound system and expensive broadband to stream it on. You bought into 4K now pay for the 4K content.

I players knows what equipment it is running on. Hence how popular.
Eh? How am I supposed to watch BBC shows like His Dark Materials in 4K on any other service? I pay a licence fee so if they make a show in 4K then I don't think it's unreasonable to have them show it as such. Also they may know what device you are playing from but have no idea what your end AV equipment is.
 

dts

Distinguished Member
Personally I’ve never had any issues using BBC player...I use the app version built into my LG oled and the picture is very acceptable to me...I use a wired connection.the HLD 4K content looks brilliant...I know that quite a few tv manufacturers are having problems with licensing costs to have it on their smart platforms...nothing is free and the sheer amount of money it costs for software updates engineers from both the BBC and the different manufacturers isn’t cheap...something we all probably take for granted....if it’s one great thing the general public are good at is moaning!!!
 
D

Deleted member 765458

Guest
Eh? How am I supposed to watch BBC shows like His Dark Materials in 4K on any other service? I pay a licence fee so if they make a show in 4K then I don't think it's unreasonable to have them show it as such. Also they may know what device you are playing from but have no idea what your end AV equipment is.
Does the license fee say a 4K service?


If you want 4K from Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Disney you pay a higher service price. Instead you try to bully the BBC too get a 4K 5.1 and higher service free.
 

Clem_Dye

Distinguished Member
Moaning? I don’t think so. The BBC continues to push a service that does still not match the quality delivered by its linear HD TV channels. Why is that? Why should so many of us be expected to put up with that? Why is it OK for the Corporation to fritter away licence payers money in the way that they do, yet not provide a modest update to their streaming service? Are there costs involved? Of course there are, but it’s not unrealistic to get some value from a service that you’re forced to pay for.

None of this is new. It seems that the feature set is already in place. Why not bite the bullet and get the job done? Probably because it’s easier to keep kicking the issue into the long grass and find excuses not to tackle the problem, the latest being that the BBC needs to save money! Jeez.
 
D

Deleted member 765458

Guest
Moaning? I don’t think so. The BBC continues to push a service that does still not match the quality delivered by its linear HD TV channels. Why is that? Why should so many of us be expected to put up with that? Why is it OK for the Corporation to fritter away licence payers money in the way that they do, yet not provide a modest update to their streaming service? Are there costs involved? Of course there are, but it’s not unrealistic to get some value from a service that you’re forced to pay for.

None of this is new. It seems that the feature set is already in place. Why not bite the bullet and get the job done? Probably because it’s easier to keep kicking the issue into the long grass and find excuses not to tackle the problem, the latest being that the BBC needs to save money! Jeez.

If you want 4K from Netflix, Amazon, Apple Sky Q, Virgin, Bribox and Disney you pay a higher service price. Instead you try to bully the BBC too get a 4K 5.1 and higher service free.
 
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Clem_Dye

Distinguished Member
Bullying? Look at the messages from the BBC that I posted above. The second one agreed with me! As for paying for higher quality, well that’s not even an option with iPlayer, is it? As for one individual bullying an organisation the size if the BBC, really? Or is it in this new world that we all exist, expressing any form of opinion is now verboten, unless it conforms the collective thinking, which in this case is accepting what the BBC gives us, and being happy about it?
 
D

Deleted member 765458

Guest
Bullying? Look at the messages from the BBC that I posted above. The second one agreed with me! As for paying for higher quality, well that’s not even an option with iPlayer, is it? As for one individual bullying an organisation the size if the BBC, really? Or is it in this new world that we all exist, expressing any form of opinion is now verboten, unless it conforms the collective thinking, which in this case is accepting what the BBC gives us, and being happy about it?
Then vote and leave the BBC license fee service, there are the other On demand services available Clem. After all, you bought the 4K and audio equipment, now buy the services to match.

Where does the TV license say, it is a 4K or multi channel audio service? And you were aware of that, when buying your equipment.
 

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