Cloud End User media video

BBC iPlayer growth – tablets shifting our viewing habits

Richard Cooper runs the BBC’s online platforms. He was guest speaker at the ISPA Conference last week and his subject was naturally iPlayer which with 245 million requests in September has enjoyed 23% year on year growth.

bbc_iplayer_request_growthI took pics of some of his slides – this first one shows the increase in requests. The step function in January is interesting. The BBC have labelled last Christmas as the year of the tablet. The growth in traffic is largely down to the increase in people getting tablets as Christmas presents. Apparently you could almost plot the rate of opening of presents based on the growth in the traffic on the day.

bbc_iplayer_trafficnov13The second pic shows the exponential month by month growth in iPlayer streaming traffic expressed in TeraBytes. Impressivo. Apparently, according to Richard Cooper, the perceived wisdom is that this rate of traffic growth is set to continue until 2025, based I think on the continued development of Video quality and usage until the point comes where the human eye can benefit no more.

bbc_iplayer_timeofdayFinally we have a chart that shows how TV viewing habits are changing now that people are watching programmes on more than just the TV. Internet usage peaks at approx 5pm – this includes all web browsing. TV watching peaks just after 9pm and iPlayer requests peak around an hour later. People are taking their tablets upstairs and watching in bed.

A few observations spring to mind. People are starting to do everything online. Music listening is moving to streaming, movies are moving to catch up TV and video on demand and why would you bother with physical copies of games? The time is rapidly approaching where people won’t bother with hard copies of anything (me excepted – I’ll be a book buyer until I pop my clogs – I am of a certain generation and won’t buy an eBook). On this basis there’ll be hardly anything left for people to open on Christmas Day – it’ll all just be brown envelopes with gift vouchers & subscription codes for downloads. The frenzied throwing of paper around the front room will become a thing of the past. Sad really.

The other snippet is that apparently with 4k video you need to be sat 8 feet away from a 10 foot diagonal screen to get the benefit. Screen tech is getting better than our own eye tech. Not sure I completely understand this one but it’s all to do with pixel counts of screens versus what your eye can interpret. Maybe someone can elaborate. Just maybe (I think that’s an advert for something – not sure what).

Whatever happens it’s going to be some time before traditional broadcast TV is replaced by streaming video – there just isn’t enough bandwidth available. Bring it on.

PS pics aren’t perfect soz – better than nothing as you can see the data.

Engineer olympics

Which #Olympic events are going to attract most online interest? #London2012 #Locog

Usain Bolt - billions of fans want to see him win at the London 2012 OlympicsI’ve got tons to do but I’m on holiday after this week (yay) and the Olymic coverage is building up to near frenzy already (gawd knows what it will be like when it really gets going) so I’m doing Olympic posts.  For the avoidance of doubt that’s the London2012 summer Olympic games if any of the Locog police are reading.

You will remember the post I wrote ages ago about the BBC’s own forecasts for iPlayer traffic based on the which sport is happening at the time. Now of course that time is upon us. Today the ladies of  Team GB football are taking on the mighty All Blacks at the Millenium stadium. Actually I don’t know if they are mighty or whether they are even called the “All Blacks”. I mean New Zealand ladies.

I’ve never watched a ladies football match, at least not in its entirety. I did watch “Bend it like Beckham” which I thought was a very enjoyable movie but  I digress. The Beeb reckons that this first ladies match will be more popular than the men’s game tomorrow. Do they know something?

BBC estimates of iPlayer busy periods during London 2012 Olympics - click to enlargeThe Beeb has in fact identified six sessions it has labelled as having the highest iPlayer demand. These are the opening and closing ceremonies, the mens 100m and 200m finals (good old Usain – don’t let us down), Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton on the afternoon of Tuesday 7th August (yay cmon guys) and the afternoon of Saturday 11th which has the finals of the men’s footy, hockey and basketball (yawn).

As I write I’m scanning through the BBC’s schedule showing its demand forecast and I’ve just found something that casts the whole process into doubt. On a scale of 1 – 4 where 4 is the highest demand the women’s beach volleyball finals are only rated a 2. How credible is that?

That’s it for now. I normally adopt radio silence when I’m on holiday but this time I will be posting live from Olympic events using my trusty Samsung Galaxy S3 and WordPress for Android. I must get a speed tester app on the phone. Also I’ve not gone yet 🙂

Click the inset box to see which events the BBC thinks will be busy.

Engineer olympics

iPlayer demand forecast scheduled by session at the Olympics

Just sat in one of our ongoing planning sessions to calculate our bandwidth BBC estimates of iPlayer busy periods during London 2012 Olympics - click to enlargeneeds during the London 2012 Olympics. It’s a complicated call and we will be telling all nearer the time.

One of the data sources we are using is the BBC’s own estimates of iPlayer traffic growth. The inset photo shows when the BBC is expecting heavy iPlayer traffic loads and is based on the sport/competitor mix for any given session.

The colour coding scheme doesn’t tell us how much traffic is expected for each event but the Beeb is planning for a peak of 1Terabit per second.

The capacity planning and quality management  for the Olympics is not totally straightforward because there are factors involved outside the control of any individual ISP. Load on the iPlayer servers is one and the traffic at individual exchanges is another. As an industry we are going to have to be nimble to make sure that our customers’ experience is a good one.

More as I get it…

Business mobile connectivity

I have seen the future… (mystic waily voice) #4G #digitalbritain #O2 #iPlayer

speed test using a 4G dongle from O2 shows 38Meg down 27Meg upAs I gaze into my crystal ball the mists are swirling, swirling.  Now they are disappearing. Ah, it is all clear.  I can see blue skies. I can see people dancing, holding aloft their smartphones and tablets. Waving. Everyone is happy. Where is this mythical land where the rivers flow with champagne/beer/cappucino (delete as appropriate)?iPlayer streaming Frozen Planet in HD to a laptop through an O2 4G dongle

It is here, where you and I live. In Blighty. Home.

I have just come back from O2’s offices in Slough where I had a play with 4G on a laptop. The jpg in the header photo shows the download and upload performance. The speed varies but does go as high as 80 – 85Megs down.

The laptop I was using only needed 7Megs worth of bandwidth for its day to day activities – email, streaming HD etc so there is plenty of headroom when considering personal use. It is easy however to imagine this service being used as a replacement for fixed line bandwidth where a family would certainly use up all the bandwidth available. Also who knows what bandwidth hungry applications are round the corner. They will come.

The demo is impressive. The photo inset was taken from my Samsung Galaxy 2 so isn’t a screenshot and the quality could be better. It doesn’t matter. I watched Frozen Planet streaming in HD on iPlayer – no buffering, perfect quality.

O2 has recently announced 4G trials in an area of London between Kings Cross and the City. I am taking part. Watch this space for up to the minute information on 4G.

I have seen the future. The future is 4G.

Apps Engineer media olympics

2012 – Summer of Sports on Steroids – BBC estimates more than 2x Football World Cup traffic levels

growth in BBC iPlayer coverage of Olympics2012 or as the BBC puts it “Summer of Sports on Steroids” 1 is going to be another milestone year for the ISP industry with the UK playing host to the Olympic games and another record anticipated for internet traffic levels. On Wednesday at the ISPA conference we had Jane Weedon, Controller of Business Development at the BBC talking about their preparations for the games.

The coverage in 2012 is going to be comprehensive with pretty much 100% of the sport available to watch as it happens – up to 27 simultaneous channels at the peak towards the end of the second week. This will have grown from perhaps 15-20% of coverage at the Sydney games 35% in Athens and 65% in Beijing (click on the header photo for graphic illustration).

The peak traffic during the South Africa Football World Cup hit 450Gbps with everyone going online to watch the EnglandiPlayer traffic levels during Football World Cup v Slovenia match. For perspective this year so far iPlayer traffic has peaked atiplayer traffic levels in 2011 220Gbps.

So look out ISPs.

The forecasting of traffic levels for these games is in reality going to be very difficult. On the higher demand side the games are on home territory and will appeal to a wider demographic than the Football World Cup. To counter this device proliferation may lead to the streaming being distributed over a wider range of media – 3G mobiles and tablets, public WiFi zones, offices providing big TV screens and the fact that many folk may well take the two weeks of the games off on holiday.

Medals success for Team GB is also going to be an influencing factor.

The Beeb has gone into significant detail in estimating demand on a session by session basis and has come up with a forecast of  10 x the traffic levels for London as they saw in Beijing. That’s 1Terabits a second 2  at the peak in streams averaging 1Mbps.

That’s enough Olympic bits for the moment but there is so much interest in this subject looking ahead I’m going  to be looking out for more Olympic stories to share.

1 Steroids is perhaps an unfortunate word to use in this context

2  Nobody is going to hold them to this forecast but it certainly gives us all an indication of what to expect

Engineer media

The thirst for information – Colonel Gadaffi and semantic metadata

illustration of semantic metadata in use by BBC with articles regarding Colonel GadaffiSomeone told me in the office that “they had killed Gadaffi”. Unusual to not hear it first on Twitter but I wasn’t looking, I’m too busy.

Back at my desk I looked at the Telegraph website. Then I went to the Guardian, Sky News and as if I hadn’t seen enough of the same stuff, the BBC news website. We thirst for information these days.

The BBC website, like all of them, had the item as its main news.  Colonel Gadaffi “killed”: Latest updates. Below this were links to “Gadaffi’s Quixotic and brutal rule, The Muammar Gadaffi story and His Life in pictures.

It was only then that I realised I was looking at “semantic metadata” in action.

Engineer internet

Bandwidth explosions

We are currently seeing an explosive growth in the distribution and delivery of digital video content across both fixed and mobile networks. Four years ago 100 million videos were watched on YouTube every day. It is two billion today. The BBC’s iPlayer launched in December 2007. It now delivers over 120 million requests every day which adds up to 7 petabytes of data a month.

As a result of this, the volume of data carried by mobile operators has risen twentyfold over the last two years (thanks iPhone), and is forecast to grow almost as much again in the next two years. The figures for fixed operators are less dramatic but still very significant.

Apps Engineer internet media

Sport streaming on the internet this afternoon #worldcup #wimbledon

At work I have a 100Mbps of uncontended bandwidth to play with.  It does me. I thought I’d watch some sport this afternoon, in between stuff. This was partly because I drew Chile in the office sweepstake – they are playing Switzerland as I write – and partly because I’m taking one of my lads to Wimbledon on Thursday – centre court – keep an eye out for me in the crowd.

Both sports are being covered on BBC  iPlayer this afternoon. I can of course watch both at the same time – and that’s despite being a bloke (or is it because of it?) –

End User internet

Luxury living and the shape of things to come – laptops at the dinner table #digitalbritain

This is what I call luxury living though I’m sure many will disagree. I’m sat at the dinner table indulging in tortilla chips and dips with my two eldest.  Mum and the other two are away (at Chester Zoo).

The luxury bit, apart from the company of the kids, is the involvement of laptops at the table.  There is plenty of space with the others away :-).  We are actually talking to each other although we are also engrossed elsewhere, in my case writing blog posts.

And before anyone starts calling me a bad dad I gave them total freedom in choice of dinner – Quesadillas on this occasion. Long live Tex Mex and long live the internet!

PS gives another slant on eating off your laptop – iPlayer dinner anyone?

Business internet piracy Regs

Social Networking in action #debill

#debill actually made it to a trending topic on twitter today.  This reflects the huge amount of interest around the country on the subject of the Digital Economy Bill.

I watched it both on iPlayer and via Tweetdeck where I could see real time comments on what was being debated.  MPs inside the chamber were also following twitter – you could see them referring to their mobile phones whilst others were speaking.

I’ve actually changed my view on twitter since getting involved in #debill.  It is a hugely powerful medium and one that can spread messages globally very quickly.  For example one of my blog posts was retweeted by Jeff Pulver who has somewhere in the region of 355 thousand followers.  If you have a message to get across and push the right buttons twitter is huge.

Interestingly because #debill was a trending topic on twitter, ie one of the top topics being followed by people it also attracted its fair share of spam – people jumping on the bandwagon – notably today by people trying to flog iPad.

We are all still finding our way in this connected world.

PS there can’t have been more than 20 MPs in the house debating such an important subject – democracy in action. It is getting harder and harder to decide which way to vote.

End User internet

Last night of the proms iPlayer versus freeview

Just a quick sound byte.  Watching Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on both iPlayer and Freeview.  Sound comes through about half  second faster on iPlayer.  Take note all ye on line betting syndicates:-)

Engineer internet media

Video streaming is going to be a mix of technical and commercial problems

Interesting talk  at Linx66 by Giles Heron, Principal Network Architect for 21CN at BT. I’m not going into it all but towards the end he discussed video streaming on the network and ways that this might be made more efficient.

Whilst ISPs and network operators take on the challenge of managing the growth in video streaming I think there is just as big an issue coming along in respect of the commercial and regulatory aspects.

The time is not far off, I believe, where people will stop buying purpose built boxes and rely purely on their internet connection for their TV watching. My kids already do it. The advent of FTTC is going to accelerate this. If you watch TV over the internet the rule is in the UK that you are supposed to have a TV license. This is not currently policed as far as I can see and it is difficult to do so. Last night someone in the family was playing a game on our TV so I watched Usain Bolt do his stuff on my laptop.

It will not be long before the BBC will start seeing its license revenue take start to decline (maybe it already is) which is going to prompt a very high profile crisis. We are going to start getting the same debate re TV watching as we have been having with music piracy – who is going to police it?

The alternative is that the BBC will have to move to a pay as you go model for iPlayer watching.

Well done to Usain by the way if you are reading this. Very good 🙂

broadband Business internet

BBC Claims BT is Throttling iPlayer

The BBC has an article online regarding the fact that BT is broadband throttling the iPlayer traffic of customers taking “Option1”.  Option1 appears to be BT’s cheapest broadband package at 8Mbps with a 10GB download limit.

I’m afraid that it is a fact of life that ISPs cannot afford to keep providing the services they do at the prices they do without some element of constraint over what consumers can download.

BT’s website does have a long list of caveats for its broadband service. They are quite open about the fact that they “network traffic manage” P2P and video streaming between their peak hours of 5pm and midnight although you might argue that the fair usage policy has become quite a complex one for people to understand.  Also whilst openly promoting the fact that users can watch online TV they fail to mention that only the lowest quality iPlayer setting is accommodated at these peak times.

The problem is about to get worse as higher speed 21CN connections become more prevalent and trials about to begin on 40Mbps services using Fibre To The Cabinet. Customers will expect to be able to get high quality video streaming  with these services.  Indeed video and likely HD video, will be one of the drivers for uptake of faster broadband.

Note whilst checking out the BT website I observed that the company sells its 10GB download limit as the equivalent of 2,500 music file downloads, 14 videos or 25 hours of streaming iPlayer a month.

This riles the music industry no end.  Does anyone believe that consumers download 2,500 “paid for” music files?  Is BT inadvertently helping to promote illegal P2P filesharing here?

End User internet media

TV license fee for internet watching

In my mind the clock has started ticking ever so quietly for the end of TV Licensing.  A review of the TV License fee by the BBC Trust looks at the issues associated with collecting TV License revenues for the BBC.

The report says “The licence fee collection is currently heavily reliant on the fact that almost 98% of households still use television sets (although this number has declined very slightly in the last year from 97.61% to 97.37%) and that viewing on new technologies tends to be supplementary to viewing on television.”

However “research for the BBC Executive shows that 40% of students in halls of residence use a laptop as their main way to watch TV”. iPlayer.

With almost half of all children leaving school now attending an University of some description this suggests that in time a large proportion of the population will move to watching TV online. 

This will present huge issues in collection of the license fee and will almost certainly join the regulatory debate that includes how to police illegal P2P music and video downloading.  Business models in the media industries are bound to have to evolve.


The report covers the problems with collecting the License Fee and specifically mentions the difficulties of proving whether a household has a TV or not.  The Davies household, after 20 or so blissful years of isolation,  got a TV for the first time ever 4 years ago following demands from our increasingly vociferous daughter.

Around 6 years ago we did a house swap with some Californian friends who, horrified at the lack of a TV in the house (how do you keep the kids quiet?) borrowed one and took out a license.  They went home and cancelled the bank payment standing order which triggered a stream of increasingly threatening letters demanding money.

Initially we ignored these but eventually complained to our MP, Gillian Merron, who got tough with the TV License Authority (or whatever their name is) and sorted it.  My issue was that I was offered two means to tell them I didn’t have a license, either by paying for a premium rate phone call or for a stamp.  As a fascist anti TV type this was objectionable to me.

Imagine how I felt when I eventually bought a TV and had to ring the same premium rate number to pay for a License.  I could feel the surprise, nay contempt,  at the other end of the phone of the call centre agent who could clearly see my record of complaint on this subject.

One of the many side benefits of when the kids eventually leave home is that I will be able to get rid of the TV again and, no doubt, renew my battle with the TV Licensing Authority.  Unless, that is, they introduce draconian measures that say if you own a computer you have to pay for a license!

End User internet media olympics

BBC iplayer

I caught up with some reading on the BBC  iplayer last night and lifted some interesting facts.  iplayer now has over a million users a day with 1.7 million download requests. The BBC is expecting it’s 300 millionth “play request” anytime now.

During the Olympics usage rose by 40% which is is reflected in the increase in internet usage I reported back in the summer.

What I found amusing was the fact that people only watch a programme for 22 minutes on average which the BBC finds to be a good statistic. Only 35% of viewers watch a 30 minute programme in its entirety. To me this is an indictment of the quality of what is provided for punters to watch and reinforces why I don’t watch TV (Dads Army, rugby internationals and other free to air sports excepted).

For the geeks amongst you the BBC runs the service on 200 servers, has 92% peering which hugely reduces their cost of delivery (though not ours) and peaks at 100TB a day of streaming traffic.

There’s lots more to read in the EBU Technical Review which quotes a number of sources : 2008-q4_iplayer