Tag Archives: iplayer

4OD review

For all that video is the future of the web, few UK private sector companies seem to be managing it as well as the BBC. That’s certainly the case with 4OD, which, despite an early start, is noticeably less robust than iPlayer.

Now, as it happens, the E4/C4 programmes we watch are generally DVR-ed, so we have had little need to lean on it to date. However, until Damian told me about it, we entirely missed the newest retelling of the Arthurian legend, Camelot, currently airing on Channel 4. So we had to catch up on the first few episodes.

Generally speaking, the overall experience is significantly less slick than iPlayer for a number of reasons.

  1. On the same Internet connection (which is admittedly mediocre), caching takes place with intermittent irregularity. By which I mean, for no apparent reason, at random intervals, the video will stop whilst (presumably) the player catches up with content from the server. This very rarely happens with iPlayer for us, unless we’re watching something in high-definition.
  2. The picture quality is visibly crappier than iPlayer. Pixellation and artefacts are noticeable and distracting.
  3. No HD. Which is rubbish, really, given that the Beeb has it for all its tier 1 programming.
  4. It has an extremely shaky ad-insertion platform. First of all, 4OD has about three advertisers (Lynx, BT Vision and… 4OD during Camelot). Adverts for Camelot, available on 4OD (which is what we were watching), two versions of a BT Vision advert (sponsors of drama on C4) and an increasingly aggravating ‘premature perspiration’ advert from Lynx dry must have played a dozen times. Secondly, the ads force-play if you try to ‘resume play’ on a programme, which is just irritating (especially as you’ll have just seen them as they pre-roll before the show starts). Third, when watching episode two of Camelot, it skipped 20 minutes of vital exposition, having had someone presumably mistag what should happen after the second ad break.

On point 4) the mediocrity of the platform will likely keep sensible advertisers away. After all, if you know that your ad is going to end up annoying people through the frequency of play, why would you want that? Admittedly it does help with unprompted ad recall, but my affection for those brands is significantly diminished….

So, this is yet another reason I’m grateful for the BBC…

Why do ratings matter for the BBC?

A lot of the protest around the Outcasts cancellation I’ve read in the comments has been around the ratings question. As a public service broadcaster, why do ratings matter?

Put simply, ratings are a way of the BBC verifying that it is spending the license fee in the viewers’ interests. If it is committing a large spend to a TV programme, it needs to be sure that it is proportionate to the interest in the show. Bearing in mind that an hour of even a simple soap opera can cost in excess of £100k, and these, rightly or wrongly, receive millions and millions of viewers, the higher cost of creating a Sci-Fi drama series presumably proportionate support (although obviously it’s not as simple as “as many viewers as Eastenders” or it’d never get made). In addition, although this is a secondary concern, a highly rated programme can be a source of revenue for the BBC via BBC Worldwide (which made £1bn last year, pittance against the operating costs of the BBC but not too shabby).

There’s more on this question on Quora for interested people.

However, I think the BBC has ignored the long tail a bit with Outcasts. If you look at my exchange with an independent TV producer on Quora here you’ll see that iPlayer ratings do indeed count – independent production companies are remunerated in part on performance there – but it looks like the decision to cancel Outcasts was taken before iPlayer data came into play. This is presumably because the viewer numbers were far too low for a mid-week prime-time programme, irrespective of iPlayer views, but without access to the iPlayer viewer numbers its difficult to know if they’ve been properly thoughtful about this.

Incidentally, I wrote to both the BBC and show producers Kudos TV to put some commenter questions to them. Sadly, the BBC has ignored me (presumably because I am not a journalist) and Kudos sent me an ironic individual reply saying they wouldn’t reply to emails individually.