BBC can’t relinquish Flash for new Android media player
The BBC’s mobile technical teams have begun rolling out a new mobile media player for the Android platform, writes Chris Yanda (Executive Product Manager, BBC Future Media) on a BBC blog. It is meant to be a new way of playing video and audio content securely on phones and tablets.
“It’s called BBC Media Player and we are starting to use it with the mobile view of the BBC’s iPlayer website. Next week we plan to release a new version of BBC iPlayer on Android which will use this player. Other applications and websites will follow.
“We want people to have the best experience possible when they’re watching BBC TV programmes or listening to BBC radio programmes. This means, amongst other things, making them available on as many devices as is practical.
“I want to reassure you that Android is an important platform for us. And I know (not least from the comments on David Madden’s recent post) that this platform is an important one for many of our users. We’ve supported iPlayer on Android since June 2010.”
The BBC originally backed the Adobe Flash horse as the media format to stream to Android devices, which was unfortunate given Adobe’s subsequent tactical withdrawal to Adobe Air for mobile content….
Adobe’s decision forced a change on the BBC, they say, and they list the following as the key points they kept in mind:
1. We needed a solution that would work on the newer Android devices running the JellyBean operating system.
2. We also had to cater for the all the devices which are still on earlier OS versions. The diagram below shows that vast majority of Android users are on Gingerbread and FroYo.
3. We needed a solution which would work both for our websites and for our native Android applications.
4. We needed a solution which would meet the security obligations we had agreed with our rights holders.
5. We needed a solution which would not require a significant and costly change to our current infrastructure.
They considered, apparently, Http Live Streaming (HLS), which is used to stream BBC media to other platforms, but unfortunately this isn’t supported on older versions of Android (prior to Honeycomb). So, writes Chris Yanda, the BBC has ended back in the arms of Adobe, persevering with the Flash format but done so through the Adobe Air system…
In the end, Flash was still the best choice of media format for us to use. And the only practical technology for us to play this format back on Android is Adobe Air.
We are making this change with our eyes open. No technology is perfect. We’ve seen some of the challenges that other Adobe Air based apps have had in the marketplace and so we have worked hard, both internally and with our technology partners to build the best application we can.