Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS – 14th of March, 2014
'The times they are a changing'. And they are changing fast. In 2006 the brand new BBC iPlayer delivered 600 hours of online Television programmes each week. This year the BBC will publish about 50.000 hours of TV content and nearly 100,000 clips online on iPlayer, News, Sport, and on programed pages. Since 2006 the iPlayer audiences have increased to over seven million per day (!), on four screens and on over 1000 devices and platforms.
According to Marina Kalkanis, (Core Services Head, BBC Future Media, Programmes and On-Demand), it was time for something new. She wrote in a blog post last year: 'The demand was there, but the infrastructure was aging and needed replacement'.
Kalkanis, who also heads the BBC Video Vault engineering teams, described Monday the 30th of September 2013 as an important day for BBC Online. 'It marked the end of the On Demand Production Service ODPS and the launch of Video Factory.'
Video Factory is developed by engineers in BBC Future Media working with leading providers of media transcoding and packaging. One of these providers is Amsterdam based Unified Streaming. Unified Streaming products are in use worldwide and has proven to be a stable and scalable streaming solution for VOD services and large events such as the European Soccer Championships, the Tour de France and the Olympic games in London and Sochi.
“Working with the BBC on this project is interesting for many reasons. First of all we at Unified Streaming appreciate the advanced and innovative technical approach of BBC and being a key part of the content delivery process for iPlayer makes us proud!” says Unified Streaming CEO Dirk Griffioen
'I am not allowed to comment on why we chose the Unified Streaming Platform', says Marcus Box, BBC's Group Engineering Manager for Media Services. 'But the fact that we use USP probably says enough'. According to Box things are looking pretty good. 'We are hoping to get our first live channels out in the first half of March. By the summer we will have everything live using the United Streaming Platform. Box explains that the BBC will have 30 simulcast video streams live at the absolute latest in April or May. 'These channels will always be there', he says.
Next to the regular channels the BBC will also use USP for additional live event streams'. Box: 'These streams will be used for football, Commonwealth Games, music festivals or other events during the summer and will not be running for longer than twelve hours at a time. I think the peak is probably between 30 or 35 simultaneous events'.
At this moment the simulcast channels see peaks of 200.000 viewers. 'That is still relatively low ', says Box. 'But when we add channels and events we could very well see peaks of two, three times that number. This will increase over time as we add functionality. For example you can think of connected TV’s where you can press red for simulcast streams. That is going to be really interesting; you can rewind an hour and that sort of stuff'.
Box says the BBC will be using the United Streaming Platform for VOD as well at some point. But he points out that for the moment the audio streams are a priority. 'For audio we see a massive uptake on mobile and tablet-devices', says Box. 'The top-end online radio program had a 100.000 listeners, according to yesterdays user-statistics. Even the tenth program had 50.000 listeners. And this number will be growing. USP is the backbone for the 30 live channels that broadcast BBC 1, 2, 3, but also for about 40 regional channels'.
To make video and audio delivery as smooth as possible, Video Factory will be cloud based. 'Our live workflow is quite simple', explained Kalkanis in her Blogpost. 'We capture live broadcasts and send these to cloud storage where they get picked up by a transcode job and either sent to an idle transcoder or if the queue is full and all transcoders are busy, a newly started transcoder. Once transcoded the media either goes back to the cloud storage to be packaged on demand when a request from the internet comes in, or it is pushed through to one of our other distribution services'.
In delivering users of pc's, smartphones or tablets the best possible viewing experience the BBC will greatly benefit from USP's adaptive bitrate streaming-technology. This means that video dynamically adapts to network conditions and video rendering performance. Therefore, viewers will experience no buffering or stuttering (when meeting the minimum bitrate/CPU requirements).
About Unified Streaming
Unified Streaming is a leading provider of cross-platform video-streaming technologies. Dedicated to helping companies create and execute smart video-streaming technologies, Unified Streaming products are in operation around the world, with customers ranging from broadcast networks and online content distributors to small companies and webcasters. Unified Streaming solutions fit into existing frameworks (Apache, IIS, Lighttpd, Nginx), thus, allowing for greater return on existing investment. Unified Streaming (USP) provides streaming from one encode simultaneously to multiple players and devices. In combination with various DRM technologies, this enables Unified Streaming customers to significantly reduce delivery cost and boost time to market, in order to address a broader audience.
For more info: http://www.unified-streaming.com