Advanced Television

BBC launches live interactive video player

July 2, 2012

By Colin Mann

Following a period of beta testing, the BBC has launched its live, interactive video player in advance of the London 2012 Olympics. The player combines HD video with relevant data designed to enhance the viewing experience.

Writing in a BBC Internet blog, Alex Perry Product Manager, Interactive Video Player, BBC News & Knowledge, explained that one of the main impetuses behind the project was the video rights package that the BBC holds for London 2012. The BBC is the sole rights holder for the Olympics in the UK and is able to offer users live video from every venue on every day of the Games, which means up to 24 different streams of live sporting action at any one time.

“So we wanted to take this opportunity to build a video player that would offer the best possible desktop video viewing experience to do justice to that incredible breadth of live content and would also provide a lasting legacy to BBC Online and our audiences in the years to come,” he said. “That means making the video available in high definition and then enhancing it with some extra functionality that in terms of added choice, rivals anything you would have experienced before while watching sport on your TV.”

The key features in the new player are:

  • Every sport available live and on demand in HD quality on every day of the Games
  • Easy switching between up to 24 live streams at any time
  • The ability to pause and rewind live video or jump straight to key moments you may have missed by using chapter markers (eg the Men’s 100m final)
  • Alerts for the key events that have happened or are coming up so you don’t miss the moments that matter to you
  • Extra facts and info on the sports and competitors you are watching alongside the video

The video player combines the video with the associated data that is available to the BBC, creating a much richer experience for its audiences, according to Perry. The types of information and data provided includes:

  • Olympics Live: worried you’ll miss something happening at another Olympic venue? Olympics Live alerts viewers to interesting moments happening live across the 24 simultaneous streams, making sure you don’t miss any key action
  • Athletes: discover more about the individual athletes, including information on their performance and previous times, while you watch
  • Sports guides: wonder how a specific sport works? This feature gives you the info about the individual sports, with five key facts offered for every discipline
  • Match stats: key real-time statistics about the event

“Where we are able to show athlete performance data, the key thing is that we synchronise the data and video together so that you always see the stats appropriate for the point in the video that you are watching,” advised Parry. “So if you decide to watch a video from the start, we won’t give you the results from the end. And if you are watching live, we won’t show the result of the Men’s 100m before you’ve had a chance to watch it!”

The beta version was trialled on recent events including Formula 1 and Euro 2012, with the BBC taking the decision July 29 to separate Sport’s live text commentary page and the video player in order to make sure it is fully tested at load before the Olympics kick off.

For now, it is possible to watch in HD quality once the bit rate ramps up, pause or rewind the live action or jump to chapters using the buttons below the timeline, and by clicking in the top left hand corner a viewer can choose from any of the streams the BBC is offering for Wimbledon, the Euros or other events covered by the corporation.

“You can watch our video player on your desktop computer and certain tablets that support Flash. On mobiles and iPads you will be able to watch the video but without the extra functionality,” he advised.


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