The ABC's popular iview video on demand service is now available on iPhones as well as iPads, thanks to a revitalised, universal iOS app. The app allows mobile streaming of iview content on Australian mobile networks.
iview has taken a huge step forward with the launch of the universal application, which lets iPhone users watch the entire catalogue of iView content on their smartphones. The app supports streaming over mobile 3G (and presumably 4G) networks, so viewers can watch video on demand wherever they have a strong enough network connection. Streaming over Wi-Fi is also supported.
The ABC partnered with US company Brightcove in January to introduce variable bit-rate streaming to its iview service, to support low-bandwidth connections like Apple's 3G iPhone smartphones and 3G-enabled iPads. The new app will work with any iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or newer.
When viewers try to access iview in an area of poor connectivity or on a congested network, the app pops up a message: "Your current network conditions mean that only audio is available at this time. You will be able to watch your program when your connection is stronger." The video's stream is then downgraded to audio-only.
iview is now available on a wide range of platforms: PCs and Macs, internet-enabled TVs from Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, as well as the iPad and iPhone. HD video streaming is still not an option for the nation's public broadcaster on any platform, due to bandwidth and cloud storage constraints.
The ABC's manager, iview and internet broadcasting, Sally O'Donoghue, told Good Gear Guide that while working with iOS was easy, other platforms like Android presented problems: "The fragmentation of the Android platform and the number of devices makes it challenging for us to develop, test and support these devices at present."
The ABC's Innovations team is working on redeveloping the iview platform in HTML5 to support as many current and future devices as possible. O'Donaghue said that limited resources meant a holistic approach was best: "Our next step is to redevelop iview in HTML5 so that we can more easily target a greater number of Android devices and screen sizes, and other mobile platforms.
An HTML5 version of iview will give us widest coverage as well as future-proofing for new devices. Given resource limitations, streamlining the technical effort and cost for new developments makes sense."
ABC partner Brightcove has just released its App Cloud platform, designed to streamline the production of cross-platform apps using HTML5. The ABC hasn't announced any plans to use this platform for development.
Specific apps for the Mac App Store and Windows Store aren't on the drawing board at the ABC: "There are no plans to speak of at present regarding development for these platforms but we will continue to innovate on a range of platforms and devices to make ABC TV content widely available."
There are a few minor bugs still to be ironed out of the new iOS app. Currently, watching some recently released programs on the iPhone app bring up the poor connectivity error message even when a high-quality Wi-Fi network is connected.