BBC iPlayer is bandwidth hog, admins warned

Social media integration and endless repeats

License payers love the BBC's iPlayer, the new version of which is formally launched today. Network admins, however, are being warned to beware of its ability to eat bandwidth at a fearsome rate.

The hazard warning from WAN optimisation company Blue Coat about iPlayer v3 is at least as old as last May's iPlayer beta, but is probably worth bearing in mind for anyone running a network of employees who might be tempted to catch up online with their favourite TV shows.

Of particular note is the new 'favourite' programme feature which sets the client to automatically download future episodes. According to Blue Coat, this could end up being the equivalent of up to 630MB of data transfer per hour, per programme, per user, or double that if the programme is downloaded in high definition.

Blue Coat doesn't mention it, but the social media integration in v3 could also have some bearing on when this bandwidth is now consumed compared to past versions.

The BBC sees demand for iPlayer use from v3 onwards being driven increasingly by social networks and less by what is known in jargon as 'linear TV scheduling', otherwise known as 'TV watching'.

"In order to get more users to iPlayer, we needed to make iPlayer something more than TV catch-up alone - we wanted it to become a driver of demand, so that you returned to iPlayer daily to see what new programmes were there just for you," as a BBC developer put it at the time of the May beta launch.

If correct, this will inevitably transfer some of the load from after-hours TV catch-up to in-work TV rubbernecking. My friends on Facebook watched this so I will too.

"BBC iPlayer is making the unmissable, unmissable, but network managers need to make sure that their users don't make the network unworkable," said a Blue Coat representative.

Blue Coat has complained about other bandwidth-consuming applications in the past, notably Spotify.

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John E Dunn

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