BBC iPlayer gets live TV rewind function

It's easy to forget that we have one of the best - if not THE best - catch-up TV services in the world, in iPlayer. Today, the BBC has announced that to make it one notch better, you will be able to restart a currently airing TV programme at the touch of a button.

That means, if you go to the iPlayer site, and see that, say, you've missed the first 15 minutes of Have I Got News For You, then at the touch of a button, you can jump back to the start. Indeed, this new "live buffer" goes back two hours, so if you've missed other things before you tuned in, jumping back in time is no hassle at all.

This functionality has some value in the gap between a TV show being on air, and its being available to view on the non-live iPlayer service. It might not be a huge issue for many, because generally things show up quite quickly on the full, on-demand service. But even so, it's great to see the BBC constantly thinking about how it can improve iPlayer.

The BBC says that live TV makes up about 22 per cent of all iPlayer requests. We assume much of that is sport, which is another type of programme that could benefit from this functionality.

The company also points out that, unlike a PVR, you don't need to have been watching the channel to rewind, which is obviously much more helpful than the live rewind on PVRs. Not least because you'll be able to scroll back through any BBC channel currently on the air.

But aside from it being pretty neat, the corporation's Henry Webster, who works in delivering content via IP, points out that it involves quite a change to back-end technology. Video is sent via HTTP, rather than as a dedicated RTSP stream these days and uses something called "chunking" which makes things a bit easier.

The good news is, these changes also mean that the BBC is well set up to handle the massive increase in streaming video that is likely over the coming years. As Webster points out, with increasing numbers of connected devices, this is going to massively increase load. Oh, and then there's those pesky Olympics, which are likely to be very popular indeed.

Of course, this new feature isn't totally perfect. For a start, some movies and special programmes might not be rights-cleared for rewinding in this manner. And it still counts as live TV, so you must have a TV licence to enjoy it.



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