BBC is migrating iPlayer to using H.264 and AAC+ for a raise in video and audio quality
Jonny Evans on

The BBC has introduced higher-quality video streaming through its iPlayer catch-up TV service, and announced a move to support open standards.

The broadcaster has elected to make streams available using open standards H.264 and AAC+, moving away from the previous codec it has been using. Stream quality has shot to 800Kbps from 500Kbps as a result.

The move follows the broadcaster’s launch of iPlayer streams for the iPod touch and iPhone, which are offered in H.264 and AAC.

The iPlayer media player now supports hardware acceleration in full-screen mode, giving a greatly improved image at lower CPU usage than before, the broadcaster explained.

“The BBC has always been a strong advocate and driver of open industry standards. Without these standards, TV and radio broadcasting would simply not function,” wrote BBC director of future media and technology Erik Huggers on the company’s internet blog. “I believe that the time has come for the BBC to start adopting open standards such as H.264 and AAC for our audio and video services on the web. These technologies have matured enough to make them viable alternatives to other solutions.

“The advantage for the audience will be a noticeable improvement in audio and video quality. Furthermore, it should become easier for the media to simply work across a broader range of devices,” he added.

The BBC will at first offer content in both On2 VP6 and H.264 format, and provide a button to let you choose which works best for you and your internet connection, Normal or High.

Automatic bit-rate detection will be added at a later date.

iPlayer has been nominated for a British Technology Award for 2008.