Aunty Beeb gives us a Flash

The Beeb has chosen the closed-trial BBC Archive site as the place to test out its first Flash-based video content

When the BBC announced it was to partner with Adobe to make its video content more accessible on all platforms, I thought we'd see a result by the end of the year. Instead, it seems those in the know have been working on making content available over Flash for some time.

I've already been trialling the BBC Archive. Not the BBC iPlayer - that's for downloads. The Archive is a streaming archive of content collected from the dusty corners of the BBC's vast collection of programming. If you ever watched Terry Wogan's Auntie's Bloomer blooper shows, you'll know that the set was basically shelf upon shelf of tin cans. Well imagine the BBC Archive as that, but in digital form.

Flash-based video

The Beeb has chosen this closed-trial site as the place to test out its first Flash-based video content alongside its existing Windows Media offerings.

Firstly, quality is, by and large, poor. That's less to do with the encoding at this stage and more to do with the actual quality of the programming (which isn't great for any of the stuff the BBC has encoded).

A 1983 edition of Crackerjack simply isn't going to look as good as the average YouTube video. Yes, we did watch Crackerjack. Gary Numan was on, some bloke got gunged, the end. Old TV shows are often better fondly remembered and never rewatched.

A massive improvement

What's striking about the Flash player is just how quick it is.

We're not dealing with the highest bandwidth content here, but after just a couple of seconds buffering you can skip to any point in the film with only a miniscule delay. This is a marked improvement on other forms of delivery. The player also contains a volume control plus a link to some keyboard shortcuts.

It's very early days - the quality will have to improve - but a tantalising look at what the future could hold for the millions of video streams the BBC dishes out every day.


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.