The BBC is testing a fix for problems experienced by iPad users when using the iPlayer app. The fix is eagerly awaited by many iPad users, some of whom reported not being able to watch programmes when the app was launched back in February.
Problems reported include: programmes playing for a few minutes only; programmes playing via the web but not via the app; only "live" programmes playing in the app; being told to switch to Wi-Fi even when already connected to it for the app and website (this author included); and programmes not playing in the app or via the website.
The most common error message within the app is: "Failed to load programme, please try again later". Some users report being able to watch programmes before the app was introduced, but unable to now either using the app or via the Web.
It is not clear what percentage of iPad users are affected. The BBC says that there have been 900,000 iPad app downloads, but that only a small minority of users have had problems, although it admits many have reported problems to the BBC iPlayer message board. Others have made similar complaints on ipadforums.net.
The matter was aired publicly for the first time on BBC Radio Four.
Speaking on morning show You&Yours last week, Daniel Danker, general manager of BBC programmes on demand, said: "For the vast majority there have been no problems, but for a small group of folks programmes have just not played very well and that's been very frustrating. So we have been listening to the forums to work out where the problem is and produced a fix which some members of the public are beta testing for us.
"A fix is just around the corner but I cannot say when it will be released until we are sure that it works."
Danker said the problem was too technical to explain to a Radio Four audience: "I'd be happy to explain it to you but I think you will find it is overly technical."
Aside from saying that a beta fix is being tested, the BBC has since not outlined its own diagnosis of the problem. It tweeted from @BBCiPlayer: "[The] reasons are extremely technical, it wasn't necessary to go into that much detail. (We) understand your frustrations, fix is coming." In a subsequent tweet, the BBC reports that 70 users are currently testing the fix.
In February, the iPlayer team asked users affected via the message board to provide detailed information regarding their set-up and to enumerate the problems they were having in a message that listed over 20 questions. As part of a broader BBC policy on commenting, this message board has recently been closed down.
Danker said he believed that some of the problems are down to the users: "It's worth pointing out that it's really crucial that folks have a really good Wi-Fi connection in the home and a good internet connection in the home; we have encountered folks that have good experiences in one area of the house and not in others."
However a number of listeners responding to the broadcast said that they had perfectly good Wi-Fi around the house when used for activities other than iPlayer. Many commenters on the iPlayer message board had also given similar reports of isolating Wi-Fi as a source of the problem.
The news comes on the back of the launch of the iPlayer app across Europe by BBC Worldwide. Daniel Danker declined to comment further to his interview on Radio 4. ®