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Support for BBC Radio HLS Streams


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To keep everything clean and easy to read we've created a new thread for this issue. We are working to get the BBC HLS streams playing on your Sonos systems and we’ll update you when we have news to share.

John recently posted the below official update on a different thread:

There has been a lot of discussion lately around BBC Radio streams and we thought it might be helpful to summarize everything that's happened recently in case you are new to the topic.

Following the decision to move away from using WMA last year, the BBC has recently begun the process of switching to a new streaming method called chunked HTTP streaming,* one of many newly emerging options for providing audio and video content online.

There are several different options for how to implement chunked HTTP streaming, including offerings from Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, and MPEG.  The BBC has chosen to use an Apple-developed format commonly referred to as HLS and tell us they will add the MPEG version at a later date.

Chunked HTTP transfer is beneficial for both listeners and providers in terms of scalability and reliability, but it lacks a unified and agreed-upon industry standard. Many hardware devices (including Sonos) have yet to implement full support for each of these emerging formats.  The scenario presents a challenge for manufacturers. Which of the many formats do you choose to develop and support first? It’s a bit like Betamax vs. VHS or HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray.

In the meantime - to maintain compatibility with a wide range of manufacturers, services, and operating systems - the BBC has chosen to also provide MP3 versions.  Our partner, the internet radio aggregator TuneIn, is currently serving these streams to Sonos in lieu of the HLS versions.  However, there are two issues with the existing MP3 streams:

  • The MP3 streams are available in 128Kbps quality for all services including local radio.
  • Some sports and other live events are only available within the UK due to streaming rights, and the MP3 streams presented to Sonos only include international versions which blank out this content.  Note: the BBC has informed us they intend to address this issue separately and do not yet have an available time frame.  
Sonos is in the early planning stages for adding support for HLS, which will address these issues and restore a better experience for BBC Radio on Sonos moving forward. Timing will be shared once we have a realistic idea of when it will be ready.

If you have a BBC station saved in your Sonos favorites, it will still point to the non-functional WMA stream and you may receive an error when attempting to play the stream.  You can correct this by removing the old favorite, searching for the station again, and then creating a new favorite with the working version.

*You can read about chunked HTTP, HLS, and the other competing formats in more detail in this post on the BBC blog.

___

Please keep the discussion on topic and avoid attacking other users.
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Best answer by John M 1 October 2015, 22:07

Hi everyone, the update to our public beta is now live, and we are beginning our testing of HLS for the BBC as of today. This will mark the first time BBC streams are made available in HLS through Sonos for a wide audience. Once the beta program concludes, the change will be made available to all Sonos users.

If you’re currently a public beta tester, you already have everything you need to begin receiving HLS. Just update to the latest build using the Update Now prompt in your controller. If you’re not currently a beta tester and would like to help test HLS, you can sign up at http://beta.sonos.com. For all testers, new and old alike, we’re seeking your input on how well the implementation is working, especially in terms of quality and reliability.

After updating to the latest build of the public beta (version 6.0), Sonos will automatically receive an HLS stream provided by the BBC through TuneIn instead of the MP3 versions being provided at the moment. You’ll notice an immediate increase in audio quality, as well as the removal of restrictions on local streaming content for listeners in the UK.

The archived listen again content will not be available in HLS on Sonos with update. Those shows are being recorded in HLS but there's still have some work to be done before the streaming for on demand HLS shows will play through Sonos. Past shows may appear empty or have recorded content in there which gives an error message when it tries to play. We're working on getting the on demand shows playing on Sonos, but wanted to get the direct live streams playing as soon as we could. We are looking to get the listen again content available in a future Sonos release, currently targeted for 2016.

Many of you are also wondering about our long-term plans for the BBC on Sonos. While we don’t have any specific details to share at this moment, we also believe that for many, the BBC is a vital part of daily listening. We’re currently engaged in discussions with the BBC about how we can partner to provide the best possible BBC experience on Sonos.

Edited with latest information 10/20/15
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928 replies

Userlevel 2
User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

Chris - get over it, you sound childish. As Somos customers we have a higher standard than of a product that has been abandoned for three years.
Userlevel 7
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User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

Right but squeezebox gets credit regularly and sonos gets no credit for the same exact solution currently in place as seen in post earlieR. I don't appreciate personal attacks on my discussion.
Userlevel 6
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User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

The squeezebox and sonos are 2 different beasts.

The first is now essentially a community supported system (and 99% non-profit making), the second is a corporate system (and 100% profit making).

If Sonos pulls the plug (like Logitech did) it'll be interesting to see what user community efforts emerge to keep the devices running ...
Userlevel 2
User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

Chris the squeezebox community should get credit. They have a working solution -while we dont. Simple. Exact same solution- have no idea what you a referring to.
Userlevel 7
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User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

Squeezebox community has transcoding server. Same solution as currently available to sonos. No difference.
Userlevel 4
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User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

"...and the issue is BBC created." Chris

Come on Chris, PLEASE don't start that red herring again. Yes, the BBC changed the format of their streams but they gave plenty of notice, as you well know. It is getting on for a year now and still Sonos have done nothing except vaguely hint that they CAN provide a solution - one day. Sonos have done nothing to provide a work-around, that has been left to us to cobble together as best we can, so no, Sonos do not deserve any credit. Why on earth should they?

Sonos did nothing about the format change until well after the promulgated switch off. They didn't even realise that the awful BBC MP3 streams were only temporary - until someone pointed that out on this forum.
Userlevel 2
User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

@chris Lol. What? This is devolving to beyond ridiculous.
Userlevel 7
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User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

BBC did create the issue. I gave no further opinion on blame for not working natively. I have expressed that previously. More directed at me. I don't feel I have said anything rediculous.
Userlevel 2
User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

@chris - whatever point you are trying to make isn't working. Hls isn't just a BBC issue. Many streams are using hls and many more will switch. It is up to Sonos to add support or not.
User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

Chris, problems with Sonos's very limited transmission of BBC radio services predate the change of stream type. Will Sonos ever provide the BBC's "Listen Again" (iplayer radio) service? -- Simon
Userlevel 7
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User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

Sonos has not given any indication other than saying tunein will continue to be its partner in BBC streams. That would lead me to believe the listen again implementation will be the same as it was pre-hls. I wouldn't count on any additional features (ie something similar to iplayer within sonos)
User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

Very disappointing - the pre-hls "implementation" of Listen Again was almost non-existent. This is why I (and others) will not be investing in Sonos beyond my initial, misguided purchase. -- Simon 
Userlevel 2
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User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

I bought my first piece of Sonos kit from my local independent (now out of business) electrical store. At the time, the shop assistant assured me that all the BBC "listen again" (as it was then named) programmes were available. In my innocence, I believed him, based on his demo showing me the last 5 episodes of The Archers. I didn't realise that these were the Podcasts available via TuneIn (I hadn't even heard of TuneIn then). It didn't take me long to realise that the TuneIn service wasn't up to scratch - continual drop-outs making it completely unusable for listening to 3-hour long shows such as 6 Music's Radcliffe and Maconie.

What Chris has just said is quite interesting - that TuneIn will continue to be its partner in BBC streams. TuneIn is simply a directory service, pointing its clients to the URLs of radio station streams. This means that Sonos are trying to get TuneIn to provide an extra step in the case of the BBC streams - that of unwrapping the HLS stream for them so that Sonos can get a raw AAC stream.

I have long suspected that the chipset in some or all of the Sonos kit isn't up to the job of doing this natively - otherwise we would have had a solution to this by now. The fact that LMS and MinimServer reside on a separate server is a good indication that to do the unwrapping or decoding (or whatever it is) requires a bit of computing poke to do it effectively.

If this is the case, then don't hold your breath (my experience of TuneIn is that they are even less responsive than Sonos). Get yourself a Raspi and put Minimserver on it to listen to BBC live streams. If you want iPlayer Radio, then use get_iplayer to record radio shows. Then sit back, relax and enjoy your Sonos again - that is, after all, why we've all invested so much money in it.
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User695253  O.K. so you sell off your Sonos kit, so just what do you expect to get for it? Neglecting to tell potential buyers of the bbc issue, would be seen as leaving out significant information likely to influence their decision. Then if that is not a problem, what do you replace it with, nothing Roberts I hope?

John they have always called tunein their Partner and I still infur in that means tunein being their partner in providing BBC listings. I do not believe the hls solution from sonos will entail pre-processing done by tunein. I continue to be under assumption that sonos is working to decode on device. They had said they were already doing some similiar type decoding on device. As always. I repeat I have no inside knowledge. These are all inferences on my part from having read all their public communication.
Userlevel 1
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I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.
I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

But what would you buy? I ask because I'm not sure that the magic piece of kit you would like actually exists, but if it does please let us know what it is.
Userlevel 4
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I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

And that, Ken, is a very pertinent question.  Second-hand Squeezeboxes perhaps, and then, err, what?

Switching to the much-vaunted threat that is Denon's HEOS range isn't the answer.  In fact their responses to the issue make Sonos look like they are really busting a gut to help (which they might or might not be, of course).  Take these Q&A's from Denon's UK support site (my emphasis added):

"Q. Can my unit receive the new HLS-AAC BBC internet radio streams?

A. The BBC surprisingly changed the transmission to HLS-AAC ( instead of AAC as expected ). Therefore the higher quality streams of the BBC stations, podcasts and "listen again" shows can no longer be accessed using many devices on the market.
Your device does not support the HLS-AAC format and it is not possible to add support for it by a firmware update. The BBC main stations were also affected by the change - however the BBC prepared fallback streams in MP3 format which can be received using your unit"

and

"Q. Why Can I not receive "Listen again" shows or podcasts with the BBC internet radio stations?

A. The HLS-AAC streams - currently used by BBC for the Listen Again feature are not supported by your unit. Due to copyright reasons, BBC will not provide fallback streams in other formats for non live radio (e.g. Listen Again feature): You can read more about this here.   Please contact the  BBC to be informed about alternative ways of receiving Listen Again streams"

Oh, and they have no official user forum that I can find, so that's the end to any discussion on the matter.  (Some readers of this and related threads might feel that's a good thing!)

So, there might be much to criticise in Sonos's response so far, but if you've just bought a new HEOS, well it doesn't support HLS, Denon don't appear to be doing anything about it, put the blame squarely on the BBC and tell you to find another way of listening...
Userlevel 7
Badge +22
I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

But withanee the squeezebox won't work because the looking for another solution people don't want server either. Oops that also another strike for HEOS as you even need a server to access your music library. And if they wanted squeezebox server that can already be added to Sonos. Keep looking.
Userlevel 4
Badge +9
I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

I won't get into the "with server or not" debate, except to repeat I'm a very happy user of Minimstreamer with my Sonos gear, and if Listen Again mattered to me, I would no doubt install LMS instead.

But my point holds good - if you want an alternative out-of-the-box, wireless multi-room audio system that natively supports HLS streaming, there isn't one, even amongst the very newest kit (HEOS 1 launched only last month!) .  The closest alternative is to buy up some second-hand Squeezebox kit, and fire up LMS.  But then you can do that with Sonos anyway. 

So, unless someone knows different, it still looks like Sonos is the best bet for native HLS support in a multi-room wireless audio system - but the wait is painful.
Userlevel 7
Badge +22
I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

But withanee the guy at best buy told me it was future proof with never any software required and I wouldn't have to ever lift a finger or spend any additional money to adjust to changes in technology.
Userlevel 4
Badge +9
I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

careful Chris...
Userlevel 1
I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

As stated before, if Sonos want me to spend more money on their kit they have to communicate with me . I want to know when they intend to engineer a solution to the BBC HLS streams . After several months, there's been one solid reply... 'we don't publish roadmaps'.. Seriously, if you think that's enough, think again.
Userlevel 7
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I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

I don't disagree
Userlevel 1
I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

There's a lot of frustration here which could so easily be rectified by a Sonos response. That response should be in the form of...' It'll be another month ' or 'it'll be another 6 months' ... or even 'another 12 months'. I can understand Sonos being very nervous about this, but if they don't , they'll lose BBC users anyway and land themselves with a backlash which will take many years to repair.
Userlevel 7
Badge +22
I agree with the comments above.

SONOS charge a premium price but do not provide a matching level of support.

Very disappointed, if I was starting out today I would not buy SONOS.

I don't think we are going to hear anything from them until the current public beta cycle is complete.  Hope would be the fix will be in the next beta cycle, which they would know more once it begins.  The current beta which does not include the fix has been in process for some time (and appears again to be geared toward completing the wifi only access abilities - which is a big initiative for them that has been going on long before the BBC issue).  The new beta being public now means it won't be long before goes full version and cycle is complete (unless any unforeseen issues).