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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.

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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

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Thank you for the update John!
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Thanks Withanee for the clarification on Minimstreamer. Great info as always!
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Real looking forward to this development.
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John, thanks for the update. I hope that Sonos now recognise the value of being more open with communication on these types of fixes; you will have noticed that since Sonos came up with some timescales, the atmosphere on this thread has changed, very much for the better.

Keep up the good work in communicating with us!
Steve.
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The BBC mp3 streams are now much improved - thank you. The tip to remove the radio stations from your favourites and re-add them makes a huge difference to their stability. Highly recommend doing this.

Await the HLS streams eagerly and look forward to the public beta!
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Thanks for the update John. I saw a Beta 5.5 popup on my iPod app but it said it was fixes to Spotify and wouldn't work with iOS so i didnt install it. Does the 5.5 beta contain the HLS streams also? Thanks
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Thanks for the update John. I saw a Beta 5.5 popup on my iPod app but it said it was fixes to Spotify and wouldn't work with iOS so i didnt install it. Does the 5.5 beta contain the HLS streams also? Thanks

The current open beta does not include support for the HLS BBC streams. We're working on a beta plan currently, but the testing isn't at the public beta stage yet.
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Paul - assumption would be that when the HLS beta does come out it will not be for ios. However, you would be able to use a desktop controller to update the Sonos hardware and once the hardware updated it should be HLS capable. This is me thinking out loud though - because your IOS device would be running older software TuneIn would still serve you the MP3 versions. Meaning you would have to manually add a BBC station until such time as it came out of beta.

So users like yourself are probably going to need a list posted here of what the HLS version URL's are to manually add......

Just thinking what may be needed. Have no idea what Sonos is going to provide in the beta.
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"Due to rights restrictions this part of the program is unavailable"

BBC Radio for on TuneIn at 22:30 BST today 8th September.

When will this problem be solved - I have suffered months of appalling service - it's time for Sonos and/or the BBC to sort this.

No more procrastination - DO IT.
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They have said next public beta pretty much. We don't know when that is coming.
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Can I just remind Sonos that this problem is not fixed, despite the thread being fairly quiet recently. Currently the BBC Radio 4 service is dire, many many dropouts over the last couple of days (only with the BBC radio service) - and yes, I have tried deleting favourites and restarting etc... - this is still an ongoing problem, and if you are working with the BBC and Tunein (and this did seem to result in a period of slightly better service) then can I encourage you to look at this again in the absence of a more permanent solution.

Steve.
Is this specifically for the BBC HLS streams or will Sonos app developers also be able to use HLS in the apps they're developing? If the former, do you have a timeline when HLS will be available in the SMAPI to app developers? Thank you.
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Is this specifically for the BBC HLS streams or will Sonos app developers also be able to use HLS in the apps they're developing? If the former, do you have a timeline when HLS will be available in the SMAPI to app developers? Thank you.

We're adding full scale HLS support to Sonos, not just for BBC stations. Though I don't have full details on what will be available to start with for our music partner development, other services will be able to use HLS too.

Just a not on the recent BBC Radio 4 trouble, there was some local only content playing on that station, which wasn't available on Sonos. The MP3 streams we're using for that station are international only, no matter where you're listening from. The HLS stations should address that issue as well.

We're moving forward with our beta plans for the HLS streaming and we'll let you know when we have more details to share on testing the new format. No start date right now to share on the beta, but we'll let you know as soon as that information is available. Generally speaking, public beta dates and plans may change as a result of how private testing goes.
I've been watching the various forum threads regarding the loss of the previous BBC streams, and like many others have found myself frustrated by the many factors that seem to be stalling everything (it seems the BBC also weren't overly helpful by not notifying Sonos in advance to help them prepare). Hopefully it seems a solution is imminent. Can you confirm that it will incorporate local streams again (currently I can't listen to most sport on Sonos because it is the international stream)? I am also hoping that unlocking this new HLS format will also allow Sonos to work with the BBC to create a solution that will allow us to stream catch-up radio content like we can on all our other non-Sonos devices.
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Yes Sonos will be able to play local HLS streams once the HLS beta goes public. Pre-recorded should also be available. However, expectation is it will still be in format it was prior to HLS and that is within the TuneIn application (not a separate iplayer application). Sonos has said TuneIn will remain its partner for all live and recorded BBC content.
Thanks Chris. Local HLS will hopefully at least put us back where we were. It's a shame about the recorded content, because the selection of BBC content on TuneIn is very poor compared to what is available to the public in the UK on iOS/Android etc. We can listen again to most programmes whenever we want for upto 30 days after they were first broadcast; maybe over time, with native HLS support, we can find a way with a workaround to link to a unique stream for a specific programme like iPlayer Automator does.
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Thanks for the updates Ryan S. It's been a loooong time coming. When I first got my Sonos system over 3 years ago. The BBC support was ok and when ever anyone asked me about Sonos I told them how good the system System is and that they should get one. Which a few did. Over the past year I have been telling people to stay clear of Sonos until they sort BBC listen again services. As most people wanted to be listen to their favourite radio programme at other than their live broadcast. I really hope hope Sonos sorts this out and it goes back to becoming a brilliant product. At present its very below par
9 years: 7 sonos units later: it will be good to get back to a dedicated BBC "listen again" service again via Sonos. It arrived on the Sonos unannounced and was found by serendipity. Changed my listening habits: It gradually disappeared: Resorted to playing via IOS and line in but by then had become accustomed to the previous simplicity. Please Sonos advise us via an update as soon as it is available. Thanks in anticipation.
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Continuing dropouts are still a regular occurrence. Ryan, are your technical staff still working with BBC and Tunein? Can you ask them to do what they can to improve the existing service, as it has recently (over the last week or two) worsened considerably. Seems to be much worse in the morning, often starting to drop out at 7am, and from then on I am having to restart the stream multiple times. Really this is making listening to the BBC via Sonos impractical. Please try and find some way of improving the existing service as you move towards beta test of the new HLS streams.

Steve.
Yes after at least a year of no dropouts I had a spate of them on BBC a couple of weeks ago, requiring continual restarting of the stream. Assumed it was local to me until I saw StevM's post. Seems to be stable for the last week.
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Current dropouts are not the fault of TuneIn - it is the the BBC MP3 streams that have issues. Until HLS rollout your dropouts are from the BBC themselves. Hopefully you will have HLS soon so the flakey MP3 streams will be a thing of the past.
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Chris, if you look further back in the thread, you will see that Ryan stated that Sonos were working with the BBC and Tunein to try to make the existing streams more reliable. Therefore so far as I am aware, Tunein are involved together with the BBC in providing Sonos users with better interim streams. I'd prefer someone from Sonos to comment on this.

Steve.
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The BBC streams via Tunein are also borked on Squeezeboxes - endless stops, rebuffering ... it's the infamous BBC Audio Factory messing around again For what it's worth the HLS streams are working fine.
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When these troubles come up we tend to test the streams through TuneIn and independently. You can look up the current streaming URLs for the MP3 BBC stations and add them manually to Sonos, or another media player such as VLC, and most times the stream is still having trouble. Also, some of the BBC stations have multiple streams available and our work with TuneIn tries to help make sure you get the stream which will work best for you.

When we start identifying an issue with any of the stations or streams we'll reach out to both to see what can be done. We've been working with TuneIn (previously Radiotime) for a long time as our radio partner, so with station issues we almost always reach out to them as well. As you know, BBC hasn't been a direct partner of ours in the past.

I'll be sure to update the team that there's been more reports of trouble on some of the stations from you all. They'll take a look to see if there's any stability work to be done, but unfortunately the MP3 streams can be a bit unreliable at times. If you haven't tried searching for the station fresh from the Radio section and playing it instead of using your favorites that may help, it might get you a different stream, though not always.

On the HLS side of things, the last update is still the current one, beta testing is getting prepared, and though we don't have a start date right now to share, we'll let you know as soon as that information is available. I'm sure you're all as excited to have BBC HLS stations streaming in your homes as we are.

Thanks and I'll let you know when we have more to share.
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"Due to rights restrictions this part of the programme is unavailable" has now been playing for 10 minutes - initiated by s clip about the IRA and John McDonnell. There's no way that this clip would have gone on for this long - surely the main Today programme should have started playing again after the particular clip - so the BBC clearly have some problems here. Frankly the BBC radio service is not a workable solution at the moment on Sonos - I am going back to analogue radio until you have a proper solution for this. Sonos clearly do not have a practical solution here in the interim. Playing the BBC through my phone comes up with an item about Lidl. So while the initial playing of the rights message may be justified, the proper stream does not resume. Just ridiculous.

Please get this sorted out Sonos. I appreciate this is not of your making but you are the only channel we have into the BBC.

Steve.