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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

Someone has suggested unsubscribing to BT shared wifi because it can interfere with streaming band widths I'm no geek but just a frustrated Sonos user ytrying to listen to the BBC Unsubscribed last night and guess what no Sonos drop when listening to to BBC this morning and downloading the Times App on other laptops Can this be true or a freak of nature? I'll keep you posted

A frustrated Sonos owner
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'' BBC announce an outage on their Shoutcast stream around September 29/30 2015. If your radio stays silent during this period, don't panic. Streams should get back after a little break.''

Let's see what actually happens!
Someone has suggested unsubscribing to BT shared wifi because it can interfere with streaming band widths I'm no geek but just a frustrated Sonos user ytrying to listen to the BBC Unsubscribed last night and guess what no Sonos drop when listening to to BBC this morning and downloading the Times App on other laptops Can this be true or a freak of nature? I'll keep you posted

A frustrated Sonos owner

Do let us know if this solves the problem. So many thing changed last year when this started happening. Although I don't think the bandwidth required for inet radio is significant.
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Although I don't think the bandwidth required for inet radio is significant.

Correct. It really shouldn't strain your internet bandwidth unless you are on a very slow connection. What is much more important is that your broadband connnection is stable, and not dropping/re-syncing; that might not be so noticeable when downloading files or browsing the internet etc, but as streaming (or radio in particular) is a real-time activity, disconnects will quickly cause the stream buffers to run dry and the stream to dropout.

Having said all that, if the stream source itself is flaky, it doesn't matter how good or bad your broadband connection is. The BBC mp3 streams are known to be unreliable (at source) and prone to glitching. The standard advice is that if you have saved the radio channel you are listening to as a favourite in Sonos, go back to the Radio by Tunein list and search for the station again, then re-save as a favourite if you like. This forces the system to choose the 'best' stream for the station from the several options available.

Hopefully this will be a thing of the past when we eventually get the promised Sonos update to allow direct access to the BBC's more stable and higher fidelity HLS streams.
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Although I don't think the bandwidth required for inet radio is significant.
Hopefully this will be a thing of the past when we eventually get the promised Sonos update to allow direct access to the BBC's more stable and higher fidelity HLS streams.


Indeed, hopefully it won't be long, because despite continually re-searching and creating new BBC Radio links, Radio 4 is extremely flaky and subject to persistent dropouts. So far no feedback from Sonos as to why the recent deterioration in service.
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It is going to be flaky until HLS rollout by Sonos. The MP3 streams just are not and will never be reliable.
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Chris, I'm well aware that the BBC MP3 streams are not reliable. What I was pointing out, and also hoping for some comment and even action from Sonos on, was the fact that recently, those streams have become a lot more unreliable than they had been in recent months. In other words, the BBC radio service, as rendered by Sonos, has deteriorated. I would like to understand why.

I would also like Sonos, given that the HLS fix is not yet available, to explore the reasons for that deterioration in conjunction with Tunein and the BBC, with a view to making the interim solution more reliable.
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Well...hopefully HLS isn't to far off (as they have said it is in internal testing).

I would expect it to be on BBC end as far as the less reliability.
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@SteveM, I haven't heard anything specific around why service may have deteriorated, but I'll pass the word on to the team to take a closer look at the current status of the stations. There are a number of things which could cause radio streams to cut out, as strictly speaking radio stations may not buffer as heavily as other services, and would have a lower threshold for failures. So I do recommend testing other radio stations as well just to make sure you aren't running into something specific to your local system.

We'll let you know as soon as there's news to share about the HLS streams and when they may be available to test out as well. In the meantime, I'll check in with the team as I mentioned above.
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Ryan - I do play other radio stations through Sonos, and none of them are subject to the same poor streaming performance as experienced with the BBC radio streams. This problem is unique to the BBC radio service.
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Ryan - I do play other radio stations through Sonos, and none of them are subject to the same poor streaming performance as experienced with the BBC radio streams. This problem is unique to the BBC radio service.

OK, thanks for the details. It's always a good thing to test just to make sure.
RYAN - I like many people in the UK with a Sonos system generally listen to the BBC. I have tracked this post for six months, and as someone with more than one Sonos Sytem, I find it difficult to believe how long it is taking to sort this out - that is to stream BBC HLS. I think early on you mentioned that you already streamed something similar to HLS, so how hard can it be. Many of my firends have bought Sonos on the back of my installed systems but at present I have started to recommend the competition. I think the userbase deserves a proper timetable and your product should currently carry a warning label pre sale about the issues with the BBC.
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Audi18 - from what they have said they have it sorted out and it is in testing (just not the public beta). Expectations are that we will see it with the next public firmware release. From all rumors I would expect the next firmware release around the time of CES mid-October.
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I should have said CEDIA is mid-October so that would be expectation for hardware/software release date.
http://expo.cedia.net/expo-home
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I should have said CEDIA is mid-October so that would be expectation for hardware/software release date.
http://expo.cedia.net/expo-home


No chance of a software release within 2 weeks of those dates Chris. Sonos would have to be off their rockers to make a software release with all the incumbent risks, despite the Beta testing, that brings. Unless, of course, new software is required to drive new hardware that might be announced in which case there are probably a lot of blue arsed flies at Sonos HQ right now!
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I guess we will find out in 2 weeks!

I'm not sure why you say their would be risks in making a software release despite beta testing. Isn't that normally what the whole process is for?
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No criticism of Sonos intended in my post Chris. We know it's currently being tested internally as sonos told us and they also told us they were considering a Beta release (no hint as to whether that would be private or public).

My comment, rather, was aimed at you and pointing out that if you thought a major International trade show would be the perfect time to release new software then, in my opinion, you couldn't be further from the truth.
We'll soon see, I certainly hope I am barking up the wrong tree, but I'd be surprised if new software is released within 2 weeks of this show.
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I didn't take it as Sonos criticism Stuart.

But I think it would be the exact time to introduce new firmware and promote its improvements at same time as new hardware. Doesn't apple do that every single year with their new product introduction and new ios.

Seems if in fact we are getting some new hardware there would be new software coming out at the same time to support it.

I would say we know at least one thing with the leaks we have all seen and confirmation from Sonos Store in Europe that Play:5 replacement is pending. They will most likely have a Play:5 replacement announced at CEDIA. With that announcement at a minimum the current public beta will have to go final. Even if only the current public beta went final...that would at least then open the door for a new public beta with other features.

I am saying this based off all public knowledge known and that would include the fact that the current beta has been renamed 6.0. We can't possibly believe going from 5.4 minor release to 6.0 major release means adding Spotify improvements (as is only change in public beta). Therefore, yes I expect something much more and it to be released with the hardware announced at CEDIA.

Of course Sonos keeps things so close to their vest I could very well be wrong.


**Note - this is pure speculation on my part and I have no idea as to Sonos' actual software release schedule.

They have not stated it is not in any form of beta just that they are testing it (internally). We just know it is not in the current public beta - which frankly is just there to keep the new Spotify improvements in testing and not have those that were testing it in the prior public beta left out.
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By now you may have seen a few announcements from Sonos covering a new product, and a truly new software feature. We hope you’ll be as excited to read this news as we are to share it but we also know that the people following this thread will want to know what’s planned for the long-running issues affecting your ability to enjoy the BBC on Sonos.

In a few days, we plan to make available via public beta the BBC HLS streaming implementation which has until now been under development and internal quality testing. The quality of features that make it into public beta is generally very high, but we continue testing with a wider audience to make sure that we provide a truly rock-solid experience when the update is released to all.

As those closest to this issue, we would greatly appreciate your assistance in testing BBC HLS streams. If you’re interested, we will post a new announcement in a few days with further instructions for those of you not already participating in the public beta.
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That's very good news regarding the HLS for BBC stream Beta software. I'll be sure to provide appropriate feedback. I pretty much have a BBC stream on all over my house whilst awake and in.
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Simply Sound and Vision (in the UK) just sent a mailing with an invite to go and hear the new Play 5 on the 15th October ....
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The HLS streams sound great Stuart - you are going to be happy.
In a few days, we plan to make available via public beta the BBC HLS streaming implementation which has until now been under development and internal quality testing. The quality of features that make it into public beta is generally very high, but we continue testing with a wider audience to make sure that we provide a truly rock-solid experience when the update is released to all.

Excellent news, good work heading off the expected complaints caused by releasing new products without fixing existing issues by posting here. It's still an infuriating experience listening to BBC Radio on Sonos, so looking forward to the beta.

Will this be part of the normal beta stream or a separate beta signup?
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I believe this will hit the current public beta stream so if you are on the current beta you should get the HLS version.
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.... and note: HLS means then you should see pre-recorded content return as well to Tune-In.