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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 5
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I am running the beta software, and since installation, I am very pleased to say I have not had to restart the streaming of Radio 4 once. So far so good!

Steve.
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BBC HLS radio has been working fine for me today, but I was listening directly through the tunein app as I was not at home. Seems to be ok at home also. If you are on Beta and have a problem try searching for the station again to make sure you are picking up the HLS streams. Local radio still appears to be on mp3 through Sonos.
Flawless performance on the beta, can listen to the radio in the morning now without having to make regular trips back to my phone or the unit to pause and restart the stream.

Played the radio for hours at a time without a single drop.
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Hang on a minute, in another post SONOS said the controller doesn't touch the audio just sends commands to he PLAYs.
So who's doing the decoding, must be the plays!

So why won't this work on an IOS app?
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How do I know I'm getting the HLS stream?
Userlevel 7
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How do I know I'm getting the HLS stream?

If you are on 5.4 (No Beta) then you have the mp3 (old) stream. If you are on Beta you have the HLS stream.

There is no way to check but Sonos told me you would get the correct one if you are on Beta.

Also, expect the BBC streams to be way more stable
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Cheers Stuart_W We did have drop out in the kitchen while listening to BBC R2 quite often so hopefully this will be fixed.
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Based on my testing I'd guess that tunein serves MP3 streams from an IOS v5.4 controller even though the bridge and speaker are running v6 beta because I get dropouts if I start the tunein stream from my iPad but not if I start it from my Mac (I did delete the stream and add it from my Mac before I did the testing). If I test a manually added stream it is solid which ever controller I start it from.

Andy
I uploaded the Beta software this morning. I have been suffering drop out on BBC stations for a long time, but just put up with it. Spotify never drops out. Since implementing the new software, no drop out. For some reason the Radio issues are worse in the morning so let's see what happens during the week.
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All working fine.

Tested with direct url and tunein.

Well done, Sonos!

And now .... we all look forward to a full BBC iplayer 'service' !!!
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Hang on a minute, in another post SONOS said the controller doesn't touch the audio just sends commands to he PLAYs.
So who's doing the decoding, must be the plays!

So why won't this work on an IOS app?

Correct logic, and very good question!

I'm sure HLS is coming to the iOS controller (though as previously stated it will likely be in the full release) but I am curious as to what part the controller is playing in ensuring Tunein serves the HLS streams, when outwardly there appears to be no difference between the controller versions with HLS and those without it. The Play is doing the HLS calling and decoding, and Tunein's servers are deciding to send the URL of the HLS stream to the player in response to the player's call (or so I imagine) So what is the controller doing differently in the HLS beta version compared to the non-HLS iOS version?

Or... is it the controller that is calling out to Tunein for the stream URL, then passing that URL to the player? In that case, maybe the beta controller sends a different request to Tunein, asking specifically for the URL of an HLS stream?

I think I might have answered my own question...:)
Userlevel 7
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When I asked the question of Sonos they told me as long as you upgrade the hardware (as decoding done on hardware) it will work on ios controller

So what they said was that if you upgrade to the current public beta 6.0 via desktop or Android.... when you go in your ios controller it should actually play the HLS streams.

I do not know how TuneIn decides if you are HLS capable or not but the impression I got asking Sonos was that it asks the hardware and therefore ios devices still on 5.4 would play HLS as long as the player itself was upgraded.

And of course we will eventually see a full release which would have an ios 6.0
Userlevel 2
Been running Beta today, Radio's 4 and 6 have been playing with no problems and an alarm has just started correctly. Thank you Sonos - although I'll not disconnect the Rasp Pi just yet (-;

Can anyone clarify whether the podcast/listen again links should work or not? I am seeing recent programmes but they're not loading for me.
Can anyone clarify whether the podcast/listen again links should work or not? I am seeing recent programmes but they're not loading for me.

It was noted that Play Again service would be lacking at first.
Hey there,
I have the Sonos Alarm set every morning to stream the BBC Radio 2 station, and after about 15 seconds of playback it tends to drop out, and the only way to get it to come back is to go to the software and tell it to play. Im hearing fab things about the Beta software, and did apply to be given a download link, but no dice, is there a way I can get to it at all?

Cheers
Devine
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If you ask you are automatically enrolled in the private beta. You need to download the desktop or android beta (no ios beta). Once you download and install your hardware will update to the new HLS ability. I would re-setup your alarm to make sure hitting right link.
I did ask, and got an automated reply saying if I qualified I would be notified. So not sure where the automatic enroll is or would be?
Is there a way of re requesting?
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Did you enroll in the public or the private beta - check again. Login your Sonos account. Goto options at top right and go down to beta. There should be a way to enroll in PUBLIC beta right there.
Legend thanks Chris, Ill look into it 🙂
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Devine84 I usually do the same alarm but turned it of while we had visitors.
I'll re enable it in beta 6.0 and see how it does.

I did get the odd occasion where it was either not playing or stopped prematurely.
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"Listen Again" on the BBC was absoute rubbish tomight. Every item returned on the search on the Sonos desktop app resulted in an "Unable to play: file not found" message when I tried to play it through Sonos. Plays fine through tunein app. Frustrating.
"Listen Again" on the BBC was absoute rubbish tomight. Every item returned on the search on the Sonos desktop app resulted in an "Unable to play: file not found" message when I tried to play it through Sonos. Plays fine through tunein app. Frustrating.

Why is it frustrating when Sonos warned that the Listen Again functionality would not be covered by the current HLS implementation? Did you really expect something to be fixed that was expressly omitted from the list of things being fixed?
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No. What they said was that listen again would remain as mp3. They were playing ok before and are not playing now even though they still show up in the search. If it shows in the Sonos search and then you get a "file not found" message that is frustrating. Nothing to do with whether it is HLS or not.
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Devine84 so far so good with the alarm
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Hello,

My experience has been quite positive - both in terms of quality of the sound and the elimination of drop outs, but I will reiterate that if you have stations saved in your Favourites that you should delete them and re-add from TuneIn as the stream seems to be linked to the Favourite. From a previously stored Favourite it seems like you will play the old mp3 stream with all of the intermittent issues that entails.

Sonos should probably put a notice/warning to that effect when they go Public with this, otherwise there will likely be complaints.