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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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Hi everyone, I know it's been a while since our last update and there's been a number of requests in this thread over the last few days for more detail on how HLS support for the BBC is progressing.

The news is good, everything is going well and we're still on track for this fall. Our development team has completed the initial implementation work for the form of HLS used by the BBC and we're currently in the process of testing and verifying that it meets our internal quality bar. We're also continuing our work with TuneIn and the BBC to ensure that the HLS streams are correctly served to you via Sonos.

As we get closer to a complete solution, we're discussing and planning a possible public beta program. You'll be among the first to know if there's an opportunity to beta test BBC HLS, and as people closest to the issue, your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

I'd like to thank everyone in this thread for continuing to show patience and support for each other, and especially to those who have discovered, shared, and assisted others with configuring available workarounds - it's inspiring. We'll be in touch with another update soon.
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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.
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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.
Appalling track record? How many other manufacturers even bother communicating with their customers at all?

Yes, appalling track record, in my opinion, as clearly evidenced within this very thread - and many other threads on a myriad of subjects.

Your argument is fallacious (two wrongs make a right). What other manufacturers do or don't do has no bearing. I wasn't making a comparison. You are.


You're absolutely right I was making a comparison, to highlight just how ridiculous your expectations are. Go make a comparison yourself to how often Sonos' competitors update their systems with new features, or tell their users anything at all about what their intentions are or flat out just don't support their products beyond the first year at all.

Appalling my foot, Sonos has spoiled people with the level of support and interaction they give their users, causing people to expect every complaint they have to be answered and addressed instantly, which is a completely unrealistic expectation for any technology company to live up to.
This is a work around for the problem provided by Withanee on another thread. It worked for me
There is an alternative to using Tunein to connect to the radio station - you can set up any (compatible) internet radio stream as a custom radio station in Sonos. You need to use the desktop Sonos controller (not phone or tablet app) then Manage>Add Radio Station...> then enter the URL for the stream and give it a name. It will then appear as a station under Radio>My Radio Stations>. This method has one big advantage over using the Tunein directory service - for stations with multiple streams at different bit rates, Tunein tells Sonos to use the first playable stream that it comes across, even if that's the lowest bitrate stream! So, before the recent BBC radio omnishambles, I used this method to make sure I always connected to the 128mbps AAC streams - Tunein often served up the 48kbps ones! The only downside is you lose the station logo and "what's playing" text.

This url is to a playlist which redirects to the BBC mp3 audio stream itself (which has a much longer URL...). To find similar urls for other channels, go here http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk/query.asp?feedme=bbc , go to the mp3 list and hover your mouse over the "128kpbs" button to display the url Copy that into Sonos (most are obvious, eg replacing "bbradio4fm" with "bbcradio4lw", etc.

http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk/bbc5live.pls
http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk/bbc5livesportsextra.pls

http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk/bbcradio2.pls
http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk/bbcradio4fm.pls
http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk/bbcradio4extra.pls
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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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11 months!!! That's how long this thread has been going on for.
Please please checking in for updates on the BBC listen again features... I getting a bit bored of checking back in to find there has been no movement. I used to tell people how good Sonos was. Now I tell them how Sonos don't respond to their customers, their product doesn't offer native support for the biggest content provider in the UK. I used to recommend Sonos to everyone now I tell people to stay away from it. 1 year should be long enough to sort this out. We will have self driving cars before Sobos finds a way to keep BBC listen agin through their system at this rate.
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So long as one of those rooms is a CONNECT, CONNECT:AMP, or PLAY:5 (the players with a line-in) you can send that signal to any combination of your other rooms. Which works out great, you just need to have another device connected such as your phone or computer, playing the HLS streams.

I'm a bit hesitant in recommending one solution over any other as all of these workarounds are not developed or tested by us. This means we can't speak to their quality, stability, or functionality. SBSurfer put some suggestions in here around using Stream What You Hear a couple pages back: https://en.community.sonos.com/music-services-and-sources-228994/support-for-bbc-radio-hls-streams-6597265?postid=15965736. And Chris tends to recommend LMS server or Mini server running on a NAS drive or another computer. But I'll let the community speak for itself on what works best for them.

Keep in mind, these aren't our recommended solutions, just something that might work while we get the HLS stations implemented. The MP3 streams that are currently in the system may work great for you too, sometimes they have trouble though so an alternative is always nice to have.


Edit: And Chris beat me in posting his recommendations 🙂
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3) You can install minimserver on a computer in your home and it will transcode the HLS streams and allow you to add new streams in your Sonos app that will play of your BBC stations. This has advantage of giving you station to play in Sonos app but doesn't give you recorded content like iplayers.


Just to add that Minimstreamer (which is what you need - Minimserver is related software and the name of the developer's site) also runs on Raspberry Pi and some NAS boxes. I've been running it on my Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 since February/March, and I now forget it's even there, as it is totally transparent to the user. Once set up, you don't have to interface with it at all - you just select the radio channel you want from within the Sonos app, like any other custom radio URL, and Minimstreamer does its stuff in the background. No worries about leaving a PC on 24/7 either, as the NAS is always on anyway with my music library etc.

We still get the very occasional skip in play, but nothing that spoils our enjoyment despite being heavy BBC radio listeners. These glitches (many hours/days apart) could be in the HLS stream or a hiccup in the NAS's processing, but they are so rare it doesn't matter.

I heartily recommended it, despite the lack of listen again features. The other options are good too, I'm sure. Still looking forward to the native Sonos solution though!
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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.
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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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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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.
Thank you for everything that has been done so that we are getting much better BBC streams. There's been a lot written, some of it in frustration and despair, but now we are within hailing distance of having something very good which works very well. So I think that thanks should be given to all those who have worked on this.
I'm sure we can all wish for more - that's how things progress, by never being completely satisfied with what we have. I would love to be able to have written information a bout what is playing, down to performer etc, just as I do on my car DAB radio. I don't know whether this information si provided in the streams....

Anyway, thanks again to the Sonos team from me and I hope also from everyone else on this message board.
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Make sure your hardware is upgraded to 6.0 (go under settings...about my sonos and look to see version controller and each hardware device is on).

If you have favorites saved delete them. Go back into TuneIn and play/re-add back from scratch.
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Thank you for listening to your customers Sonos (not all companies are doing this). Although it is early days it looks like I can switch the Raspberry pi off as playback has been super reliable since the update to HLS.
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Hi, no I didn't change anything. That's annoying you are still having issues because it brings back the question as to whether the problem lies locally or centrally somewhere. As I said I will be straight back on here if I get a repeat of the problem so in the interim if you hear nothing from me then my issue is 'quiet' .
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Good grief, you lot seem to talk as if this product is only for streaming BBC radio. That's an bonus feature to streaming music... which this does really well.
Im rather with Martin on this one.  There is not one sole purpose for sonos - its a streamer for multiple sources - radio, nas, music services. TV audio etc.  Most of the issues on this site relate specifically to an issue/shortcoming with one source or format whether that be apple music, spotify, deezer, DTS, BBC hls, hi-res etc.  What may be important for one person may be irrelevant for another but that doesnt make their issue any less valid than yours.  If you arent interested in following a particular topic then simply 'unfollow' it - dont chip in about how niche it might be to you when it might represent 99% of their usage for another.
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Good grief, you lot seem to talk as if this product is only for streaming BBC radio. That's an bonus feature to streaming music... which this does really well.
"I couldn't agree more Justin, I didn't buy sonos with the sole intention of listening to the BBC." - Dave 

Again: It's pretty weird someone posting in this thread if they are not interested in it.

The solution is simple.......

1. Look at the top of the thread where you will find an "UNFOLLOW" button. 

2. Click on that button and you will no longer be bothered by those of us desperate to get the BBC back.

3. Reflect on the obvious fact that your fellow man has different interests from you. 
Good grief, you lot seem to talk as if this product is only for streaming BBC radio. That's an bonus feature to streaming music... which this does really well.
As long as we can listen to the BBC radio stations without it dropping out, we'll be happy. So your news that this will be fixed by the end of this year is very encouraging.

In the same way as Digitally Imported isn't available to us in the UK, I hope that we will be able to add BBC iPlayer as a Music Service and listen to recently recorded shows that I have missed.

Having read loads of posts on this now, it seems that those two things are what we all want in the UK. Working radio stations and the ability to play previous shows.
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Hi Ryan, I'm listening to F1 practice on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra which I haven't been able to do since the change to MP3 streams.
Good grief, you lot seem to talk as if this product is only for streaming BBC radio. That's an bonus feature to streaming music... which this does really well.
The drop-outs on BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4 this week have been worse than ever, which is really infuriating. The sooner this is fixed the better. I have had to dust off an old FM radio and use this instead. It doesn't look or sound as good as the Sonos speaker which sits next to it, but at least it can play the BBC stations I listen to each day.
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Just posted this in another thread (sorry, getting used to the new forum)

For those who think the HLS streams are some sort of panacea, think again. The BBC might be providing 320K and 96K streams, but the audio quality doesn't sound very good, at least on the international stream (I can't test the UK one)

Listen for yourself

Download a media player which supports HLS - SMPlayer or MPC-HC - You need a pretty recent copy.

MPC-HC is fine for this purpose. It's just a ZIP or 7z file, no installation needed.

https://mpc-hc.org/downloads/


In MPC-HC, choose:

FILE > OPEN FILE


Enter the link below appropriate to your geographic area



International (everywhere but the UK) -96K is the highest bitrate available

http://as-hls-ww-live.bbcfmt.vo.llnwd.net/pool_6/live/bbc_6music/bbc_6music.isml/bbc_6music-audio%3d96000.m3u8?dvr_window_length=24



UK ONLY 320K

http://as-hls-uk-live.bbcfmt.vo.llnwd.net/pool_6/live/bbc_6music/bbc_6music.isml/bbc_6music-audio%3d320000.m3u8?dvr_window_length=24


**** And the proposed MPEG DASH format slated for future release...well, maybe not

http://www.streamingmedia.com/Articles/News/Online-Video-News/An-Unhappy-Surprise-MPEG-LA-Is-Forming-a-Patent-Pool-for-DASH-105419.aspx
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If you have Windows, you can send the above stream to Sonos using Stream What You Hear - http://www.streamwhatyouhear.com/ (credit to CapnLes)

Once installed, it will reside in the system tray. Right click on the icon and choose "Settings" - Set to MP3 and port 85



Then choose "Tools" > "Http Live Streaming"



You'll now be presented with the information required to enter when you create a custom radio station in Sonos

You can ignore the "Don't stream from this computer" message - just set the master audio volume of your PC to 0 (speaker volume tray icon)



Finally, choose "Live" as the audio source in Sonos (the custom radio station you just created)



It sounds pretty decent, actually. I take back what I said above. The 96K HLS is a reliable stream so far.

Yeah, it's extra steps. Just keep listening to the TuneIn 128K MP3 if you want simplicity at the cost of unreliability.
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11 months!!! That's how long this thread has been going on for.
Please please checking in for updates on the BBC listen again features... I getting a bit bored of checking back in to find there has been no movement. I used to tell people how good Sonos was. Now I tell them how Sonos don't respond to their customers, their product doesn't offer native support for the biggest content provider in the UK..


Yes, I've been checking this thread every other week and I've got to say that I'm running out of patience and this is seriously beginning to hack me off. I'm afraid to say that I too am no longer the Sonos evangelist I once was - The ability to use my Sonos systems with the BBC catch-up programmes was one of the key reasons I purchased them. I feel let down that this has been missing for so long and I feel we're strung along, I've tried work-arounds with additional devices going into my line-ins but they're hassles and compromises which go against the simplicity and user experience of Sonos.

Please can we have a meaningful official update with a clear indication of timescale for resolution?