Generating the RTMP media stream URL for the BBC iPlayer

January 24th, 2008 by Strawp

Over a year since the last update, yeah I know. I’ve been busy with other stuff 😛

I thought I’d better link this up though. At the end of December 2007 the BBC launched the web-based Flash version of it’s iPlayer server (which allows you to watch TV from within the last week). This was prompted somewhat by the backlash against the Windows XP only version of their iPlayer software which pissed off a lot of Mac, Linux (and even Vista) users. The new service works on any browser with a recent version of the Flash player installed, thus requiring no other specialist software.

This is great because it also means that the shows (that I’ve already paid for with my license fee) are no longer restricted to Windows DRM and it’ll work on my Ubuntu laptop.

Predictably, a thread had already started on the XBox Media Center forums prior to this requesting a script to make iPlayer content play on XBMC although with DRM and closed source software this was unlikely to happen.

After the web player was launched, the thread exploded into activity and it was clear that a few people in the community (notably Phil Wilson) and myself were trying to work out a way of side-stepping the iPlayer flash client to get to the juicy video goodness behind it.

Skip forward a week or so and after I’d trawled through a decompiled version of the flash player, I’ve come up with a script which does just that:


Give this CLI script a programme ID (PID) or the URL of a BBC programmes page or iPlayer page and it will output the media stream. The community is now waiting for some enterprising chap to get RTMP support into mPlayer or curl.

The discussion is currently continuing with lots of frightfully intelligent people on the BBC Backstage mailing list.

One Response to “Generating the RTMP media stream URL for the BBC iPlayer”

  1. Nicola Raines Says:

    Very well written post. If you need to listen to BBC Radio on the iPhone – I strongly recommend BBC Radio iPhone Streams – it is easily the quickest and most reliable way to listen to BBC Radio on the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and it’s free at