Home > Uncategorized > BBC iPlayer hogs Upload Bandwidth

BBC iPlayer hogs Upload Bandwidth

February 6th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

BBC iPlayerI tried BBC’s iPlayer last year, even though they still have it locked into Microsoft, but along with several others, could not get it working. All I got was meaningless error messages.

I tried again last month. This time it did give a more meaningful error “there is a problem with DRM in your Windows Media Player, click here for information on how to fix this”, except that the link only sent me to a non-responsive web server.

Last night I tried again, and the link worked, except that it didn’t take me to a solution page as expected, but to a general FAQ site on iPlayer. After several page-digging minutes later (you would expect this issue to be on the front page of the FAQ) I managed to find a page describing a solution. I tried it and, what do you know, it worked.

Not surprisingly, the problem was with Microsoft’s Media Player and the solution involved deleting some DRM system files, a visit to a Microsoft page to re-download DRM files and since we’re talking Microsoft, the obligatory reboot. Not the sort of hoops a user should have to jump through just to install a program.

I then downloaded a handful of BBC programmes without problem. (One of my daughters was especially happy to see a CBeebies programme among them.)
BBC iPlayer Swamps Upload (Red Line)After they had downloaded, I noticed the lights on the router were still flashing away. I checked my usage graphs and was surprised to see my upload was being completely swallowed up by the iPlayer software busy sharing the programmes with other users. (See red line on graph). Now before you say anything, I fully understood before I installed iPlayer that it was a peer-to-peer application, but I have downloaded linux distros before using a BitTorrent type client and have never seen my upload swamped like this. I can only assume that there are so many other users on iPlayer that any free upload seeds will be quickly picked up and hammered.

Now we come to the important missing part – there is no way to control this except the option not to share when the iPlayer download manager is closed. Any normal respectable BitTorrent client allows you to limit the number of connections and bandwidth used for upload. I presume this option is missing, because the BBC wants to maximise the number of connections available to other users, and therefore the quality of their experience.

I had similar problems installing Sky Anytime (same kontiki based engine underneath) so I thought I’d give that a go too. This time it installed OK (the BBC fix had obviously had its effect here too) and I downloaded a few programmes. However, once you shut Sky Anytime down, it does not stop sharing files with others and doesn’t give you the option to stop either, because the kontiki engine is installed as a service in Windows.

The only way to stop it, is to fire up Task Manager and kill ‘kservice.exe’ and ‘khost.exe’, however these will reappear if you reboot or restart the clients. I have since gone into services and changed ‘kservice.exe’ from Automatic to Manual start.

Apparently, uninstalling the clients will not uninstall the kontiki engine. Sky provide a downloadable program called Kclean to remove these (BBC used to, but have removed the link), but I don’t want to remove the clients, I just want software that doesn’t hog my connection.

The other missing configuration option is upload/download ratio. Normally on a Torrent client you can set the maximum ratio of upload to download, so for example for every 1MB downloaded, the client will not share that 1MB file more than twice. Both Sky and BBC clients are fixed at unlimited. That is just taking the P***.

I have found this useful piece of software from ‘the Technophile’, which monitors both iPlayer and Channel 4’s 4od player and kills the upload automatically when you close them. It doesn’t mention Sky, but it has a simple option to ‘Stop Sharing now’ which stops the kontiki service and therefore any player system relying on it. Highly recommended.


Sky Tray IconIt does work with the Sky software. When you close the Sky software (from the tray icon) BeebAnd4Monitor spots this too and stops Kontiki.

Limiting iPlayer’s use of Bandwidth

Unfortunately, when iPlayer (or 4od/Sky Anytime) are running to allow you to watch programmes, they will be hammering your connection for what they can. I can recommend NetLimiter to restrict how much bandwidth you allow them to use.

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  1. February 10th, 2008 at 11:46 | #1
    Using Internet Explorer Internet Explorer 7.0 on Windows Windows XP

    Thanks for mentioning my software! If you (or anyone) has any feedback on making it better, I’m happy to hear about it. I’ve linked back to you, by the way…

  2. February 10th, 2008 at 16:55 | #2
    Using Mozilla Firefox Mozilla Firefox on Mac OS X Mac OS X Mach

    No problem, I have also added it you my software links page.

  3. Nick W
    April 22nd, 2008 at 20:31 | #3
    Using Mozilla Firefox Mozilla Firefox on Windows Windows XP

    Hi Ian,

    I downloaded 4OD and did not like the way it stayed in the system tray, even after I used msconfig to stop kservice.exe and khost.exe from starting (once I worked out that Kontiki was part of the doanload). Then I found your article, most informative, many thanks indeed.

    Why can’t Sky, BBC, C4 explain somewhere what their software does and allow you to set reasonable limits? Very bad show, what?

  4. April 24th, 2008 at 06:43 | #4
    Using Mozilla Firefox Mozilla Firefox on Windows Windows XP


    Why can’t Sky, BBC, C4 explain somewhere what their software does and allow you to set reasonable limits? Very bad show, what?

    Probably because if they allowed you to throttle the connection, it would impact on the ‘download experience’ of users (ie slower downloads). They would rather hammer your upload to make iPlayer look good.

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