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What is BBC iPlayer?

What is BBC iPlayer? 

Latest news for BBC iPlayerThe BBC iPlayer is a catch-up service run by the BBC that lets you enjoy programmes you might have missed throughout the week. 

With iPlayer the last seven days of TV and radio programmes will be made available for viewing or listening again. You can either stream shows and episodes or download them to your hard drive. 

Downloaded episodes normally expire after 30 days but depending on the various rights issues, some downloaded programmes such as Crimewatch might expire before this. 

Is BBC iPlayer free? 

The BBC iPlayer is free to use, though you’ll still need to have paid for a TV Licence if you want to watch anything on it. 

So while the iPlayer itself is ‘free’ in the sense that there’s no pay-per-view cost or subscription, you’re still technically paying for it. 

What is BBC iPlayer? iPhone and iPad apps can download shows

Can I watch everything from the last seven days on BBC iPlayer? 

The majority of programmes and shows broadcast by the BBC will make their way to iPlayer. Not everything will be available however and not everything will be available right away. 

For example, Saturday night broadcasts of Match of the Day aren’t available on iPlayer. This is due to restrictions on broadcast rights. 

MOTD2 is available to watch on iPlayer but can’t be until the following Tuesday night, again due to rights reasons. MOTD2 downloads also have a 7 day shelf life. Both programmes can however be streamed live from BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport site. 

For the 2013/2014 season, the BBC has negotiated a deal with the FA Premier League that will see both Match of the Day and MOTD2 available on BBC iPlayer from the following Monday night. 

How can I get BBC iPlayer? 

BBC iPlayer is available on hundreds of devices. Games consoles like the Xbox 360, tablets like the iPad and portable media players from the like of Archos, Creative Zen and Samsung, the iPlayer is virtually everywhere. 

The most common way people watch programmes on iPlayer is over the web, on their desktop. Windows PCs, Macs and machines running Linux are all supported. 

To start streaming shows, simply go to on your browser – Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari are all supported. 

To download shows you’ll need to install the iPlayer Desktop app on your computer. This also requires an install of Adobe AIR. If you’ve not already got AIR on your machine then you’ll be able to download it from the BBC along with the iPlayer Desktop program at the same time. 

Should this not work for whatever reason, you can download AIR directly from Adobe here

What is BBC iPlayer? iPhone and iPad apps can download shows

Using the BBC iPlayer Desktop 

The BBC iPlayer Desktop is where you’ll watch all iPlayer programmes that you’ve set to download. On the iPlayer site itself, you can pick programmes and build up a download queue. 

Over on the right the times for each download will be displayed. If you’ve got a slow or busy connection, you can pause and cancel downloads as you need to. Once you’ve got some programmes downloaded you can start watching. Programmes that are about to expire are listed in the Expiring section. If you’ve downloaded plenty of programmes then you can search through your downloads with the A-Z tool. 

Live TV and Radio can also be watched/listened to directly from the iPlayer Desktop as well. So once you’ve got the iPlayer Desktop downloaded, you don’t have to watch everything through your browser. 

How can I get BBC iPlayer on my TV?  

Through your digital TV service

BBC iPlayer comes pre installed on Virgin Media TiVo, BT Vision and Freesat set-top boxes and smart TVs.

Virgin Media TiVo customers will find the BBC iPlayer app available in the Apps and Games section.
On BT Vision, you can access BBC iPlayer at channel 990.

On Freesat you can get BBC iPlayer on channel 901.

On a smart TV or Blu-ray player

The majority of smart TVs and connected Blu-ray players with internet access will be able to download a BBC iPlayer app or may have the app already installed. Over 500 devices have access to iPlayer in total.

The BBC has a comprehensive list on its site, listing the manufacturers whose smart TV and Blu-ray products come with iPlayer access built in or available to download from an app store.

Using your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, plus Apple TV and AirPlay

If your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch is updated to iOS 5 or above then you should be able to stream BBC iPlayer shows and episodes to a non-smart TV or monitor using AirPlay.

Apple AirPlay needs your home WiFi network to work and you’ll need to plug an Apple TV receiver into your TV’s HDMI slot.

Once you’ve done this, connect your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch to WiFi, load up the BBC iPlayer app and then tap the AirPlay icon to stream programmes to your HD TV set.

Using an Android phone or tablet and an HDMI cable

If your Android phone or tablet has a HDMI slot or a micro USB port with MHL connections, then you can connect your phone to your TV using an HDMI-HDMI cable or a micro USB-HDMI cable.

Load up the BBC iPlayer for Android app on your phone or tablet to play programmes on your TV this way. 

Previous news stories about BBC iPlayer

New shows to premiere online in 2013 

The BBC will premiere 40 hours of new shows through BBC iPlayer in a year-long trial which could begin the end of TV schedules.

On February 1, Netflix launched the entire 13-episode series of its remake of 1980s political thriller House of Cards online, and iPlayer saw 2.3 billion requests for TV and radio shows in 2012.

This is the first time, though, that a major broadcaster has decided to show programmes online before they’ve been broadcast on TV, although the BBC has run online pilots and mini-episodes.

What is BBC iPlayer? New shows to premiere online in 2013
Dr Who web-series Pond Life caused a splash online

The BBC Trust approved the plans at a meeting in December, but has yet to decide which shows will get their online premieres.

The BBC said: “During 2012, the BBC brought selected online-only programmes to audiences. These included BBC Three comedy pilots, a Doctor Who web series called Pond Life, and curated archive programmes for BBC Four.

“We will build on this in 2013, and make more programming exclusively available to our audiences via BBC iPlayer.”

Lovefilm is launching childrens’ and comedy pilots online this spring, while Netflix has a raft of exclusive series coming in the year ahead, including Lilyhammer, Hemlock Grove, and the UK showing of Chuck‘s final season.

February 7, 2013

Let your mood choose what to watch 

The BBC has launched the latest version of an iPlayer interface designed to help you find TV shows that suit your mood.

One of the most interesting experiments at BBC R&D is the Mood GUI for iPlayer, which gives you a choice of shows based on their pace and seriousness.

Move the sliders to fast-paced and humorous, and you’ll find Never Mind The Buzzcocks and The Graham Norton Show.

At the other end of the spectrum, it’s no surprise to find that the BBC’s most serious and slow-paced shows include This Week and Panorama.

Mood GUI for iPlayer enhanced

BBC R&D’s Sam Davies adds: “Whilst we’ve initially released this based on iPlayer content, our goal is that it will help people find new entertaining content from the BBC Archives.

“Users can search for a programme that they know of and then find programmes from the archive which have similar (or opposite) moods.

“We hope to further extend this by adding topic similarity too – allowing users to find programmes with not only similar moods but also about similar things.”

The Mood GUI analyses the differences in images and brightness of each show, and the loudness of different frequencies, which are then compared to a mood database compiled in a user trial in 20122.

December 17, 2012 

Coming to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean devices before Christmas

The BBC has announced that BBC Media Player for Android – the official Android iPlayer app – will be rolling out to all devices running 4.2 Jelly Bean in time for Christmas.

Support for a wider range of devices with varying screen sizes has been promised, to the cheer of many who want to catch up with the latest episodes of The Killing and Strictly in bed.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Asus Nexus 7 will also be the first tablets to benefit from a newer, updated UI that’ll be expanded on in future updates.Coming to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean devices before Christmas

The BBC’s head of BBC iPlayer, programmes and on demand Dave Price announced a number of new changes which will standardise quality across devices and bring the experience more in line with that enjoyed on iPhones and iPads.

The highest quality streams won’t kick in until a device is connected to WiFi or 4G and will be reserved for devices with the capability to play them. Smaller, less powerful devices will only be able to access lower quality streams.

All of this should help Android iPlayer updates roll out more or less in tandem with iOS updates in the future.

One final bonus about this most recent update is that we can finally listen to BBC radio shows on our phones and tablets with the screen off, as nature intended.

You can download BBC Media Player for Android now.


December 13, 2012

Next stop, the smart, addictive iPlayer

BBC iPlayerThe BBC is looking for ways to keep viewers inside the iPlayer and introduce them to new shows.

Improvements could include a Netflix-style countdown to automatically play another show, or multiple video streams and extra information to support live shows.

The iPlayer Innovation Brief shows the corporation’s targets and will be discussed at a special event in January – with tickets available to the public.

“The primary motive audiences give for watching TV is ‘to relax’ and most TV is watched at the end of the day in the comfort of the living room,” it adds.

“Research shows that audiences come to iPlayer looking for a ‘lean-back’ experience, but find the journey to reach content can be a ‘lean-forward’ task.

“We want to evolve the product to better meet the sought-after experience of relaxation, so that watching content on iPlayer – whether live or catch-up – is as rewarding as can be.”

At the top of the list is ‘encouraging users in a continuous experience’, to stop users dipping in and out of iPlayer for just one programme, and staying to watch more.

Outside of the application, the BBC also wants to remind users the iPlayer is ‘a smart alternative’, to encourage us to use it more, on the move and at home.

The iPlayer engineers are also worried that it’s intimidating for new users who aren’t confident with technology, and want to overcome that.

The final target is helping us to discover ‘hidden treasures’ that we might have missed, which match our tastes.

The BBC is already drawing on innovations it tested in its Olympics video player, but also names features from Netflix, Vevo and the Sky Sports for iPad app.

The iPlayer Innovation Brief will be discussed in London on January 22, 2013, at a BBC Connected Studio event open to BBC staff, small, medium and micro businesses, individuals, and digital agencies from the creative sector, who want to work with the BBC.

November 29, 2012 


iPlayer joins On Demand Catch-up on Sky+HD

It’s been a while, but BBC iPlayer is now finally available on Sky+HD.

Episodes of Doctor Who sit side by side with EastEnders, Doctor Who and last week’s final episode of The Thick of It, plus other programmes from all BBC channels broadcast over the last seven days.

What is BBC iPlayer? Now available on Sky+HD

The Beeb’s popular on-demand platform is now available in the on-demand menu of your Sky+HD box. You should already have iPlayer on your Sky+HD now – no manual updates or installs are required, it should be there when you nest turn on your TV.

All you need to have done to get BBC iPlayer on your Sky+HD box is to have the device connected to your broadband router, same as you would if you wanted to access ITV Player or Demand 5 on Sky+HD.

Channel 4’s 4oD service will be coming to Sky+HD next year, giving Sky the royal flush of PSB on-demand services.

October 30, 2012

iPlayer headed to Sky+HD boxes October 30

BBC iPlayer is available on hundreds of devices and the Sky+HD box is none of them – until next Tuesday.

The popular streaming service will be landing on Sky+HD boxes from October 30 onwards and will be accessible from the on-demand menu. From the same menu you can access catch-up programmes from the likes of ITV Player and Demand 5 as well as a number of Sky channels including Sky 1, Sky Living, FX and Recombu Digital favourite Sky Atlantic.

The update will roll out automatically – keep checking your Sky+HD box for updates next week.

October 26, 2012

BBC Media Player rolls out to Android phones and tablets

The BBC has updated its BBC Media Player, the new service running as a platform BBC iPlayer on Android phones and tablets.

BBC Media Player streams BBC TV and radio programmes to a virtually every Android device out there, from devices running crusty old Android 2.2 Froyo to bleeding-edge 4.1 Jelly Bean.

What's new with BBC iPlayer? BBC Media Player rolls out to Android phones and tablets

As well as wider support for devices, minor bugs have been nixed and automatic landscape orientation should now be working.

Both our Samsung Galaxy S2’s on 2.3 Gingerbread and 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich are playing ball with the update, but comments on Google Play reveal that Asus Nexus 7 owners aren’t having much luck. So if you’ve splashed out on one of those 7-inch slates, keep this in mind before you update.

You can download BBC Media Player for Android now from Google Play.

October 19, 2012 

BBC Media Player for Android to replace iPlayer next week

The BBC is to launch a new BBC Media Player for Android next week, replacing the older BBC iPlayer for Android app.

As Flash makers Adobe drops support for the Android version of the Flash Player the BBC, will launch a new app which doesn’t rely on on Flash.

BBC Media Player for Android will work on a greater range of devices, including those Android phones and tablets which have upgraded to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and older devices still running on Android 2.2 Froyo and 2.3 Gingerbread.

September 20, 2012

iPlayer mobile downloads land on iPhone and iPad

What is BBC iPlayer? iPhone and iPad apps can download showsThe BBC has enabled mobile downloads for its iPhone and iPad BBC iPlayer apps. Now we can finally download shows in preparation for the long commute home where streaming shows over 3G or WiFi would be impossible.

You’ll need to download programmes and episodes over WiFi. One neat feature of this new update is that if your WiFi connection is interrupted, any downloads in the queue will be paused and will resume once you reconnect to a WiFi hotspot.

As with the iPlayer Desktop app you can queue up a bunch of programmes to view at once and downloads will automatically expire after a certain time period, 30 days in most cases.

Once you start watching a programme, you’ve got a 7 day window to finish watching it. So as well as great for those commutes where data isn’t abundant, you can download programmes to watch when away on holiday, or on a long business trip.

The BBC has also revealed stats about general iPlayer use. Unsurprisingly, during the 5-6pm rush hour, more people access BBC iPlayer on their phones than they do on any other device.

An Android version of the app is being worked on right now and will be coming ‘soon’. The BBC has also said it’s looking at ‘making downloads available on other devices in the future.’ We’ll keep you posted.

You can dpwnload the updated BBC iPlayer app for iPhone and iPad here.

September 4, 2012

Xbox iPlayer gets catch-up and live streaming

The BBC has added radio catch-up and live streaming to the iPlayer app for the Xbox 360 – the only version of iPlayer which can be controlled via voice and gesture as well as remote control.

August 29, 2012

BBC iPlayer on Xbox 360


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