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BBC iPlayer - A Guide

Updated on June 10, 2009

The BBC iPlayer has been designed to help you view programmes of the past week absolutely free of charge. You have the privilege of watching premium quality programmes on your computer as many times as you wish until the programme is available, which is generally seven days, but if there is a repeat broadcast somewhere mid week, you can watch it for another few days.

If you are in the UK and connected to the internet you can enjoy its other benefits too. These include playing programmes with the help of Click to Play (streaming) which easily operates on Windows, Mac and Linux computers and it also works on the Nintendo Wii, iPhones and iPod touch devices. You can even watch live television, catch up with missed programmes of the past week, download television programmes and store them in your computer for a period of 30 days or else download and transfer them to your portable media device, PDA or mobile phone and finally listen to radio programmes live or recorded.

UK Only Sorry

The BBC iPlayer exclusively serves users in the UK. However, it does offer some of the radio programmes outside of the UK, which include the BBC News and BBC Sport highlights, though the Sport programmes may be subject to rights agreements. The BBC iPlayer is available on a number of media devices which include cable television, computers, game consoles, home media hubs tab, mobile phones and portable media players.

Streaming Media

Streaming is the best and the quickest way to watch your favourite programme. Streaming helps to let you instantly click and play a programme as soon as it is displayed on the BBC iPlayer website. It works on almost all the computers in the UK whereas outside the UK only radio programmes can be heard, either on the Real Player or the Windows Media Player.

The main benefit isto be able to download the BBC iPlayer media to a portable device to watch later at your leisure wherever you want. Myself, I like to donwload Doctor Who and watch it at the gym. Beats the bang bang music or listening to people grunt and huffpuff!

Downloading Programmes

The other option is downloading the programme. Downloading is only suitable if you wish to watch a programme offline, require subtitles and want a better picture quality. For downloading a programme you first need to have the BBC iPlayer Download Manager installed on your computer. The BBC iPlayer Download Manager only works on Windows-XP, excluding 64-bit versions and Windows Vista only in the UK. You may even need to enable ActiveX in order to get Download Manager working.

Most programmes on the BBC iPlayer can be downloaded within seven days and when downloaded can remain up to 30 days. But once played, you must finish watching the programme within seven days. When you download onto portable media players you have seven days in which you can view the programme.

Programmes that you download on your mobile phone or handheld will be stored in the media gallery from where you can select what you wish to view. Currently downloaded programmes may take longer to display.

What Can You Watch on iPlayer?

A good variety of BBC TV and Radio programmes can be seen and heard on the BBC iPlayer. It takes about two hours to wait to get the current broadcast on the BBC iPlayer. You can select from a list of programmes from the BBC iPlayer homepage and watch the programme of your choice. Some programmes, such as films and Sport events, may not be available on the BBC iPlayer because the Rights Agreements may not allow it. Therefore Sport programmes cannot be heard on the BBC iPlayer radio services outside of the UK. Similarly, overseas programmes may also be restricted from being shown on the BBC iPlayer.


If you possess a Samsung Omnia, Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1, Sony Ericcson 905 or HTC Touch HD etc, you can log on to BBC iPlayer easily. Programmes can be seen or heard with the help of streaming but downloading is not possible, so you cannot store it and watch or listen to it later. BBC iPlayer can be accessed over a wi-fi connection, but if you wish to use it over a 3G connection, you are required to be on the 3 UK or Vodafone network.

BBC iPlayer programmes should be used on a network of at least 500kbps; such as the Broadband or DSL and not the dial-up-connections because Click to Play programmes are not able to survive on the low access speed of dial-up-connections which are scarcely even 56 kbps. You can even use the RealPlayer or the Windows Media Player instead of Flash to listen to radio programmes in the UK.

Parental Control for BBC iPlayer

If you wish to prevent your children from watching some of the programmes, you can even set up the Parental Guidance lock. This requires you to put in a password and an email address in case you forget the password and need to retrieve it. Once the Parental Guidance lock is activated, Guidance programmes can only be seen when the password is put in. This way you can keep a check on what your children are watching.

All-in-all the BBC iPlayer is a convenient device and once it is able reach out globally it will become quite a favourite demand.

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    • Julie-Ann Amos profile image

      Julie-Ann Amos 8 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

      I'm sure that's good news (?) If I want to see old TV I record it on dvd or skyplus. I use iPlayer for mobile viewing.

    • profile image

      Clyde Davies 8 years ago

      I've just got it working with the XBox. if you download in Windows Media Player format then you can stream it onto the TV through the XBox. It's also excellent quality

    • Pete Maida profile image

      Pete Maida 8 years ago

      Darn I was going to hook up and see if I could find some of my old favorite shows. When I was one travel the oe show I always watched was The Bill.