BBC iPlayer Review (UK)

Having recently put together a new Home Theatre PC (HTPC), I’ve been looking at the various options that I have with new TV entertainment services, the latest of which is the BBC’s iPlayer UK service.

It seems to have taken a while in actually arriving as I’m sure that this service was first talked about a year or two back, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from it, especially after having already tried the Channel 4 On Demand application that downloads TV shows – however this isn’t always free and the fact that they were charging for something I could see for free on the TV wasn’t something that I was too happy about.

The BBC iPlayer comes in two different formats;

– a streaming online service accessable through the BBC website.
– a downloadable application which downloads the shows prior to viewing.

iPlayer as a streaming TV service is much better than a lot of streaming services I have used in the past and as such I was pleasantly surprised by it’s performance. The only problem I had in using the iPlayer through the website was that for some reason when you tried to expand the view to full screen, I then only got the sound with no video being displayed. If you’re sat at your computer, this is not so much of an issue as it’s still viewable in it’s standard size, however if this problem persists when trying to view it on your HTPC set up on your TV like I tried to view it, then this is a real shame as you’d want to see it full screen.

I also tried installing the stand-alone application which downloads and then plays the TV shows once they’ve downloaded. The only issue I had with this was that this system is a P2P network system which in itself is not a bad thing, but obviously this should be considered as it may slow your internet connection if it does a lot of file sharing, ie. uploading on your connection – which can bring your connection to a halt far easier than downloading will.

Overall, I would say that the BBC’s iPlayer service is definitely one of the better online TV services I’ve tried and would certainly recommend you take a look at it if you haven’t already – I just wish that there was more than the last 7 days worth of programming available – that being the case, it’s more aimed at the “have missed a show” catch-up market rather than a totally new content delivery system to replace normal TV viewing.

That said, I presume that it will be expanded beyond the current ‘last 7 days’ as time goes by and as technology advances. Technology will have to advance and perhaps quickly, because the Internet Service Providers are certainly being given a headache by all this extra streaming video usage – as has been reported by the Guardian Unlimited. Another limitation to the BB iPlayer service is that you must be in the UK to use it, I can accept that as it’ll be to do with the Licence Fee and also US networks don’t work outside the US, so it I’m surprised by the BBC’s offering doing no different.

If you are not located in the UK, you can’t access it, but some people have also found that BBC iPlayer occasionally doesn’t recognise that you’re in the UK even when you are! Also interestingly, you don’t actually need to have a TV License to use iPlayer to watch BBC TV programming as it is classed as on-demand programming which the TV Licensing regulations do not cover.

Just imagine the bandwidth requirements that will be needed for an expanded streaming TV content service of this type, higher quality YouTube videos now becoming more widespread, not to mention the roll out of IPTV from BT and Microsoft via their upcoming Xbox 360 IPTV service.

I’m glad I’m not the one who has to solve this potential huge internet bottleneck of a problem!

Does this ring true with your internet usage? Are you using more and more higher bandwidth services such as TV show streaming? I’m guessing if you’ve got a broadband connection, why just use it to read plain text webpages – do you make full of your broadband internet connection?

What do you think to the UK’s TV on the Internet – BBC iPlayer service?