back to article BBC iPlayer launches, but with limited viewer reach

The much talked about, Windows XP-only, Internet Explorer 6 or later, BBC iPlayer finally launched today. The iPlayer gives viewers the chance to download the last seven days of BBC television programmes. They can then, at a time of their choosing, delight in the likes of Eastenders and Neighbours for up to 30 days afterwards …


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  1. DAJ

    a bit of a con really

    they haven't really launched it -- all there are doing is opening up the beta version to more people. And still a limited number, so you need to be chosen once registered. (it's not even an open beta)

    Also, not all BBC content will be available via iPlayer; "a selection of your favourites" -- no one has asked me what my favourites are; certainly not EastEnders!

  2. Paul Hurst

    XP Only

    Does anyone else find the fact that DRM crippled Vista can't play DRM crippled content slightly amusing ... in fact f-ing hilarious?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's more limited than the technology stack - its a limited acces Beta

    It's more limited than the technology stack - its a limited acces Beta

  4. Rich Silver badge


    It will be interesting to see how the Beeb are going to swing this. I don't use Windows. I don't use Linux (and if I DID, which version would I need?). I use OpenBSD.

    As a licence payer, should I be entitled to a service on my OpenBSD-running laptop? Unless the final iPlayer is open source, it's going to be impossible to even start to make this feasible.

    And how are you going to open source MS's DRM? Indeed, does it make sense to open source ANY DRM?

    Mmmm... a knotty one, that.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No you can't

    "... you can go here to play with iPlayer - oddly still in beta - to your heart's content."

    Tried to sign-up but they've given me the bum's rush with some twaddle about possibly extending testing privileges to me if I haven't been blackballed by Microsoft ... erm, no, I didn't mean to say that.

    A limited test release is a surefire way of pissing off the vast maturity of users - even those who have succumbed to the WinXP/IE7 borg.

    Anyway, I take great comfort in the knowledge that the iPlayer project is now directed by Erik Huggers, who was formerly a Senior Director at Microsoft and responsible for their media technologies. See

    Surely some coincidence ...?

  6. Joel


    Strange that, isn't it. They've "Released" it, and yet it's still a limited beta version which I can't even download.

    You're journalists, tell me why, don't just write stuff I already saw on the BBC iPlayer site :(

    And what's with the whole "i" Player.. why not think of a more original name... I know the BBC can be boring asses sometimes, but there's got to be someone with a little spark of creativity around there somewhere.

  7. Nick Kew

    One Viewer to rule them all

    Did the BBC design and ship One True Wireless? Or the One True Television set? Nope, they left it to the marketplace, and we've all benefited from competition, choice and innovation.

    Did the BBC design and ship the One True iPlayer? Erm ....


  8. Iain

    Why even bother with DRM?

    They're busy shoving out 8 TV channels of stuff over the Freeview airwaves without any encryption every day of the week, ready for anyone with a DVB card in their PC to capture. So this level of DRM paranoia seems a tad excessive.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Calm Down

    Amazing, Google launches Gmail as a limited beat, and everyone says, wow how cool, I've got an invite to this exclusive.

    Beeb do it and the world runs round like headless chickens.

    It's in testing phase. Therefore, restrict how many people have it, iron out bugs, try again, if ok, widen scope, tweak again, etc etc.

    Of course they could throw it straight out, server crash, bugs galore, doesn't work on xyz...

    It seems your dammed if you do, dammed if you don't.

    So personally if i was the Beeb, I'd say screw the lot of you, pack up our toys and shelve the project. nah nah nah naaahhh nah...

  10. Ross Fleming

    Rich - no is the answer

    "As a licence payer, should I be entitled to a service on my OpenBSD-running laptop?"

    The charter says "The BBC must do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure that viewers, listeners and other users (as the case may be) are able to access the UK Public Services that are intended for them, or elements of their content, in a range of convenient and cost effective ways which are available or might become available in the future"

    In short, not really then. It's not reasonable, cost effective, or convenient (when you consider the term "General Public" quoted elsewhere). They provide for the consensus, not the individual. For the moment they can't really get rid of DRM either - if only because half the shareholders (licence payers) would go nuts if they found out <insert any country name here> could watch content we'd paid for, so I would guess the DRM debate wouldn't come up for a while - if ever!

  11. Scott Silver badge

    Media Player 10

    I have gone out of my way to keep every computer I touch completely clear of Media Player 10. There is enough bad software that you can't avoid without putting this on as well!

    So this is not only limited to Windows. It is limited to Windows users who have been uninformed enough to put that piece of software on their systems...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a bit of a con...

    ...a complete con. Why announce it's going to be launched today when it's still only available to the chosen few? The iPlayer forums are full of people saying they've registered but haven't been invited to join.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For an product named after iPod...

    ...i find it hilarious the BBC decided to make it 100% incompatible with the produc tthat inspired it!

    I predict an ever increasing backlash of people fed up with trying to get it to work!

    Sky's Anytime service is based on the same foundation, and it is frankly awful.

    If the BBC Truly want to value-add their services, they should do it in an open and acessible way.

    ABC in the US have streaming HD versions of their TV shows available free to anyone who has a web-browser and a fast internet connection in the US - why cant the BBC do the same???

    Works on Mac and PC, any browser, and any OS version...

  14. david gomm

    They wanted it to be more open

    The beeb wanted to be able to publish a full (rather than time limted) archive but were told that they couldn't as it would 'harm the competition', this is why its locked down adn time limited.

    The requirement for the lockdown (via DRM) is probably also behind the platform limitation.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just DVB cards....

    It isn't just DVB cards that can get frieview streams without any DRM.

    At least two PVRs (Topfield and Humax) allow transfer of unrestricted content to PCs via a USB connection.

    As one comedian said: "Its a marvelous step forward. To achieve this in the old days you'd have to get video tapes that self destruct after 7 days".

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The reason that the Beeb don't encrypt digital broadcast is because you can't get it outside the UK (ok, maybe a tiny bit of France and Eire). They do, however, encrypt all of their channels on Sky, which is available all over Europe and beyond.

    The DRM is an issue because the BBC don't own all of the content and the content owners insist that the programs are not playable after 30 days. This is so that their income stream from DVDs doesn't dry up and the actors repeat fees aren't compromised, amongst other things. The BBC are obliged to take all reasnoble steps to make sure that the content isn't given away for free to non-licence payers, in this case non-UK residents.

  17. g lane

    If you can view it, DRM is already broken.

    Moving the bits is trivial - they could set up an ftp or bittorrent servers and a trivial Windows GUI and it would work. The problem is, the beeb has sold its soul to the fantasy world of DRM where everybody pretends that you can stop professional "pirates" by kicking your loyal viewers in the face.

  18. Morely Dotes

    @ Ross Fleming

    "half the shareholders (licence payers) would go nuts if they found out <insert any country name here> could watch content we'd paid for, so I would guess the DRM debate wouldn't come up for a while - if ever!"

    They should be incensed, then. The new Doctor Who is readily available via numerous torrent sites, along with Eastenders (God knows why, but there you are) and thousands of hours of other BBS fodder. Not a bit of DRM in any of it.

    The only thing this "iPlayer" (does the "i" stand for "idiot?") will do is make it possible for complete technological morons to watch the Beeb on their PCs, while automatically and surrepticiously reporting back to Microsoft that they are doing so.

    I can guarantee that the Technology Users' Rights Denial System in use (the acronym for that is more honest than "DRM") will be cracked within hours - if it isn't already - and the new content will be available from the usual torrent seeders.

  19. Mike Banahan

    Should licence payers be entitled to a service on laptop running xxx?

    Licence payers are entitled to have BBC content delivered using open standards for which anyone so minded can implement a player.

    If the BBC can't find such a standard, in years gone by it would have developed one.

    If it doesn't want to do that, don't ship the content.

    It's that simple. The issue is not about software running on any particular platform, it's about using a proprietary and encumbered format for which there is no possibility of someone developing their own player to make it possible for punters using any particular platform to benefit.

    This argument is not about open source it's about open STANDARDS. That's what makes many of the people angry.

  20. John A Blackley

    Only when I don't need it

    So, I'm a UK citizen with a residence in the UK - at which I pay my license fee because I have a telly there. I travel extensively and, when I'm on the road in my hotel room, do I want to watch the 52 channels of crap available in the GoodolUSofA? No, I do not. I'd quite like to watch the beeb.

    So, can I sit in my hotel room in the GoodolUSofA and download some beebstuff to watch? Nope. Oh, I can prove to the beeb that I'm a license holder and therefore (I would hope) entitled to download my beebstuff but I'm only allowed to do so within the UK - precisely where I don't need it.


  21. Rob

    Free Easy & Cheap

    They could have just released torrents of their programmes in .avi format,

    it would be really cheap if not free to produce avi's, everyone and anyone could get them, in line with the freeview PC card method, as mentioned above.

    Seems like everyone's a winner that way

    But as they apparently have to have DRM, the only conclusion has to be that they somehow profit from making us watch certain programmes at certain times, so it's got to be either product placement (felt any unusual shopping urges lately?) or, subliminal messages relevant to some current event..

    mm, friday beer

  22. Ally

    A few people missing the point...

    The Beeb don't actually have a choice with all this DRM malarky. The outside production companies demand it, so there's no point the BBC even debating the point internally.

    Also, as someone pointed out earlier, they've been forced to add the 7-day thing under the guise of ensuring they're not doing anything anti-competitive. This all adds up to make DRM a necessary evil in the market they've been given.

    Though I never thought I'd say this, it's a shame they didn't opt for something like RealPlayer- at least that works on Macs.

  23. Kevin Kenny

    Don't moan at the beeb, moan at the content providers

    Blimey, give the beeb a break. If you took the time to look at the credits at the end of lots of BBC content on yer telly, you'll find that it's come from outside production companies.

    It's not the BBC that's forcing DRM down our necks but the content owners and the whole repeat fee thing that actors (rightly or wrong) demand for each rendering of their mugs on the box.

    So go moan at Kudos who do Spooks for example.

    As someone mentioned earlier, the BBC are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Personally I still think the license fee is still great value for money when you consider the rich variety of TV and Radio broadcasting the BBC do. Look at BBC 4 this week and can you imagine C4 or ITV or Sky commissioning programmes such as Absolute Zero or Atom. Three whole hours worth of excellent viewing and not a single bloody advert. Then go look around the amount of commercial free radio content that's archived on the BBC radio sites.

    Quit yer moaning, go and protest at the independant production companies who are the real bad guys.

    And to the folks who doth protest about paying a license fee and want to see the BBC funded by commercials, then go tune into Fox or CNN or Sky 1/2/3 and take a look at the sh*te being shovelled to the lowest common denominator, it's scary.

    And one more thing, yeah ok the BBC have announced iPlayer, and yeah it's a beta, big deal. Hell after nearly 15 years, that Linux bollocks still feels like a rolling Beta.


  24. silverguy

    anyone tried it yet?

    just wondering? Its seems counter intuitive to put Digital restrictive management on ... as we are allowed by law to make a private copy, for an undisclosed period of time, ie like in the good ol days of VCRs... i pay for content so i should be able to watch it within an unrestricted content whenever on what ever platform i choose...

  25. mike


    Forget it beeb why the """" cant you just do what the radio does with listen again.

    While you play with that malware and spywear I dont wasnt to know.

  26. Alexander Hanff

    Letter writing campaign

    I started a letter writing campaign against the decision to launch iPlayer for windows XP only. You can download template letters and send them to the 3 official bodies involved in this and a 4th for your MP from the following URL:

    I did send a press release to ElReg but in their divine wisdom they decided not to run it, go figure.

  27. Richard

    To Ally:

    "The Beeb don't actually have a choice with all this DRM malarky. The outside production companies demand it, so there's no point the BBC even debating the point internally."

    Huh? The license payers pay the BBC who pay the "production companies". In other words WE are the customers here and we can tell these "production companies" to let us watch the telly when & where we want. Like now when I'm sitting in bed with my (Mac) laptop which is unable to view this content, even though I'm on the first trial and I'm a license payer.


  28. Dillon Pyron

    BBC in the US

    "along with Eastenders (God knows why, but there you are) "

    Oh my god, are they ever popular in the US. It is, according to some TV elitists, one of the greatest things to happen to TV.

    "do I want to watch the 52 channels of crap available in the GoodolUSofA?"

    Excuse me. It just so happens that we have 500 channels of crap!

    See above comment, also.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Yuk Yuk Yuk

    I was 'lucky' enough to be allowed to take part in the beta test today. I say 'lucky', because the iPlayer website refuses to work with Firefox, and tells me to use Internet Explorer instead, and therefore I can't even donwload the player software.

    So in addition to limiting their market to those running Windows XP, and Media Player 10, they also want to throw away the 25%+ of us who choose not to run IE. Genius.

    Hey, BBC! The '90s called, and they want their non-standards-compliant-web-design-methodology back!

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Only when I don't need it

    "Oh, I can prove to the beeb that I'm a license holder and therefore (I would hope) entitled to download my beebstuff but I'm only allowed to do so within the UK - precisely where I don't need it."

    Find an anonymous proxy server in the UK (or set up your own) and use that.

    Oh, and:

    "The Beeb don't actually have a choice with all this DRM malarky. The outside production companies demand it, so there's no point the BBC even debating the point internally."

    Many thanks to John Birt for totally ruining a once-great organisation. There are probably more managers than programme-makers there now.

  31. Keith


    The BEEB needs to be substantially reduced and focused.

    The license fee (TAX) scraped and advertising time SOLD to generate revenue! Its a huge anomaly in the modern multi media age to have a STATE BROADCASTER in a capitalist country.

    The number of local radio stations completely closed and RADIO 1 sold to the HIGHEST BIDDER (Its effectively a commercial station anyway. Selling pop songs is WHAT IT DOES !)

    Retain TV channels BBC1 and 2. National Radio 2,3 and 4 only.

    Also in the digital spectrum they need ONLY TWO TV Channels one for Children and one for specialist interest BOTH broadcasting 24 hours !

    Not the current nonsense of two children channels during day time and two extra evening adult channels this is plain stupid !

    ALL other service expansion should be subscription based giving us the choice to buy or not !

    News 24/BBC World should be merged (in many way the share resources and programming already and these services paid for from general taxation with the current independent governor system in place to ensure independence from political interference maintained.

    iPlayer platform restrictive DRM'd to death pile of hot air still BETA and effectively by invitation only SO not even in the spirit of their own charter !

    Typical !

  32. Daniel Snowden

    Already obsolete?

    So lets see, to use this marvelous application you need 1) An outdated version of IE, running on 2) an outdated version of Windows

    Not supporting Vista (at the launch) is really going to come back to haunt them - what do you think is pre-installed on almost all new (home) PC's?

    And in response to Rich's question, since they are porting it to OSX (at some point in the future) it could be possible to port to BSD as Darwin (the core of OSX) is a BSD variant. But chances are they've used Cocoa and all the other OSX specific technology so you may as well forget about it.

    I don't normally support ideas like this, but maybe someone should write a Linux/UNIX based DRM system? (There's no technical reason why it shouldn't work - just a human one)

  33. Richard Lloyd

    iPlayer, here's a long list of snags for you...

    OK, I can't really see the iPlayer taking off compared to recording to a ubquitous hard disk/DVD recorder or - ahem - looking on Net for a download of a programme you missed. Here's a myriad of reasons why:

    * Quality is apparently poor according to the beta iPlayer forums, particularly if you go fullscreen (which is how most people would play the programmes surely?). Much worse than your standard DivX-encoded video.

    * You can only run iPlayer on Windows XP SP2, ignoring Vista (which has been out for home use for 6 months now and sold on the vast majority of new PCs - 10-20% of BBC licence fee payers maybe?), MacOS X (5%) and Linux (2-3%). This is a complete disgrace really - ignoring a quarter of all possible users would be a disaster if a commercial outfit tried to do the same.

    * It's yet another video player we have to get to view BBC content and *only* BBC content. At least with Freeview, I can watch up to 30 channels, the majority of which aren't the BBC.

    * They are only going to make the last 7 days worth of BBC shows available - what if you went on holiday for a couple of weeks?

    * Evil, evil DRM is embedded in the iPlayer - any programmes will "expire" a pitiful 30 days after it's been downloaded.

    * They claim they'll have a "stack" system for multi-episode series (whereby all episodes will remain available until 7 days after the final episode has aired), but don't commit to doing that for all series and if you decide you'd like to see any of the episodes 8 days after the last one airs, well tough luck as usual.

    * The iPlayer service will only broadcast what they have online rights for, so bang goes virtually any sport, music or movies then.

    * The BBC may omit certain shows that they want to release on DVD first (they've threatened to do this for classical music for example and it won't be long before other areas get similarly impacted).

    Want a better scheme? How about *no* DRM, choice of quality of download in standard (e.g. DivX) format (including HD versions where possible) and have a registration system that requires you to input your TV licence fee number and also checks that your IP is in the UK before you can download anything? Too bleeding obvious? Yep, it seems so. After all, we've bleeding well *paid* for this content already via the TV licence and it's been aired DRMless, so why shouldn't be it be downable free and DRMless for licence fee payers too?

    Yes, some of the non-DRM'ed content will end up on P2P networks, but so will the DRM'ed versions too, I bet (though the quality might be bad enough to put uploaders off!), so why not just bite the bullet and admit that DRM is a complete and utter waste of time?

  34. Iain Thomas


    Except the BBC went FTA (i.e. unencrypted) on sat a couple years back IIRC. Only need a viewing card in a sky box if you want the correct BBC1 region on 101.

  35. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Free programming for non-licence payers

    You don't need a TV licence to watch this content as it isn't broadcast simultaneously with the live signal.

    So licence payers pay for the content, everyone else gets to free load.

    Ironic given the BBC make it Windows only, thus locking me out of being able to view any of it.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re @Iain

    "By Fraser

    Posted Friday 27th July 2007 16:52 GMT

    The reason that the Beeb don't encrypt digital broadcast is because you can't get it outside the UK (ok, maybe a tiny bit of France and Eire). They do, however, encrypt all of their channels on Sky, which is available all over Europe and beyond."

    The BBC and ITV channles carried by Sky aren't encrypted, and can be received using any satellite box. Channel 4 and Five are encrypted though, although I hope not for much longer.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "ABC in the US have streaming HD versions of their TV shows available free to anyone who has a web-browser and a fast internet connection in the US - why cant the BBC do the same???

    Works on Mac and PC, any browser, and any OS version..."

    You forget to mention that you MUST be in the US,

    they are a commercial station,

    it only works with a plugin,

    and it doesn't work with any OS version, just windows or macs.

    My PC runs linux, thank you very much, so no this isn't a shining example.

    Personally, I prefer thepiratebay ...

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A conflict of interest?

    I think the BBC's appointment of an executive from one of the potential vendors to project-head of the iPlayer project is bad for the BBC's perceived integrity. The subsequent signing of an MOU with that company and the choice to lock the project into that vendor's technology create the impression of impropriety, whether it exists or not. Does Erik Huggers directly or indirectly hold any Microsoft stock either in hand or in trust? Were it to be proven that he, or any member of his family, did and would profit from this project I would be truly appalled that my licence fee was being spent on either his salary or that product.

    I agree with the earlier post. Formerly the BBC was a centre of excellence and innovation. For example, when colour TV was introduced the PAL colour standard had been encumbered so only one manufacturer was able to make PAL televisions the BBC would never have accepted it and would have sought another solution or tasked BBC research to devise an open standard.

    If it is the program makers that are insisting on DRM why are the BBC spending our money by signing contracts that keep the programming we have paid to commission from us? If we paid for these programmes then we should be able to watch them as we see fit. If I can prove a UK address and sign up in the UK why should I not be allowed to watch the programmes I have paid my licence fee for when I travel?

    @Fraser: The BBC's channels on the Astra 2 cluster are not encrypted. They use a tight transmission spot to limit the overspill into Europe but any MPEG 2 satellite receiver can pick them up with no Conditional Access Module. Details can be found at You will see these channels listed as TV-DIG and not TV-DIG-CRYPT. They are not part of the Sky package and Sky's involvement is only with transmitting the programme guide data.

    The BBC have stated that DRM is mandated by the programme makers. This is slightly strange as I'd also heard the "would harm the competition" story from somebody who really should know his stuff. If it is OFCOM that mandated it then why not say so? It would be the perfect get-out: "Sorry people, the Government made us do it."

    <rant> I have a general dislike of OFCOM. I come into contact with them on a fairly regular basis and perceive them as being lazy and derelict in their duty. I know people who have been visited and threatened with equipment confiscation for testing gear on the bench just because inspectors happened to be nearby only to be told "nothing we can do" a week later when a production is put at risk by an unauthorised user on a talkback channel they have paid for.

    OFCOM seem to want to do the minimum work and not to be bothered with the technicalities of radio communications. Ah... Not our job to decide what kind of modulation belongs on a given frequency (An activity that has given this country a superb freedom from interference.) Let the market sort it out. Amateur radio, give 'em a license for life and tell them not to bother us again. The public don't want terrestrial HD, sell the space to mobile providers so they can transmit 1000 copies of the same programme in crappy quality to 1000 customers (How inefficient is that?). OFCOM seem totally preoccupied with mobile Internet on the apparent assumption that broadcasting will die. They went and asked people in the street if they wanted terrestrial HD and they said "no." I'm sure if you'd asked most British people in 1967 when there was only a smattering of colour TV if they thought they would have colour the answer would have been "no" too!

    Every broadcaster has a revenue stream, be it advertising, subscription or public funding. They are all free to offer Internet viewing if their business model supports it. I sincerely wish the Government and OFCOM would stop running to the defence of every private company that screams "That's not fair! They're doing it with public money and we don't get any!"

    Come on OFCOM. Get your finger out! </rant>

  39. Joe


    Actually, I think you're allowed to keep TV-recorded stuff on tape for only 28 days, after that it's illegal. I might be talking through my hat (or something else) here, but I'm sure I read that somewhere reliable!

    It really is a strange situation that the BBC is in these days - as I read somewhere else, "the BBC delivers programmes to viewers, whereas all other broadcasters are in the business of delivering viewers to advertisers."

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has this really taken years to develop?

    I finally received my login details last night and have managed to watch a couple of programmes.

    The picture quality is a bit naff on a PC monitor but if I were sitting further away I'd probably think it OK. It's better than VHS and more or less on a par with medium quality on a DVD recorder.

    If the Beeb really has been developing this for years, why does it look like an even worse version of 4OD?

  41. Paul

    DRM is there to make rights holders feel better...

    TV Programme rights are complicated.

    It's not just about the company that made the programme, be it the BBC or an indie company, it's about all the actors and presenters that appear in the programmes, any copyright music that the programme contains, the owners of locations, costumes, any visual artwork that appears and so on.

    Rights have to be settled with some or all of these parties before a programme can be made available for download... and guess what, the likes of the music industry won't allow anything to go out without DRM, and the lawyers of most of the other parties probably reckon DRM is a 'good idea' and insist on it too. Of course these people have no concept of the technical realities - that everything is already broadcast FTA without any DRM - but that doesn't stop them insisting on it as a generally trendy idea that they believe will 'protect' them.

    The BBC is launching the best that it can do at the moment, and probably secretly hoping that as rights holders get more comfortable with the whole idea the DRM requirement will be able to be gradually eroded away - the main driver for this will be the demand for a cross-platform solution, so keep sending in those letters and petitions!

    BTW when the BBC say they've been developing it for years, what they probably mean is that a bunch of suits have been sitting around discussing it for years, but only within the last 6-9 months has any of the actual development work for the current system been done.

  42. Salary cap..... humbug!

    Don't knock it until you try it

    I've had it on my PC about two months now, it works fine.

    I was part of the original (alpha?) test group and got invited back to test the beta version - it took them over 12 months to launch the beta trial after the closure of the alpha trials as the beeb had some "governance issues" which had to be resolved.

    The DRM issue is a bit of a pain, you get 7-days to download 30 days after the broadcast date to activate the viewing and 7 days to view the file after activating it. But it's better than the alpha version where you only got 7 days after downloading it to view it. The alpha trial also had a planner where you could preview the schedule for up to a week in advance just like on a sky+ and tag content for download - this isn't in the beta version but I'm sure that functionality will be in the full public version.

    The alpha trial also had some HDTV content but at the time I didn't have and HDTV and only 1 meg ADSL. Now I've got an HDTV and 16 meg ADSL but they have dropped the HD content on the beta test which is a pity. Hopefully HDTV content will find its way back into the final release version.

    It is useful to be able to go back and pull down content you have missed which is exactly what I've done with this weeks top gear (forgot to set the sky+). One of the benefits is that you can pull down some regional programmes as well - BBC Northern Ireland has particularly good nature programes which for some reason don't get aired on the mainland.

    On the strength of the alpha test I went out and bought a sky+ (which I use) and also XP media centre (which I don;t use the MCE functionality) as I liked the idea of instant access to recordings.

    All in all it's a very good system and similar to what is being used by C4 as "4 on demand". You have to take it for what it is though, which is a system to go back up to a week and watch content you missed or forgot to record - it's not supposed to be a system where what you download is for keeps - if you want one of those Panasonic do a nice freeview HD/DVD recorder or you can always dump from your Sky+ to DVD/PC via scart.

    I guess eventually someone will find a way round the DRM issue like they always do in the end.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Oh dear me. Do you work for News Corp?

  44. David Hewett

    If the BBC Invented Broardcast TV in this manner we would all be sat around our radios tonight

    I fully understand this is a BETA and im lucky to be able to try it -

    However it took two attempts to download it -

    Registration is confusing and it said my Password was too short - (this being the password the BBC supplied)

    After several more attempts and another installation all goes well.

    So I download a copy of EASTENDERS to see what sort of qualirt we can expect - and Hold on - No your "Licence has expired" scary (So I check I have still got a TV Licence lol YEP)

    Try again - Re download Eastenders - and it works - cool - Quality is fine

    But You have to ask yourself - If TV was invented this week and the BBC were behind it - It will it NEVER TAKE OFF ?

  45. Justin

    Future XBOX 360 tie in?

    Microsoft must be rubbing their hands with glee, in theory the XBOX 360 system (as long as it doesn't cook itself before hand) will be able to talk to this stuff. DRM is utterly daft,when you have FTA, hard disk recorders and torrents.

    For those that are concerned about not being able to download when working away, use the corporate VPN to connect back to your UK office. The VPN will likely proxy your connection and you *should* appear to be in the UK to their flimsy IP address checking system. It works for me when I want to browse iTunes as a US user.

  46. Nano nano

    More available

    At the risk of swapping one tie-in for another, the Beeb might consider issuing the iPlayer as a VMware packaged application. They could then keep their preferred development platform of Windows but the player would run on anything for which VMware works - which includes Macs and Linux (IIRC). The only thing you wouldn't be able to do (easily) is rip the content.

  47. Tim Porter

    One reason they used to give for XP only

    "Mr Highfield said Apple's "proprietary and closed framework for digital rights management gives us headaches," but, "it is one of our top priorities to re-engineer our proposed BBC iPlayer service to work on Macs"."

  48. neil

    old media

    This whole 'Beeb do Digital' thing has been a drama, comedy, soap opera and chat show all in one. Genius.

    It's nice to see the Beeb back on the cutting edge of entertainment distribution.

    The best bits are that I don't have to fork out for a license fee to enjoy it, and can revisit it for my amusement at any time in the future.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Banned for saying BitTorrent

    I happened to mention on a BBC 'Points of View' messageboard that the iPlayer DRM was pointless because all of the content had already been broadcast 'in the clear' and could easily be recorded and published via BitTorrent.

    I was instantly banned for, apparently, "encouraging or condoning illegal activity".

    This is a bit like being banned for saying leaving your front door unlocked makes is easy for burglars to enter your house.

  50. Paul R

    Works just fine on Vista

    It took me all of 2 minutes to get this working on Vista, and apart from one annoying error message (which can be worked around) it works just fine. I've downloaded a couple of shows that I missed, and watched them with no problems.

    It's just a pity that it's such a limited supply of BBC shows available. I wanted to watch ATOM (which my media centre failed to record properly due to a crap digital signal), and unfortunately it's not available on iPlayer. No matter, quickly found it available to download on the net.

  51. Grant Gibson

    How does PDC help prevent copying?

    To everyone who has pointed out that the BBC must take reasonable steps to prevent copying / piracy....

    Why do they broadcast PDC (Programme Delivery Control) signals that actively control your VCR or DVR to get a perfect end-to-end rip of a programme?

    For the past twenty years, TV companies have been actively looking for ways to help you achieve a perfect home recording. Now, bizarrely, they've done a complete u-turn and will only provide content through channels which are locked down and time-limited.

    The TV companies should remember that DRM doesn't work -- until we get DRM chips in our eyes and ears, content needs to be decrypted at the point of consumption. The only thing it harms is user acceptance and uptake.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some responses

    Richard Lloyd:

    "This is a complete disgrace really - ignoring a quarter of all possible users would be a disaster if a commercial outfit tried to do the same."

    But it's exactly the same as 4oD! (Not to mention ITV and Sky's offerings.)


    "Anyway, I take great comfort in the knowledge that the iPlayer project is now directed by Erik Huggers, who was formerly a Senior Director at Microsoft and responsible for their media technologies."

    We can but hope that he has moved from MS to the BBC for ethical reasons. I doubt he's getting paid more now!

    Salary cap..... humbug:

    "It is useful to be able to go back and pull down content you have missed which is exactly what I've done with this weeks top gear (forgot to set the sky+)."

    If you got yourself a Topfield PVR you could stop paying Murdoch, install the MeiStuff TAP (free extension), tell it to record anything called Top Gear and you'd never be fortunate enough to miss an episode again - whether or not you are connected to a paid-up Sky satellite dish!

    By Daniel Snowden:

    "I don't normally support ideas like this, but maybe someone should write a Linux/UNIX based DRM system? (There's no technical reason why it shouldn't work - just a human one)"

    People are trying, but there is a technical reason - with an open source operating system, it's impossible to stop people syphoning off the unencrypted material from some point in the decoding chain. With Windows you need to reverse-engineer an amorphous lump. Just because encryption works perfectly well under open source doesn't mean DRM can. Someone explained it very well: with encryption you are trying to prevent person C seeing what person A is sending to person B. With DRM, person C can be the same as person B.

    Yes I know DRM is broken in other ways, but the point is still important.

    Another point: I don't think anyone's mentioned that iPlayer requires you to have ActiveX enabled - making your computer more vulnerable than ever.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPlayer worked quite well for me on Vista until this now "public" release

    iPlayer worked quite well for me on Vista until this now "public" release of the software. Since I updated the software to the new public beta version it has started checking which version of windows I'm using and refuses to download programmes on the basis of me using Vista.

    I'm even more disappointed with this broken system, I've complained that programmes still show up in the guide weeks after they have expired and have been told that it's a problem they are working on (for 3 months), this seems something very basic to me.

    They must have picked the worst system possible, now they are stuck with it. I think it's time for them to admit they wasted our money and should create an open source alternative in the true spirit of Nation speaking truth unto nation.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a joke

    Signed up to service Friday and received e-mail instructions Sunday, very excited! Logged into the seemingly endless pages requiring username and password everytime. Selected TG Polar Special...oh dear, I met none of the requirments (running Vista and Firefox). In complete disbelief at how the BBC could be so narrow minded with the user base considering the number of people using Firefox and now more than ever, Vista. Tried running through the process on house mates computer (XP, IE7) and some error occured. What a cheek the Beeb has saying no problems noted in first 48hrs and the revolution likened to colour TV. Utter mess! As an afterthought, where is the Mac support, 3rd largest manufacturer of laptops...where does our fee go I do have to wonder?

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC timeup

    Like many other people who have always known more than the BBC (i'm young enough that the fewest channels i've ever had in the UK was 4), I dont agree with the liscense fee and feel it should be scrapped. Where is the benefit to me? They act like a commercial broadcaster and they seem to be limited by the public charter.

    More importantly i pay for Sky and previously NTL, so i why should i pay again for all the rubbish that is on bbc 3,4 etc and the radio which I NEVER listen to.

    Now i have to pay for this lot too when i use linux and for my 'on-demand' stuff i use piratebay to get high quality recordings.

    Sooner the BBC or liscence fee is scrapped the better.

  56. Salary cap..... humbug!

    Topfield PVR

    Go on then Richard, explain how a topfield PVR will get me free access to sky sports? - some things in life have to be paid for.

  57. sean bone

    4od works on my Vista Laptop....

    Although this is not the BBC iPlayer (Oh no, i smell a lawsuit from Apple re the 'i' in iPlayer...), i downloaded the 4od program on my Vista Laptop, at first - it did not work. However using a crack using MS SDK Orca Edit, i removed a few options from the MSI file created and was able to install.

    I can now stream and download tv shows from Channel 4 for free.

    So if i can just tweak the MSI file to make it work on Vista...and considering this is a beta.....i am positive that they can get the iPlayer (not owned by Apple) on Vista.


    Sean Bone

  58. Guy Heatley

    Give me the choice not to contribute anything to M$ owned BBC

    If the BBC intend to apply M$ controlled DRM to content and not provide libre software viewers for my OS of choice, thats great, go for it.

    I say encrypt all of their content and give me the choice not to contribute to any of it. i.e Abolish the licence fee. They are providing no "public service" to me.

  59. Guy Heatley

    Ashley Highfield: BBC director of new media and technology

    Lets not forget who his best buddy is....

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPlayer.... what a cheek!

    They call it iPlayer and it won't work with Macs - what a cheek!

    "In Seattle, as part of a fact-finding tour of the U.S., BBC director General Mark Thompson and director of new media and technology Ashley Highfield met Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to officially sign the memorandum of understanding and discuss the BBC’s digital strategy. This includes plans for its online archive, for a radically re-invented Web site in the Web 2.0 world — a second generation of Internet-based services — and for ways to share its online content in the future."

    Very cosy.....

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