back to article BBC's iPlayer launches Christmas Day

The official launch, or "marketing launch", of the BBC's iPlayer is happening on Christmas Day. A spokeswoman for the Beeb assured us it was a good time to launch because of the all the great content the BBC puts on for Christmas. At least we can all watch the Queen's speech a couple of extra times. The player needs Windows XP …


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  1. Charles Calthrop

    will programmes have subtitles

    1. Will the iPlayer display subtitles.

    2. I wish there was a feature on the Reg where I could read comments by people, not just by story

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's so special about the iPlayer?

    I'm not sure what's so special about the iPlayer (in terms of justifying the reputed expenditure of our money on it). It seems to use the same components as Channel 4's 4od (Kontiki "Delivery Service Manager"). Perhaps for this reason, I couldn't install it on a machine which had 4od installed. In fact it munged the configuration of 4od, I had to uninstall both and reinstall 4od. The iPlayer site and software seem somewhat flakier than 4od. I know it's supposed to be beta but I would rate it closer to alpha myself. I love the BBC but I can't get too excited about the iPlayer - they should stick to their knitting.

  3. Dogbyte
    Thumb Up

    Re:What's so special...

    By contrast to the earlier comment, I've never been able to get 4oD to work properly, but the iPlayer beta is absolutely fine.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Of course it's not beta quality yet.

    That's what beta testing is for these day - an attempt to get a program up to beta ready, at which point they release.

    And you know why?

    Because we're daft enough to put up with it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPlayer is its own worst enemy

    Conspiracies aside, why would any normal person get into the habit of spending hours downloading programmes that have already been on air using iPlayer? Much easier to record it on your digibox or download it off a regular P2P site.

    As a non-Windows user I won't miss iPlayer because I can't imagine a scenario where I wouldn't prefer to use another faster, non-DRM'ed way of watching Beeb programmes.

    iPlayer is a £130m busted flush.

  6. Robert Grant

    xbox 360 streaming

    If they release BBC HD content free for streaming onto 360s for UK Live subscribers, I'm getting a 360.

  7. David Shepherd

    Pre-emptive strike by VM

    From another message today looks like VirginMedia have done a pre-emptive strike on the effects of iplayer by imposing upload throttling as well as download throttling (used to be claimed that it didn't matter that Kontiki would be continually using your broadband connection to pass on progs to other people because ISPs only metered the download connection!)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beware Santas bearing gifts

    I recall the USSR invaded Afghanistan one Xmas Day. Also there was a massively fatal tsumani one year. Clearly who runs the BBC is incapable of running the EU. The EU chose to have every PM agree to the new constitution treaty at the summer solstice - a much more propitious time, astrologically speaking. iPlayer, the Fates await you.

  9. david gomm

    incompatible with Virgin Media

    iPlayer downloads are approx 150mb for each half an hour of programming, this seems quite reasonable, taking 19.5 minutes at max speed on your average, domestic 2mb connection to download each hour of your favourite shows.

    Unfortunately, Virgin Medias with their new and 'improved' traffic management policy are targeting people who overuse their internet connection for temporary bandwidth reductions, this includes people on their 2mb service who decide they really must download at least one hour of television using iPlayer anytime between the hours of 4pm and 9pm.

    So, if you download one hr of TV, Virgin will cut your adwidth in half for the next five hours, meaning every subsequent hour takes twice as long (40 mins at your maximum speed) to download.

    This is as a 'Heavy' user in Virgin speak is defined on their 2mb service as downloading more than 300mb between 4pm and 9pm, they say this makes you one of their top 3% of users !

    The fact that a 300mb download over 5 hrs is using only 6.67% of available bandwidth seems to be of little consequence to Virgin, they will merrily traffic manage you as a heavy user anyway.

    As you will have probably worked out, I'm not super impressed by by ISP and would urge anyone considering their service to think seriously before committing about whether or not using iPlayer will be important to you.

    The ability to download using iPlayer at your max connection speed is an assumption I've made for this comment, the iPlayer does use Kontiki peer to peer technology to icnrease the number of nodes available to supply serve content bandwidth so its perhaps not an unreasonable assumption.

    Virgin also operate traffic management for uploads, I'll leave explaining the implications of that policy to the BBC iPlayer Kontiki client to someone else....

  10. Richard

    Re. not beta quality

    Ah - being of a certain age I misread that post as it not being of Betamax quality yet.

    Thinking about it, it probably isn't. That Betamax system was very good for its day.

  11. Steve
    Thumb Down

    Not a good day

    So, on the day when everyone is playing with their new PC/laptop/webcam/VoIP service, and internet traffic is crawling at a snail's pace (the old World Wide Wait again), the Beeb want to officially launch a streaming media service?

    Either they haven't a clue, or they want a ready-made excuse when everyone says "iPlayer's useless, the performance sucks"

  12. Jim Lewis
    Thumb Down

    vested interest?

    How surprised are you that Virgin, (who offer an on demand TV service for 5 pounds a month), are not exactly falling over themselves to allow you to access streaming media from the beeb through your internet sevice.

    Obviously in light of recent investigations into misleading speeds advertised for ISP services they have to show they are trying to improve the service to the majority.

    That this 'improvement' for the good of the majority of users just happens to result in an incentive to buy another of their services must come as a terrible shock to them.

  13. mark carlisle
    Thumb Down

    if it works for radio..

    it'll work for tv. was obviously the thoughts of someone at the bbc.

    their 'play it again sam ' service for radio is great. But only because there isn't a major alternative download option.

    as per previous comment on p2p/hard drive recorders etc.. , its just as easy to source material elsewhere. In fact I can think of a particularly excellent bit torrent site devoted to British tv and nothing else- allegedly

    its an awfully expensive white elephant...

  14. Llanfair
    Thumb Down

    DRM runs really slooowwwllly

    I have used both 4OD and iPlayer. They run really slowly on my machine despite it being a Celery 1.7 with 786MB RAM. I can play DivX perfectly well and it is inconvenient as it is the only time that I need to switch from Linux to Windows. I was thinking of virtualising Windows, but that is going to REALLY crawl.

    Oh and Windows Media Player is rubbish when playing full screen, at least mplayer in Linux switches off the power save when watching full screen.

  15. Chris G


    Trust the beeb to think they can compete with Jesus on his birthday or even the queen's speech.

    Every time I have tried to download iPlayer it has screw with my Raytheon graphics card and I have to dump it.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    If you don't like peering...

    then just block it. It's not rocket science to work out. Block the outbound peering traffic on your router and it'll sort out your problem.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Virgin TV customers

    already have "free" access to Virgin's/TelewWest's (NTL's?) "catch up TV" service and have had for some considerable time.

    With this, you can use your cable TV box to watch your pick from Virgin's selection of the last 7 days highlights, not just of BBC but also of C4 channels (presumably the two outfits that have actually got rights clearances for replay-TV-type stuff?).

    So a sensible Virgin customer that wanted to use iPlayer for TV might already have a better alternative than wasting their valuable cable broadband bandwidth.

    I've tried both "catch up TV" and iPlayer, and for me, watching catchupTV on a TV, genuinely on demand, with decent picture quality, without waiting for the program to download, wins hands down over some awkward DRM-infested over-compressed bandwidth-hogging P2P junk that requires me to reboot out of my preferred OS just so I can watch again what my licence fee has already paid for.

  18. Alex


    I leave virgin media and moving (hopefully) to a far better provider. So far the process has been simplicity itself.... the next 48 hours or so will prove the point.

    I urge readers to dump virgin media ASAP. I was a happy customers of their up until Feb. It's just been my lazyness that I haven't changed till now. The service is appauling.

  19. James
    Thumb Up

    The iPlayer...

    ...will, if it works, be extremely good for me as a student living in halls.

    There is hardly any point in all of my block mates buying a tv license at £135.50 as it is like buying a tv license for each room of your house which is just stupid.

    As a result, we turn to the internet and all its infinite goods to watch our favourite shows as we could at home.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    You'll still need to pay a TV License if you get your programming from iPlayer only.

    You honestly dont think the beeb will allow it to undercut a revenue stream do you?

  21. Nano nano

    Got there first

    Surely Christmas Day didn't need to be launched - oh, sorry, you meant "... is launched on Christmas Day" - why didn't you say so ?

  22. Ascylto

    A once proud name ...

    So the BBC can spend £130,000,000 on the iPlayer but has to axe the 'Rough Justice' programme because it can't afford it!

    Goodbye Licence Fee. Goodbye Justice. Goodbye BBC.

  23. Chad H.

    Iplayer and 4OD

    I have these two playing nice together. Installed Iplayer first then 4od. Running in a Parellels XP machine on my mac.

  24. Luke


    I like the idea of the iPlayer but they don't have half of the programmes I might actually want to watch (e.g. Spooks - missed last night's episode because Sky+ box died and it's not on iPlayer - who's stupid idea was that??)

    How about Match of the Day? Lead Baloon? Being half-arsed with the content isn't going to endear anyone to the service...

  25. caffeine addict

    Re: @ James

    "You'll still need to pay a TV License if you get your programming from iPlayer only."

    Only if you're watching it at the same times as it's being broadcast on UK terrestrial tv. God the laws in this country are random...

  26. Lyndon Hills
    Thumb Up

    @James / @AC

    No license fee needed. You only need a license if you watch television programmes at the time they are broadcast.

  27. Anonymous Coward


    Interesting to see this article appearing on the same date that BBC management's desire to see 2500 job losses is announced to BBC staff - on cost grounds.

  28. Andrew Herron

    Take the 'Live' out of 'Live TV ;-)

    Hmmmm... so let me see if I watch TV using 'live pause' and lets say 30 secs behind the live broadcast... then I am clearly not watching 'live' TV... I am watching a recording. Therefore No TV license required ;-)

    Also... my recording is free of DRM and ... it does not get auto-removed from my HD... and its also at full quality... now thats what i call a value for money service!

  29. Lloyd
    Thumb Down


    Any chance they'll release a version in divx or even a version of wmv I can actually play in my DVD player? I've got a USB slot in my DVD player and it'll play pretty much any format (except anything to do with macs) but because of the stupid bloody licensing on the iplayer WMV's they won't play even thought the player recognises them (and no, they won't convert to avi either).

    As for 4OD, yep, I can't get it to install because the iPlayer install shafts it royally.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    @ If you don't like peering...

    One fateful flaw in your theory, due the nature of the beeb's bittorrent client, you are unabel to configure the upload to your specific requirements, unlike all the other clients I've heard about, not that I ever use any of them!!

  31. Richard

    Sorry Andrew...

    That won't quite work, even if you watch it via a digibox on delay, you still own/operate equipment that is capable of receiving a live broadcast so you'll need a license!

  32. Colin Millar
    Thumb Down

    New shiny thing

    So many existing solutions exist what is the point of this overcomplicated, bandwidth using, content restricted project. If each channel does its own thing thats four iTVplayers just for the main UK broadcasters. This is a typical burecratic invention - the technology exists therefore we must use it for something.

    £50 for a twin digital tuner card - record the real thing in DRM free MPEG without going near your interweb. Plays back over Windows MP (or over the tellybox with a HDMI cable or MVP box) - you can even edit it and autocut the commercials.

  33. Steve Button Silver badge
    Gates Halo

    Better off with xbmc.

    Download whatever you want to watch with bittorrent and then watch it with xbmc on an xbox 1.



  34. tebiru

    ugh, DRM

    Why is it that BBC podcasts don't come riddled with this rubbish? What exactly is the difference - aside from one being audio, one being visual?

    Given that license payers have already paid for their content, I fail to see the justification of this DRM, self-destruct system they've concocted.

    Of course I wouldn't be surprised if it was one of those idiotic anti-BBC 'safeguards' imposed by the government to 'maintain competition'.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Virgin cable's catch up service will be mirroring the iPlayer content anyway (and indeed will even be rebranded as iPlayer in the New Year anyway, so Virgin Customers won't need to worry about it.

    Interesting to note so many people quoting that £130 million figure, even though it's been debunked as two orders of magnitude out. Never mind, eh?

    "Hmmmm... so let me see if I watch TV using 'live pause' and lets say 30 secs behind the live broadcast... then I am clearly not watching 'live' TV... I am watching a recording. Therefore No TV license required ;-)"

    No, because your tuner is receiving the signal in real time and thus you are getting live TV and timeshifting it.

  36. Jonboy
    IT Angle

    Terms and Conditions

    When the iPlayer was first released it was possible to copy the entire set of terms and conditions from the T&C text box to a Word document or similar. Thus it was easier to review the 4 x A4 pages of restrictive clauses, and notice that nowhere is it mentioned that in order to use it, you should have a current TV licence. Happy Days.

    Anyway the BBC have now rectified this er problem and you can no longer select all the text, and instead have to view all the T&C's in a tiny 2"x2" text box - I'm sure there's a webpage you can visit with the constantly changing T&C's, but if you can't select and copy the text you can't prove what you agreed to at the time of installation. Well - short of copying it all out, and that's not going to happen is it?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    No license for iPlayer needed.

    Just had my visit from the license collectors to check why I haven't paid and they were quite happy to see my TV being powered by my media PC playing iPlayer programs.

  38. Richard

    You'll still need a license!

    "Just had my visit from the license collectors to check why I haven't paid and they were quite happy to see my TV being powered by my media PC playing iPlayer programs."

    So does your TV not have a tuner? Even if you don't use it for tuning into a broadcast you still need a license!

    It's like cutting the plug off the TV, it doesn't matter, you still own equipment capable of receiving a signal.

  39. Alan Parsons


    I, for years, had a plasma TV up on the wall with a built in tuner - never tuned it, never watched TV, never bought a license. Had several visits, each time explained the situation, even on one occasion demonstrated it as untuned and every time the officials were happy to accept that I wasn't watching TV and didn't need a license. Now I have a wife who is slightly confused and thinks there's stuff worth watching, I've bought a license and tuned the TV. I do, however, have several friends who own TVs capable of receiving a signal but chose not to, and so, don't pay.

    I'm not saying you're wrong - I don't actually know the specific rules of it, but no-one ever insisted to me that owning the equipment meant needing a license regardless of whether or not I used it - and I guess they'd know - and not let it go if they thought they _could_ extract funds?

  40. Tim

    Beta/alpha quality

    It's strange, but several years ago I was on the NTL trial of iPlayer back before it was known as iPlayer.

    It still used kontiki but had a simpler UI that didn't use a web interface and was slicker. It felt more like a completed product, but for some reason the BBC continued to mess with it and trial it for years which 4oD came out with theirs in completed form.

    Still, both are better than Sky Anytime for PC which demands you pay to watch shows you already get with your Sky subscription!

  41. Matt



    "Just had my visit from the license collectors to check why I haven't paid and they were quite happy to see my TV being powered by my media PC playing iPlayer programs."

    So does your TV not have a tuner? Even if you don't use it for tuning into a broadcast you still need a license!

    It's like cutting the plug off the TV, it doesn't matter, you still own equipment capable of receiving a signal.


    You are totally wrong.You only have to read your final sentence to see you have no idea what your talking about.

    You only need a license if you watch broadcast material, which is either via satellite, cable or Analogue or Digital reception.

    You do not need a license if your TV is connected to a PC / DVD player / VCR only and is not receiving broadcast signals.

    The TV is then classified as a 'monitor' and becomes exempt from the stealth tax.

    Following text lifted from /

  42. Steve again

    Purely hypothetically . . .

    . . . for those of us who are expats - if we wanted to, what would be the best way to get around the UK only requirement. Not that we would, of course, we're far too honest for that.

  43. caffeine addict


    The license isn't for recieving equipment - it's for the act of receiving. As long as the TV is detuned (not even any ghost images) then you are fine with a TV complete with tuner.

    I have this discussion with TV licensing every year. Every year they have to check with a supervisor and then grudgingly agree with me. Every year they promise to send someone around to watch the static on my TV screen. They've never come round yet...

  44. Me Again
    Thumb Down

    Launched Christmas? Where to?

    BBC iPlayer Launches Christmas Day? Where to? Into orbit?

    I know that some of us like to criticise El Reg for its Americanisms, and these are usually dismissed as being sourced from the American division of The Reg. But in a news item about the BBC I'd expect it to be written by a chap in an evening suit wearing a monocle, or Brian Perkins [the well known Kiwi newsreader], and in decent English without words missing that change the whole meaning of the sentence.

    Carry on....

  45. Joe

    @ Richard

    So if cutting the plug off doesn't make it no longer "TV receiving equipment", how far do I have to go? Cut the entire cable, will that be alright? Saw it in half? What if I just leave a transistor on the floor, do I need a TV license for that?

    I can confirm that Matt & Co. are correct, I've read the laws and haven't had a license for about 5 years, despite there being a TV in the living room.

    It doesn't stop them sending threatening, deceitful, vaguely-worded letters, but it does shut them up when they come to visit!

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a waste of money

    BBC...why reinvent the wheel. Why not just allow direct downloads like the ABC or use someone else's technology like Joost??


  47. Nano nano

    Radio licence

    What if you use your Freeview box solely for receiving Radio programmes (say you have it hooked up to a couple of mains-powered PC speakers and that's all).

    (Much better bitrate and coding than than DAB nonsense)

    Do you still require a TV licence ?! (Black & white, or colour ?)

  48. James

    BBC iPlayer - License Fee killer

    I don't see why I should have to pay for a License fee any more - I don't want an iPlayer - I'll choose my own on-demand online services thank you very much.

    I am happy to continue paying my license fee provided the Lion's share of the money goes to making programmes. I don't see why the BBC should still be allowed to collect the License fee when they just look one of many media providers. They used to have something unique (BBC1, BB2, Radio1-4). We're losing that now - the quality of the programming has deteriorated that I hardly watch any BBC programmes at all now (and the ones I do they have just bought in).

    And I think the BBC won't have a leg to stand on in terms of the license fee when they insist on trying to lead the way on the web and the iPlayer is a classic example of why the people in charge of the BBC are not fit to be in the position of trust that they are in.

    Very sad state of affairs - the current BBC generation ought to be ashamed of themselves - and the government doubly so for not recognizing this and not protected the BBC we all knew and loved for our Children to enjoy.

    I'm been happy paying the license fee all my adult life - Now I'm not happy paying it and I'm looking hard for a legal justification to do so. I want television in my home - but I don't want my hard earned money frittered away on things like iPlayer when all I want is to watch some good programming on my TV.

    Shame on you BBC

  49. David Gosnell

    Latest iPlayer

    Having just given the latest cut of iPlayer a whirl, damn I'm impressed.

    _Appears_ to be cross-platform capable, P2P shunning, streamed FLV viewing.

    Not quite as good image quality as the old one, but in every other way nicer.

    Just a shame the BBC wasted such a ton of money on the Kontiki junk.

  50. Tim J

    Xmas day launch - bad idea!

    So the BBC iPlayer will be launched on Christmas day. I see two problems ahead!

    The first is, will the BBC's servers be able to cope with the demand as technophile youngsters keen on a break away from the family shenanigans try and download the iPlayer and then download content on Xmas day afternoon or evening - and if there is a problem will there be anyone around to fix the BBC's servers?

    The second issue is whether a whole host of inebriated, less than 100% sharp Britons will be able to cope with actually installing the app on Xmas day. It'll hardly be good viral marketing if thousands of people struggle to install the iPlayer on the 25 December, even if the problems are of their own making (i.e. the lack of a clear head caused by booze, food coma and other festive distractions).

  51. David

    Speaking of Americanisms...

    ...the word is "licence".

  52. Ed Carroll
    Thumb Up

    Had no problems...

    Controversial I’m sure but I have had no problems with both 4OD or iPlayer... in fact, I think they are both pretty good (ok, yes, IF you are using windows). iPlayer (as a player) has been very stable, no conflicts with 4OD either - the website its self has been flaky from time to time - as has 4OD. As for DRM, yeah it truly stinks but if I want a show forever I’ll download it via other means, if I just want to catch up on stuff I’ve missed and don’t want to be sitting in front of the TV they are very useful.

    Unfortunately I think it's down to the point that those not on windows will – for now - just have to suck it up and wait (or do a dual boot)… those who don’t want it and just like complaining, continue as you are because I doubt anything will satisfy you completely.

  53. John Parker

    I checked.....

    you don't need a TV licence provided you don't use the TV/monitors that you own to watch broadcast material.

    I checked, as I download all the stuff I want to watch and stream it to the xbox media centre sat under the old gogglebox. No licence here, and the beeb said it was ok in an email, after I checked with them.


    Dear Mr John

    Thank you for your recent enquiry.

    The use of television sets, videocassette recorders, set-top boxes or DVD recorders to receive or record television programme services must be covered by an appropriate TV Licence. A licence is also required if a TV-enabled personal computer is used to record or receive television programmes.

    If a videocassette recorder, a DVD recorder or a colour television is used, whether separately or together, a Colour TV Licence is required. The use of televisions as monitors solely for computer/video games does not need licensing.

    If your television equipment is used to receive or record television programmes, you should buy a TV Licence at once. However, if your equipment is not used to receive or record television programmes, please let me know your address. I will then make sure our records are changed to show you do not need a licence. However, I should advise you to make sure that the television and video are not tuned to receive television broadcasts, it is also advisable to ensure the equipment is not connected to any aerials. One of our Visiting Officers may visit your home to check that the equipment being used does not receive broadcast signals.

    I hope this information is helpful.

    Yours sincerely

    Brian James

    TV Licensing


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