back to article Netflix needling you? BBC pimps up iPlayer ahead of BBC3 move

The BBC unveiled a much-needed front-end makeover for its sprawling iPlayer service today – while dodging the inevitable questions about subscriptions. The corporation has updated iPlayer to take on commercial subscription rivals like Netflix, with shows available for longer – 30 days, subject to Trust approval. The details of …


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  1. The BigYin

    Yay for iPlayer!

    One of the very few catch-up services that "just works" on GNU/Linux without having to fart about with WINE, Moonlight or other crap.

    Although I still see the old version - ho hum

    1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Re: Yay for iPlayer!

      Mm. Hopefully get_iplayer will still work

    2. Code Monkey

      Re: Yay for iPlayer!

      I like the old version, but breaking up the Factual monolith can only be a good thing (for me at least)

      1. Fibbles

        Re: Yay for iPlayer!

        I don't understand these comments about the factual category. For me it has always had sub-categories.

    3. Richy Freeway

      Re: Yay for iPlayer!

      See the new one here :

      What have they done??? Brrr.

      1. The BigYin

        Re: Yay for iPlayer!

        Thanks Richy.

        What they've done is hit iPlayer with Win8 uhly stick but keep their colours. Not so long ago everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) copied Apple with their UI design, although they often failed to have the quality or completeness of vision.

        As Win8 is the new-shit-on-the-street, everyone copies that now.

        Don't tell me El Reg's Win8-a-like make-over passed you by?

    4. fruitoftheloon

      Re: Yay for iPlayer!


      you got that right.

      Having just re-built my 2nd boxen with mint 15, and finding that iSlower on PS3 was f'ing useless, I was genuinely stunned to find out that iplayer worked just fine in firefox with no faffing or driver nonsense at all on my aged htpc!!...

      OK the audio was a teensy bit out of sync, but otherwise one was pleasantly surprised.

      Long live the penguins, now how does this NAS thingy work?


    5. The BigYin

      Re: Yay for iPlayer!

      Seems I spoke too soon. Downloading is only possible on Windows or OS X; lovers of freedom are left out in the cold. Shame.

      At least get_iplayer still works (and XBMC) but for how long?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Charge iPlayer only viewers? good idea...

    Now build up the back catalogue, open it up to international customers and you have a winner!

    1. G Fan

      They already do this - for a paltry €5 per month non-UK residents have access to both current shows and the complete BBC archive:

  3. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Surfers paradise

    > 42% of visitors are now coming without a particular programme in mind.

    So viewers are treating iplayer as a "goto" channel. They (we?) aren't interested in catching-up on any particular programme but just want something to watch. Rather than turn on their TV, if they have one nearby, they are surfing iplayer in the same way that others surf TV channels or youtube.

    In this situation iplayer is no longer there to support broadcast TV, but is a product in its own right. One can assume that the 42% of iplayer surfers will increase over time - if for no other reason than this new iplayer interface makes that form of viewing easier - and therefore iplayer will become competitive with ordinary TV as a source of entertainment.

    The question that begs is when and how will it be monetised?

    1. Zimmer

      Re: Surfers paradise

      Monetised? Well how about licensing all those nice computers out there in households without a telly.. whether they watch it or not ? Thin end of a very expensive wedge.

      Perhaps someday the internet will disappear to become only a medium for broadcast/stored TV...

      The download speeds for some are bad enough already without all the contention from telly watchers on the net!

      1. zb


        As an ex-pat I pay for a virtual server in London purely for receiving UK TV via Linux and SOCKS. That costs £90 pa and I have the pain of keeping the server up to date and secure. I am queuing up for the right to hand over some cash to the Beeb.

        And the other thing that really pisses me off is that I can get most BBC radio broadcasts via iPlayer in Linux, Mac or Windows without the proxy but nothing using Android. Again, if it was a matter of payment I would be the first in the queue.

        Why don't they wise up and either let me in for free or let me in for payment?

        1. Metrognome

          Re: Monetised

          I'm with zb on this one.

          Although my "workaround" is much more prosaic (and actually legal here in Switzerland), I too would love to hand over the cash, to enter the advert free blissdom that is the BBC.

          More than any Netflix, iTunes or other service, the iPlayer is the only one I wish I was allowed to pay. Bring it on, I say.

          (FWIW I think it would be right to charge only non-TV licence holders for access to iPlayer. After all, I recall from my years in Blighty that the TV licence is meant to support all public service broadcasters, like ITV and C4; so unless the online only licence came with 4OD and whatever the ITV equivalent is, I don't see the point).

  4. stu 4


    There 'HD' is a joke though. always has been.

    It's like no HD you've ever seen. unless HD to you means "about the same as a regular SD broadcast compared to our normal stream which is like a pixelated 'can you guess what it is yet' rolf harris video."

    At least with Netflix I get 3Mb/s HD. which doesn't look too bad. And even their adaptive streaming works nicely over mobile.

    1. Kay Burley ate my hamster

      Re: HD


      Their HD looks good to me. In fact their SD looks pretty good too.

    2. Fibbles

      Re: HD

      I think some of the image quality issues might simply be because of the flash player itself. iPlayer always looks fairly blurry to me when I play it in the browser yet when I download the video files directly with get_iplayer they look fine (not bluray quality obviously but good enough considering the file size).

  5. Ol'Peculier


    This will be interesting, how will they manage iPlayer only households with multiple devices - I've got 6 devices in my house that can access iPlayer, so I'd need passwords for each one. So what's stopping me saying I've got 7 and give one away to a mate in the pub?

    1. Metrognome

      Re: Charging

      That's easy.

      If the "target" is households, as you put it, then you allow unlimited connections from the household IP address (we're still some way away from multi IP addressed households) and also allow a nominal (no more than 3-5) number of instances that are outside the established household IP.

      If it works with enterprise licencing for various types of software (think simultaneous connections/users) I don't see a problem extending it to the iPlayer.

      However, it is the rights holders that need convincing, not the population.

      For example, BBC had to switch to a satellite transponder with an even narrower footprint than before to continue with unscrambled broadcasts and still claim to only make them available to the UK (otherwise they would need to scramble or pay international distribution rights - about 10 times more expensive).

      [rant] so much for the "single market" [/rant]

      1. Mark Lawson

        Re: Charging

        That might work with a fixed household IP address.... but many ISPs still assign a different number from a pool of IP addresses every time their users reconnect. Enterprises tend to have a fixed IP address...

      2. Ol'Peculier

        Re: Charging

        Not always, what about streaming directly onto a phone, MiFi dongle or cellular connected tablet?

        I know that Sky allows up to three devices, but they (AFAIK) aren't transferrable

  6. VinceH

    Okay, BBC, that's the website, now when are you going to make the desktop app something a little less... crap.

    Allow the app to be resized (and provide proper, scaled scroll-bars).

    Allow the downloaded programs to be sorted into an order I choose (such as by download or expiry date) - currently, it seems to display them in a different, random order each time I load it.

    But most of all, bring back the series link feature!

    1. returnmyjedi

      The only apps the Beeb are interested in are the ones on iOS. Android is always second best and Windows Phone is a web app.

    2. Tom 260

      Downloaded programs also need subtitles, which are strangely lacking given that they're available if you stream it instead (Sky's On Demand BBC content also completely lacks subtitles).

  7. CADmonkey

    Just tried the new version for a few minutes.

    It does less than the old one, and takes up more room, and involves more clicks.

    WTF BBC?

  8. ElectricFox


    I used to love it in the early days, when they put religious programming under the "Factual" category!

  9. Zog_but_not_the_first

    BBC3 online

    I see they're promising some new stuff from Adam Curtis. So not all bad then.

    1. Fink-Nottle

      Re: BBC3 online

      I was suprised to read they are also "working with established British comedians like Bob Mortimer and Frankie Boyle".

      Who knew Frankie Boyle was a comedian?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BBC3 online

        Who knew Frankie Boyle was British, isn't he from Scotland?

        1. Roj Blake

          Re: BBC3 online

          The last time I checked, Scotland was located on the island of Great Britain and was a constituent part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

  10. Baron Ebaneezer Wanktrollop III

    Meanwhile in the real world....

    Hi Dragons,

    I'm starting a company which aims to the do the same as ITV, Netflix and LoveFilm only I will force every household to pay the monthly subscription, hmmmm and lets make it double what the competition charge, and if they refuse to pay it - I put them in jail!

    Dragons? Hello?

  11. Patrician

    Seems to be more of a way for the BBC to make sure that they're getting a license fee for iPlayer users more than anything else.

  12. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    charge iPlayer-only viewers the full fee

    Yes, as an American, I'd pay for decent commercial-free TV. We sure as hell don't get it over here!

    Jesus, I was shocked at the quality MotoGP coverage from BBC Sport the first time I saw it. My jaw was rattling around on the floor. It even surpasses the stuff Americans do for NASCAR and the "bag of skittles swirling down a toilet" is supposed to be "the premier motorsport" over here.

    Too bad Dorna's turned MotoGP itself into boring crap with the fuel/engine/tire rules, but that's got nothing to do with the excellent BBC coverage & commentators.

    1. Metrognome

      Re: charge iPlayer-only viewers the full fee

      I sympathise with you.

      Back in the day, I was once parallel watching an F1 grand prix from BBC and a Greek TV station. Queue a series of blunders:

      - Major events happening during commercial breaks (Murphy's law anyone?)

      - The hapless Greek studio commentators didn't realise for a few laps that the front runner was losing ground; at the same time the BBC had their woman in the pits telling us "the gearbox had overheated in the last few laps forcing the engineers to lower the power output somewhat until the thermal profile recovered" (or something like that, anyway).

      It's the difference of being given exclusive VIP room access to the event and trying to surmise what might be happening from the background noise that makes it to the pavement where you've been banished.

  13. a_mu

    sony tv's

    And will my Sony TV's be able to read the new iPlayer interface ?

    the FinLux TV has enough problems with the last iPlayer update,

  14. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    At first I didn't like it

    Then I found where they hid everything, it's a much cleaner design. I like a lot. :D

  15. Eradicate all BB entrants

    I think the quality ....

    ..... must be a location issue. I am in the UK, have a fibre connection and iPlayer is still terrible. 20 seconds in and it pauses, on SD content.

    The other evening while watching something is HD on Netflix I forgot it was streaming and started a Steam download. 20 seconds of crappy picture and it switched to SD with no pauses. No matter what I do with internet connected devices Netflix keeps on going. Open a webpage while iPlayer is running and I may as well use the time to put the kettle on.

    And the stupid f*~@ing rules about when stuff is available does my head in. Question Time is the worst, have to wait until a repeat is shown on Sunday before it becomes available on iPlayer. Yet vapid crap is up there as soon as the live episode finishes.

    Sod this I'm going home to watch UHF on Netflix while downloading and surfing .... again :D

    1. Mark Allen

      Re: I think the quality ....

      You should "name and shame" your ISP. I sit here on Virgin broadband in a city and laugh at how well it works. The last time I saw stutters was when I was on the older 10Mbps modem in 2012. Since updating to the newer 60 Mbps service I have laughed at how smooth iPlayer is. (Whilst also hammering the network downloading ISOs from the PC at the same time)

      The biggest problem with iPlayer are people like yourself and those who live in the countryside. When broadband is still sub 5Mbps it is incredibly unfair when attempting to watch something. I hope the "pause and buffer" trick will still work for you. There needs to be real subsidies into the countryside to lift average broadband speeds outside of the cities. I find it incredibly unfair that BT got cash to flood fibre into the city where I live where we already had insanely fast broadband available from Virgin. Also unfair as BT will soon make money from people hooking up due to the density of population.

      Meanwhile, barely five miles away in the countryside, broadband barely hits 2Mbps. THAT is where the grant money should have been put.

      Back to iPlayer... I am all for the idea of allowing non-UK people to pay for access to iPlayer. great idea. But I bet it will be killed off by people like Murdoch claiming "unfair" and by the daft rules on which areas a show can appear in. Nothing more annoying than the bizarre rules on programs like Match of the Day where if you miss it live you have to wait a random number of days before watching it.

    2. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: I think the quality ....

      Exactly the same issue -

      We have 2 Chromecasts here (best invention ever) and we can happily stream 2 HD netflix shows to the Chromecasts and do whatever else we want on the internet with no issues at all, but iPlayer and 4oD are a joke. I suspect Netflix may have a cache server at our ISP who is probably Talk Talk but I can't say for certain - It's one of these: Freedom2Surf / Pipex / Opal / Talk Talk Business but everytime I ring up Talk Talk they complain I am a Pipex customer and give me a different number to ring... even though Pipex doesn't exist anymore...

  16. Ben Rose


    Of course, as soon as it does start generating revenue, those Apple people will be all over them claiming they own the iPlayer trademark as it begins with a little "i" and plays videos.

  17. James Pickett

    Our (rural) broadband is just about fast enough to stream Youtube in low res, and radio programmes on iPlayer. I'm guessing that BBC execs don't get out and about much.

    And HTF does taking BBC3 off an existing UHF network save money? I thought the major expense was making the programmes!

  18. Sirius Lee

    30 days?

    Why can't we have access to all the content? Why only 7 or 30 days? We paid for the stuff why can't we have access to it? Such a crap organization. Of course the BBC doesn't want to give us what we want. It wants to find ways to charge us for that which we've already paid for so they can keep growing the hideously sprawling enterprise.

    Much better that it's back catalogue is split from the broadcast portion so we can get access to it while the broadcast portion is whittled back to a PBS rump.

    Of course there will be screaming about how difficult it is to provide access, its not digitized, etc. Seems easy enough for YouTube which is able to host ancient videos (many from the BBC) from broadcasters and content holders around the world, not just Blighty and make that content available to people all over the world.

    I can accept the BBC is not up to it. Such a crap organization (have I said that already?). But that doesn't mean there are no organizations which are up to it (none of them British though), Let's change the BBC to something fit for the 21st century, something which is much, much smaller.

  19. Andalou

    Unsimple as A B C

    For 'pimps up' read 'reduces usability'.

    The A-Z listing is now wholly useless. Displaying lists of thirty to sixty programmes only three or four to the screen is bonkers. How is that supposed to help?

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