Welcome to the Ultimate BBC iPlayer FAQ

Over the years I’ve been asked so many questions about BBC iPlayer I thought I’d go back through my notes and write them up as an FAQ page.

Q: How do I use iPlayer?
A: If you are in the UK you just go to bbc.co.uk and click on iPlayer at the top of the screen using any modern web browser. If you have a modern TV set bought in the last 4 or 5 years it will almost certainly also have the BBC iPlayer App built in. For this to work you need to have connected your TV set to your home wifi. You’ll then usually find an iPlayer, Menu or Online button on your remote controls. If your are outside of the UK then iPlayer isn’t going to work as it’s locked down to the UK. If you have a way to connect back into the UK via a VPN then you may be able to gain access that way.

Q:How to download iPlayer App
A: As above you don’t necessarily need an App to watch BBC TV programmes on iPlayer if you have a web browser. You may, however, want to install the iPlayer App if you have an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, iPhone, iPad or Android device. In all these cases you need to find the App Store icon on your device and then search for BBC. You should then find the BBC iPlayer App if it’s available for your device.

Q:How to stream BBC iPlayer?
A: Please see above, How do I use iPlayer.

Q: iplayer how does it work?
A:So how does BBC iPlayer work. Technically the BBC upload their TV and Radio Programmes onto central servers along with what they call metadata about these programmes. The metadata includes the name of the programme, the date of transmission, channel and the dates it is to be available online. The demand on BBC iPlayer is so great that at times it accounts for the majority of the internet traffic in the UK. The system is designed to cope with this level of demand by being highly distributed and highly integrated into the UK Internet backbone. This means that content is cached on servers within each of the major broadband providers and in various regional content distribution network hubs.

Q: How to download iPlayer abroad.
A: Please see above answers.

Q: How long before iPlayer updates?
A: This varies from programme to programme. Pre-recorded programmes can go live on iPlayer the moment they start to be transmitted on air. On some devices now iPlayer supports watching live programmes from the start. Other times it seems to take days for programmes to go live on iPlayer, this is usually for rights reasons rather than technical reasons.

Q: BBC iPlayer does not work?
A: This is almost certainly a problem with your set-up rather than iPlayer itself. This is such an important platform now in the UK that an outage would probably make the headlines on the News at Ten. If it’s not working then first check your connection to the internet is working by trying other online apps. If this works OK then try switching off / rebooting your device. If that still fails then see if your device/TV has an option in the set-up menu to ‘refresh internet content’. This can sometimes fix TV’s on which iPlayer hasn’t been used for a long time and the version of the iPlayer app in the device is out of date.

Q: Does BBC iPlayer Support AirPlay?
A: Yes, see my blog about BBC iPlayer an AirPlay here. However if you have an Apple TV I recommend you just install the BBC iPlayer App, it’s brilliant and much better than using AirPlay.

Q: How do you download videos from iPlayer?
A: If you are using a web browser on a PC or laptop it does support downloading programmes so that you can watch them offline. However these are still subject to digital rights management (DRM) and will not be accessible after a number of days, typically 30 days. There is no legal way to download video from iPlayer outside of the BBC’s rights management system and keep it forever as we used to with VHS and Beta video recorders. If you are desperate to keep a programme for some reason then it may be possible to use screen capture software on your laptop to record and save locally for your personal use. If this works at all then expect this loophole to be plugged when you upgrade your Operating System at some point in the not to distant future.

If you have a question I haven’t covered above do please get in touch and I’ll do my best to answer it for you.