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BBC iPlayer quick review – C for effort


I’ve been invited onto the BBC iPlayer beta test, so here’s a quick review piece on the latest Internet media player to hit the market. Click on thumbnails for larger image.


  • First impressions – front end has a snazzy Web 2.0 interface. Lots of shaded icons, big text and images, Ajax timer symbols et al.
  • Internet Explorer sucks. OK, I know I should leave it alone because it’s over done to death, but having no Linux, Mac, Vista or Firefox version is pathetic. Windows Media player is likewise very average. And UK only? Hmmm….
  • Image quality. The quality is OK, but compared to Joost there’s no contest in terms of full screen quality.
  • Speed. Download speed is sluggish compared to alternative offerings. This highlights the hassle of having to download heavily DRM protected content vs fast streaming. It can take up to 30 seconds to locate the file you want and then anything up to an hour or more to actually download it. This is not an instant gratification service peeps.
  • Content. Well it’s the BBC isn’t it? Although that saying, the stuff that’s currently available is hardly top drawer. More like B grade stuff mostly which is probably something to do with license issues. OK, and so it’s also a beta test.
  • Usability. The separation of the library function from the content catalogue sucks. You need to access the iPlayer site to view what’s available rather than just viewing it from your library directly. This is clearly an issue with using the Windows Media system, and it is nasty.
  • Overall experience. Very average.


Sorry but this is not a great product. It’s restricted, slow, cumbersome and based on some very nasty technology. In fact if it wasn’t the BBC, it wouldn’t get the time of day anywhere else. It shares the same technology as the Sky Anytime player which is also a staggeringly unimpressive service and to be honest if this is the best that conventional television can do to compete with the new Internet television services, then they’re doomed, because good content will very soon start to migrate to the fast growing global services. And that’ll be game over for this type of stilted parochial technology.



  • Of course it should be limited to UK only… you have a problem with that then pay the �138 licence that I do to fund the BBC in the UK

  • Dude, I do pay the license fee.

  • Give, it a chance peeps remeber it is actually in beta and as such its being load tested by the public rather than the team working on it spending a minor fortune doing controlled, closed garden testing which won’t replicate real world conditions.
    Also regarding the content – the beeb constrained by rights issues and deals it negotiated with PACT, not so much a problem with new content covered by the online friendly blanket deal but the majority of the library and a fair chunk of the new stuff is not either, so look at this beta phase as an opportunity for the rights holders to work out a fair deal for all (hopefully).
    Oh, and don’t get me started on the Win/OSX/Linux hooha, do people really want to force the license fee payers to pay for parallel multiple stream development of an open source platform right from the start to cover a small percentage of the online population? Jeez.
    Yeah, the beeb developing a Dirac based opensource software/iptv/dvr/library/uncle tom cobbly and all solution would have been ideal but should the Tech Direction division at the place really be a specialist code shop at the expense of the content producers?

  • I’m originally from the US but now live in the UK with my husband (and we pay that weird BBC license fee) but I’m in the U.S. for 2 months staying with relatives. I thought I’d use their computer to try the BBC iPlayer but somehow it knows that the computer I’m using is in the U.S. So I can’t download anything…

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