A first look at the BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer logoSo after all the controversy we reported last week, the long awaited BBC iPlayer has been released and I’ve had chance to play around with it a bit.

The installation itself is quite an ordeal. The first thing you’ll notice during it is the number of security checks you’re prompted for which takes longer than the actual download itself. The player then takes at least a few minutes trying to acquire a Digital Rights Management Licence and then offers you the chance to set a PIN number and so prevent unauthorised access to the player. The most annoying bit is that at the end of all this, you have to register for a BBC account.

The player itself is actually pretty sleek and the programs available for viewing were all broadcast within the past 7 days and are organised by categories. You can select programming based on the BBC channels listed along the bottom of the player. Most 30 minute shows are just over 100MB and it took me no more than 5 minutes to download one. The file expires 7 days after the download and annoyingly, you can’t watch it as it’s downloading. A countdown timer lets you know how long you’ve got left before a programme will expire. The picture quality was excellent in the default size but when you blow it up to full screen, it’s quite grainy. Most annoying of all however is that it only seems to work in the UK at the moment. I managed to download some shows via a UK proxy but this was unreliable as the proxy kept being blocked.

In summary, make sure you’ve got plenty of time to spare when installing the iPlayer. If only this was fully available out of the UK, I’d be a lot more enthusiastic. UK viewers can already see previously broadcast programs by setting the VCR, recording them on Digital TV hard drives etc so it seems the iPlayer is just another tool many of them don’t really need. Let’s hope the BBC open-up the iPlayer to the world to satisfy the millions of English speakers who would love to use it.

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