Everyone in Britain got a wonderful present in 2007 when the BBC launched its on demand TV catch-up service, iPlayer, on December 25th.
Since that festive launch, iPlayer has become a huge success and one of the BBC’s strongest brands. In fact, it was using such a significant chunk of the UK’s Internet bandwidth that it led to early rows between the public service broadcaster and the nation’s ISPs.
At least part of iPlayer’s success has been the BBC’s strategy of getting the service on as many platforms as possible. After starting on the desktop computer, iPlayer has since become available on gaming consoles, tablets, connected TVs, media streamers and, obviously, smartphones.
While it’s still only available in the UK, none other than Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore was moved to tweet its arrival on Windows Phone last week:
Of course, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that in the future it will be made available for all the BBC’s international fans too!
For most Britons, using iPlayer is now as familiar as changing the channels with their remote controls. You can watch, on demand, any programme that has been broadcast on the BBC’s TV channels and radio stations from the last seven days.
This new app for Nokia Lumia smartphones running on Windows Phone 8 is reassuringly familiar.
It opens with a list of ‘Featured’ TV shows and as you scroll down, you also see lists for the ‘Most Popular’ and ‘The Latest’.
See something you like? Just tap on it and you’ll be taken to that programme page where another tap on the ‘Click to Play’ icon will start the stream.
However, the real glory of iPlayer is that it’s a repository of everything (or nearly everything – due to rights restrictions, the odd programme is sometimes missing) that’s been broadcast over the last week.
There are several ways you can find a programme. There’s a search box, but what if you don’t know the name of the programme you’re looking for?
Say you caught the last 10 minutes of a show on BBC2 and you want to watch the rest of it?
You can still find it by using the channel listings, which is a daily ‘timetable’ of all the shows broadcast in the last seven days, as long as you can remember what time and day the programme was on.
If you fancy being a little more adventurous you can also search by category. This works well, if you have no specific programme in mind, but you feel in the mood for a bit of drama, music, or a documentary. There are over a dozen categories to choose from.
Just as the TV content is easy to search, find and discover, so is the radio programming. In fact, it’s easy to forget that iPlayer also includes the hundreds of hours of radio output that is broadcast by the BBC on its national and regional stations every week.
BBC iPlayer isn’t a fancy app. In fact, the only real feature of note is that you can save your favourite programmes; new episodes will automatically appear in your favourites tab when they become available.
However, iPlayer isn’t about the app. What matters is that, in the UK at least, you’ll be able to watch Doctor Who, EastEnders or The Apprentice on your Nokia Lumia smartphone wherever and whenever you like.