Catch up TV BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer interface

You can download and watch shows on iPlayer up to seven days after they air on TV

Using BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer is the most well-known online TV on-demand service. 

You can catch up with BBC programmes from the past week that you've missed or want to watch again. The iPlayer incorporates a media player and an electronic programme guide (EPG).

It's also available to Virgin Media customers who can access BBC iPlayer on their TV by pressing the red button while watching any BBC channel, and on some Freesat TVs, set-top boxes and PVRs in a similar manner.

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Ways to watch BBC iPlayer

There's a variety of ways to watch online TV with BBC iPlayer. If you're in the UK with an internet connection you can do the following:

  • watch shows from the past seven days on the iPlayer website through Click to Play (streaming)
  • download TV programmes and store them on your computer for up to 30 days
  • access BBC iPlayer on certain mobile phones
  • access BBC iPlayer on most smart TVs
  • load downloaded shows onto compatible portable media players
  • watch and download HD programmes
  • watch all the BBC channels live online.

The BBC iPlayer works on Windows, Mac and Linux computers, though you may need to make sure you have up-to-date versions of certain programs installed, such as Internet Explorer, Flash or Windows Media Player.

HD TV using BBC iPlayer

The BBC's iPlayer is the first free online TV service to offer high-definition (HD) TV programmes. Viewers with an HD television or PC monitor can watch streamed HD content online or download HD programmes to watch later.

Virgin Media customers can also view BBC iPlayer HD content through their television if they have a Virgin Media V+ HD box and an HD-ready TV.

HD download dangers

HD files are larger than standard-definition programmes, so consumers should be careful they don't exceed any download limits set by their broadband provider.

Which? has surveyed thousands of broadband customers about their service – find the best packages and compare download limits in our broadband review.

a couple sharing a laptop in their house

iPlayer users can access a full range of BBC TV channels

What you can watch with BBC iPlayer online TV 

The iPlayer shows programmes from each of the BBC's terrestrial and Freeview channels over the internet, including BBC1, BBC2 and CBBC.

Users can download and watch TV shows for up to seven days after they air on TV. Downloaded TV programmes can be stored and watched for up to 30 days if your computer supports the BBC iPlayer Desktop.

As with rival broadcasters, some BBC TV content such as films, music and sporting events are not available to watch using the iPlayer because of rights issues. But the majority of BBC-made or commissioned television, such as soaps and drama series, are available.

BBC iPlayer social features

The BBC iPlayer has recently had a facelift, with new features added. Two of these encourage connecting with your friends while watching BBC shows, making using the player a less insular experience.

Viewers can now recommend shows to their friends via social networks such as Facebook, and add personalised comments.

If you fancy watching shows with your friends, you can use the new messenger widget, which incorporates Windows Live Messenger.

This allows viewers to message their friends in real time as they watch the show, commenting on what's happening on screen. To use this function, it is necessary to have a free Windows Live Messenger account. 

How to watch BBC iPlayer on the go

An iPhone in a hand

Apple iPhone users can watch streamed iPlayer content online

Online TV programmes can also be downloaded from BBC iPlayer to a range of portable media players and mobile phones for viewing on the move. You can play iPlayer downloads on mobile gadgets supporting Windows Media digital rights management (Windows DRM). 

Compatible devices for iPlayer include the Apple iPhone and iPad, Sony Walkman E and S series, and the Archos Internet Media Tablet. You can download TV content directly onto an internet-capable device or onto your PC before side-loading it on to a compatible portable media player.

To find out if your mobile device can play BBC iPlayer TV programmes, check the manufacturer’s manual. 

Apple iPhone and iPad users can watch streamed BBC iPlayer content online when connected via a broadband wi-fi connection.

See our tablet reviews and find a great tablet for watching online TV the go 

BBC iPlayer on games consoles

In November 2009, the BBC iPlayer launched on the Nintendo Wii, in the form of a dedicated Wii channel. Connect your Wii to the internet and you can download the BBC iPlayer from the Wii Shop Channel. 

The BBC iPlayer service is also available on Sony's Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 console. You can't download programmes, but you can stream them. 

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