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Get the most out of BBC iPlayer

You can use iPlayer to watch the BBC’s programmes up to 30 days after they’ve aired – but do you know what else the service offers?

BBC iPlayer is the Beeb’s dedicated catch up TV service that allows viewers to browse the vast majority of BBC programming from the last 30 days and stream the content to a laptop, smart TV, TV streamer, tablet or smartphone at their leisure.

However, catch-up TV isn’t all you get with the BBC’s video on-demand service. Keep reading to find out what else BBC iPlayer has to offer.

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How to get BBC iPlayer

If you’ve only ever watched BBC iPlayer on your laptop, you may be surprised to learn that you can use the service on your TV just as easily. Most smart TVs will have the service as standard, and you can also gain access through a whole host of PVRs, internet streaming devices (like Chromecast and the Amazon Fire Stick), DVD players and even games consoles like the Nintendo Wii or Wii U, Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4.

Failing that, you can even hook your laptop up to your TV via a HDMI cable, assuming your laptop has an HDMI socket (see our TV connections wizard for further information). Or, if you’d prefer to watch your favourite show on the go, you can also download BBC iPlayer apps on Apple, Android and Windows tablets and smartphones.

Watch our video guide to getting the most out of BBC iPlayer and find out how to do all of the above, and more.

Getting the most out of BBC iPlayer – video

How to use BBC iPlayer

Watch live TV – Want to watch the big match live while your TV is otherwise engaged? Well, fret no more as you can use iPlayer to watch live shows as well as archived ones. Simply select the TV Guide option from the homescreen to see what’s on right now across all of the BBC’s channels. You can even restart most live shows from the beginning by clicking Restart the current programme. Bear in mind, though, that you need a TV licence to watch live TV on iPlayer or any other video streaming service. For more, please see TV licence explained.

Catch up TV – You used to get just seven days to ‘catch up’ on shows after they’d been shown on BBC channels, but from autumn 2014 that was been extended to 30 days. Alongside BBC iPlayer, the new 30-day catch-up window is also available on BBC iPlayer Radio (see more on that below).

Download shows to watch offline – If you’re planning a trip and want to catch up on some viewing while in transit, that’s another possibility. Simply find the programme you want to watch and hit the Download option – this will download the show to your tablet or phone, or even to your laptop. Just be sure to download the BBC iPlayer Downloads widget for Windows or Mac when prompted. Note that HD shows can take longer to download and, if you’re using your phone’s 3G connection, be sure to check your data allowance.

Watch in high definition – If your internet connection is fast enough (the BBC recommends 3.2Mbps) then you can stream shows in HD. Depending on your device type either select Watch in HD or toggle the HD on/off switch. If you select HD before you begin a download, the show will display in high definition.

Scroll back through the schedule – One of the most handy aspects of iPlayer is the TV Guide. This lets you scroll back through the last seven days of shows so you can peruse the BBC’s schedule at your leisure and play any shows highlighted in white text.

Search for shows and select favourites – If you know the name of the show you want to watch, then you can use the search bar to find what you’re looking for. If it’s a show in a series you know you’ll want to keep watching, simply click the star icon to add it to your personalised favourites page.

Enable subtitles – Most of the BBC’s shows can be streamed with subtitles enabled. To turn the subtitles on, simply start the show and click or tap the ‘S’ symbol, depending on the type of device, while the content is playing.

How to listen to iPlayer Radio

Following a recent update, BBC iPlayer has been split in two. TV shows still live in the usual place, but you can also find all of the BBC’s radio channels, complete with show archives, online as well. This works in a similar way to the TV version of the iPlayer and also lets you download shows as podcasts.

Using the BBC Store

The BBC Store is Auntie’s very own digital video online shop where you can buy entire series – contemporary and classic – to be yours to keep forever. Any purchases you make are made available to watch through iPlayer itself.

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