BBC iPlayer launched to some fanfare last Christmas. The British public were overjoyed at being able to watch programmes they'd missed, without being dependent on broadcasters' whims about when they get a chance to catch up.

Eventually, the plan for iPlayer is for the full 80-odd years of BBC programming to be given a permanent home on the web, so we can all relive much-loved classic programmes. Famously, some classic programming has been wiped or lost to fire, but you'll still be hard pushed to exhaust its repository. iPlayer was a project that could hardly fail.

Such has been the success of iPlayer that ISPs made dark threats about throttling bandwidth and charging the broadcaster, since it was their infrastructure bearing the burden. In February, Media Digest reported that 38 percent of all online media-streaming was BBC content.

iPlayer Parental Guidance

Unabashed by such party-pooping complaints, the BBC swiftly announced its intention to make the seven-day catchup TV service available in its natural environment – the living room – as well as on a PC screen. Virgin Media became the first to be able to offer BBC iPlayer via a TV this spring.

For those of us not yet able to access the iPlayer content via our little red button, there's still plenty to enjoy. Since everything is free, you don't need to log into the site and can simply watch what's there, as and when you want. Alternatively, you can grab a programme that catches your eye and download it for future enjoyment.

To start viewing programmes, head to the iPlayer site. You can browse by programme title or genre and are given a prompt to confirm your age if the programme contains adult material. Alternatively, you can set up a parental controls filter, so the only shows that come up will be ones you're happy for your kids to watch.

When you select a programme, you're told how many days are left before it's replaced by newer content.

As well as offering the past week's worth of broadcasts for immediate viewing, you can download content. You'll need to download the iPlayer applet to do so.

The quality of the content displayed is markedly superior to that offered by most other broadcasters. Even the full-screen versions of programmes we streamed via iPlayer were perfectly watchable.

iPlayer

BBC iPlayer: Specs

  • 500MHz Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon
  • Windows XP
  • 512MB RAM, 500MB hard disk space
  • Internet Explorer 6.0
  • Windows Media Player 10.0
  • broadband connection
  • 500MHz Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon
  • Windows XP
  • 512MB RAM, 500MB hard disk space
  • Internet Explorer 6.0
  • Windows Media Player 10.0
  • broadband connection

OUR VERDICT

iPlayer can be used on portable devices and, with high-definition content available, is set to give iTunes a run for its money.

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