BBC iPlayer Scraps Offline “Downloads”, Sparking Outcry

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In a move that has caught many by surprise, the BBC has announced significant changes to its iPlayer service, specifically affecting how users can download shows for offline viewing on certain devices.

Traditionally, BBC iPlayer’s download feature has been a lifeline for those who want to watch their favourite programmes without an internet connection.

This feature has been particularly useful when travelling (on the tube, a train or an aeroplane, for example), or in areas with unreliable broadband service.

But starting this month, the BBC is phasing out its iPlayer Downloads app for PC and Mac, and users will no longer be able to download and watch shows on their desktop or laptop computers, without an active internet connection (see full timeline below).

Goodbye, iPlayer Desktop Downloads

On mobile phones, the download ability is already “baked” into the BBC iPlayer app – but on desktop computers, where people watch iPlayer via its website – a separate app is needed.

BBC iPlayer downloads Mac
BBC iPlayer Downloads App

The current BBC iPlayer Downloads App was released way back in 2013 (and a different version of it was available even earlier), allowing people to download programmes for offline viewings on desktop/laptop computers – both PCs and Mac.

However, with more and more people watching on mobile phones and tablets these days – the BBC has decided to stop maintaining the dedicated downloads app.

Therefore, the BBC has begun the process of discontinuing the BBC iPlayer Downloads application for PC and Mac users.

Since Friday, February 2, 2024, new users are no longer able to download and install the BBC iPlayer Downloads app – so if you don’t have it on your computer already, it’s too late now.

BBC iPlayer loading on TV

Existing users who have the app installed on their computer can continue to download programmes, for now.

However, the ability to download programmes from the web will cease on Monday, March 11.

Users will still be able to watch programmes they’ve downloaded up to March 11. But – from Monday, April 8, existing downloads will no longer be watchable either.

After this date, the BBC iPlayer Downloads app will be officially closed.

As expected, this change has sparked a range of reactions on social media, from disappointment to surprise.

Notably, some users have expressed regret that they were not even aware of the feature’s existence until now, making the news of its discontinuation a bittersweet revelation.

Can I Still Watch BBC iPlayer Without Broadband?

While the discontinuation of desktop downloads represents the end of an era, it does not end offline viewing of BBC iPlayer content.

Fire HD 8 BBC iPlayer
BBC iPlayer

The BBC has emphasized that users can continue to download their favourite programmes using the iPlayer app on mobile phones and tablets.

If you have the BBC iPlayer app installed on your phone or tablet, you can download programmes by tapping the “Download” button underneath the episode description.

It’s important to note that downloaded programmes are available for the same amount of time as they are on the iPlayer website or app.

So, for example, if a programme is available for 30 more days, the downloaded version will also expire at the end of that 30-day period.

Users should be mindful of the expiry date for each programme to ensure they don’t miss the opportunity to watch their downloads. At the end of the availability period, downloaded programmes will be deleted

BBC iPlayer mobile phone downloads

The process for downloading is straightforward:

  1. Find the episode you want to download.
  2. Tap “Download” underneath the programme description.
  3. Access and monitor the progress of your downloads via the “Downloads” menu at the bottom of the app.

The BBC iPlayer app allows downloads over mobile networks, a feature that users can enable in the app’s settings (unless you only want to download when you’re connected to WiFi, in case you don’t want to use up your mobile data limits).

However, it’s worth noting that downloads are restricted to the UK, due to the usual licensing agreements and geo-blocking.

If you’re planning to travel, ensure you download your programmes before leaving the UK – as you will be able to watch pre-downloaded programmes, but not download NEW content once you’re abroad.

Download times and quality can vary, with options available to adjust video quality to suit storage and data preferences.

22 thoughts on “BBC iPlayer Scraps Offline “Downloads”, Sparking Outcry”

  1. One question I have asked the BBC but they replied with a completely intelligible answer that fails to answer the question is this;
    Is the “download app” which is being discontinued the same as the iPlayer app or are they one and the same thing?
    Will the iplayer for pcs still be available as at present but simply without the facility to download and store programmes as at present, or is it the complete and entire demise of iplayer for p.c.s?

  2. I see the Boomers are becoming upset with this decision, overall they’ve crunched the numbers (remember Boomers – this world is now run by accountants – so the Beeb looked at bar graphs and pulled the service) PSB or not this is the way it is, phones and tablets are the most common way people are consuming their boomer-esque content.

    The BBC isn’t the organisation you grew up with “back in the day” it has to modernise from the dinosaur it is to keep up with it’s younger less Boomer audience.

    • Right, so they won’t be wanting us ‘ boomers’ as you call us to pay same price for a licence fee for a reduced service then ?? Or, maybe you will pay more for it? BTW, we are not all oldies as you seemed to imply! Sounded a bit rude frankly !

  3. Why would I want to watch David Attenborough etc on a mobile phone? I don’t possess a tablet, just a PC. Does this mean I don’t need to pay the licence fee then?!!

  4. How do they classify my Chromebook Spin – which is functionally both a laptop and a tablet? When I fold it back on itself i can’t use the keyboard and it is essentially then a tablet, but the app is the same in either case.

  5. I am similarly appalled, like other commenters here. I find it hard to find the right words to express the ways in which this is an unfair, unethical and obviously unpopular move, made by an out of touch, ivory tower corporation who seems to forget on a regular basis that it is a service paid for by our licence fee. Do the decision makers not know anyone over 50!? I do not own a tablet and get by on secondhand “vintage” phones that are not compatable, and I absolutely do not want to be peering at a tiny screen trying to watch a film. We often sit together to catch up on something. On a phone? Preposterous! I seriously think I will stop bothering with a TV licence. The quality of programming has declined so much in recent times anyway, I frequently despair and don’t bother even switching on the TV. They even seemed to manage to sneak this one out without bothering to properly inform anyone. If this was happening in a business environment where customers are first consideration, someone would be getting the boot!

    • I don’t like this decision either – but this is such an over reaction. Out sounds as if it is from someone who already hates the BBC. The BBC is amazing in its output – but government over the past fourteen years has attacked it in all ways, including its budgets. If people are not using this they have to cut it. IU will miss it enormously and I hope that the BBC can come up with an alternative so I can watch BBC programmes when I am on the train – but I will still love and admire the BBC for its extraordinary coverage, its drama and its documentaries. Lisa – the customers are the first consideration – which is why they are cutting something that few are using to focus on what customers are asking for. Unfortunately they cannot just do what Lisa wants.

  6. This is really annoying as I use this all the time to download programs at home to watch in hotels rooms when at work.. Hotel WiFi is generally rubbish and no good for streaming. 😡

  7. I sent this to Aunty the other day -“Why???? I do not have a tv nor an ipad or suitable mobile for downloading programmes. I pay my licence! This is disgraceful! ” Needless to say I’ve received nothing but an automated response 🙁

  8. Wow just wow, have to be in a walled garden to download and watch DRM managed progs from the BBC. Thanks a bunch aunty what if we don’t want to sign up to crap that Apple and Google foist upon us, at least I can opt out of windows data gathering practices if I choose to.

  9. Appalling decision!!
    I DO NOT want to peer at a tiny mobile screen with poor sound quality to watch a film/drama/wildlife program, etc, originally produced in HD. Which BBC idiot or incompetent committee came up with this decision? With this withdrawal of features in mind I will definitely support any move to refuse an increase in the BBC’s licence fee.

  10. I only realised this a couple of days ago and tried to find news about it yesterday. Thank you for writing this article to make clear what’s going on. I’m gutted because as previous people have commented I tend to watch most BBC series via the download app, on my Mac due to patchy internet and not having the storage on my phone. What a terrible move by the BBC

  11. Auntie’s iPlayer was a revelation when it appeared. Over the years it has got better with all sorts of improvements and now, just as it nears perfection, she pulls the plug. No more large screen viewing for mere mortals, it seems. Or will there be casting? Maybe they’ve bought shares in Chromecast or some such. I think the old duffers are just missing the days when we all sat around staring at a tiny screen just to the right of the fireplace. Welcome back, 1954.

  12. What sort of people do the bbc employ to come up with this idiocy.
    Have they actually tried watching programmes on a telephone screen or considered those of us who do not even have smartphones or tablets?
    Also an increasing number of people (like myself) view solely on a pc or lap top. Those people will now be excluded from the bbc tv audience.

  13. This is a discriminatory move by the BBC. Why are tablet and phone users offered a superior service? I don’t have an iPad and I don’t want to watch on my phone so now I’m going to be one of 10’s of thousands of people who’ll stop downloading content to watch at my convenience.

  14. Crazy! Has a young post university person come up with this idea? One that hasn’t a clue how people who either DO NOT OWN a compatible smartphone, or indeed think watching a great production on a teeny weeny screen is their idea of a good time is going think this a really clever move???? Because, I have news for you….It flippin’ isn’t 😡

  15. I am very disappointed, but not surprised, to hear this.
    I download programmes every day to watch when I want to watch them, not when the BBC thinks I should.

    Not surprised, because the BBC has lost its way in so many things, including Repeats, Programming, News gathering and Impartiality. None of them in a good way.

  16. High handed stupidity by the BBC. They drove many listeners and excellent presenters (Wright, Mayo, Bruce etc) away from Radio 2 once the station was required dire rap/monologues from angry young men. Now the BBC is apparently unaware that many people (elderly and otherwise often with poor eyesight ) do not want to stare at a tiny screen for an hour to watch a drama, documentary whatever. Nevertheless the BBC is are intent on preventing the use of PC/Macs and presumably TVs from watching quality HD programmes on high quality screens.
    In due course the BBC will express surprise that the number of downloads has mysteriously fallen away. Quelle surprise…..


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