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.
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.
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.
@BBCiPlayer "We have started the process of closing the Desktop Downloads App. Downloading programmes from a computer or laptop will no longer be available from Monday 11 March." Why?? This is terrible news. I watch almost all my BBC shows on my MacBook 🙁
— Steve Gerrard (@stevegerrard) February 9, 2024
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.
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
The process for downloading is straightforward:
- Find the episode you want to download.
- Tap “Download” underneath the programme description.
- 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.