BBC iPlayer | Watch everything from BBC

Watch your favourite shows on BBC iPlayer on phone, tablet or on their website for free in the UK

The BBC iPlayer app was initially launched in December 2007, and while it experienced a few hitches among its early release, has evolved to be one of the most slick and easiest ways to watch BBC programmes in the UK and around the world.

The only streaming platform in the UK to require a television licence, the national TV channels run by the BBC are some of the most-watched in the world.

We’re going to run through what the BBC iPlayer is, how to watch and all about the TV licensing that BBC terms require.

What’s in this Guide?

What’s BBC iPlayer and how to watch

Catch every episode of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock on BBC iPlayer

The BBC launched the BBC iPlayer app way back in 2007, but it had been promised two years earlier in 2005. The earlier version of what you’ll experience today was much different, as it experienced a number of technical issues and a long production time, which did draw criticism from the public at the time.

While it had its issues, the BBC iPlayer was one of the earliest streaming services available in the UK, allowing viewers to watch BBC programmes at a time that suited them, especially if they missed them on live TV.

Fastforward to 2022 and the BBC iPlayer app is the home of all online TV from the BBC, with catch up, on demand and live TV programmes available to watch through the service – with very little criticism in the modern world of streaming TV.

The iPlayer underwent a revamp in 2021, with a new interface, design and features – though this was only rolled out to smart TVs and streaming devices (such as your phone or tablet), while the website version stayed the same initially. Some of the key features being updated included making the fastfoward and rewind options easier and slicker and more options for subtitles on the iPlayer.

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BBC iPlayer app

The BBC iPlayer app is available to stream on Smart TVs, television platforms such as Sky and Virgin Media and multiple devices – like your Android or Apple phone or tablet.

The BBC iPlayer app is easy to navigate, too, with the home screen showing what’s new and trending, you can pick up where you left off, and catch all episodes of some of their biggest hit shows on TV. The iPlayer also allows you to start watching live TV straight to whichever device you’re watching on.

TV licensing requirements

BBC iPlayer app requires a TV licence to watch TV programmes, no matter what device you use

BBC is the only television network in the UK that requires viewers to have a TV license. TV licensing is a government requirement in the UK, and you must have one if you watch or record TV programmes on a TV, PC or other device as they’re broadcast and to download programmes or watch BBC programmes on the BBC iPlayer.

The app checks you have a TV licence through a trust system, with a pop-up window asking whether you have one before you begin to stream content.

Watching BBC iPlayer abroad

The BBC iPlayer, due to the TV licensing requirements in place, isn’t available to watch abroad. You can, however, still access any downloaded content on your device when abroad, meaning you can watch BBC programmes in another country if you download them before you travel.

It’s also useful to know about being able to download your favourite shows in case you need to keep an eye on your mobile or internet data – plus your downloads all stay in one place on your device, so they’re easy to access whenever you need to.

What BBC programmes can I watch?

Download and watch all episodes of Line of Duty, Happy Valley and more on BBC iPlayer

The BBC iPlayer is home to all BBC programmes, showing live TV and allowing you to watch catch up/on demand programmes you might have missed. All you need is an internet connection and login details and you’re free to view.

Some of the world’s favourite shows throughout recent history have been produced by the BBC and are readily available to stream on the service, and there’s sure to be a programme for you to get sucked into on the iPlayer.

BBC dramas

Peaky Blinders has been a worldwide hit for the BBC - with rave reviews and huge viewing figures

The BBC iPlayer is home to some of the biggest shows on TV, with period dramas such as Peaky Blinders gaining popularity around the world. The show, set after World War One, stars Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Tom Hardy and more big names and is approaching the end of its six season run.

Crime dramas such as Happy Valley and Line of Duty also have a home on the BBC iPlayer app, where every episode from every season is available to watch on demand. The latest in BBC’s long line of gripping shows is the Martin Freeman crime drama The Responder, available to stream and download from the BBC iPlayer and website.

Comedy and sitcoms

Catch entire series of content such as the Office with BBC iPlayer

The BBC iPlayer is host to a huge number of comedies, both recent and from years gone by, that will sure to have you laughing for days on end. Classics like The Office and Gavin & Stacey are free to watch in full, as well as a wide range of classic 90s shows from the UK and across the pond such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Little Britain.

Documentaries on BBC iPlayer

The BBC have a long history of producing world class documentary programmes that have been hits around the world, none more so than the several David Attenborough series such as Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Green Planet (among others).

Other science and nature shows such as Brian Cox’s Adventures in Space and Time are also free to download and view on the web with your BBC account.

Sport on the BBC iPlayer app

Match of the Day has been a staple of the BBC One channel for decades

BBC is home to a huge range of sports throughout the year, with tennis action from Wimbledon, Six Nations Rugby League and the 2022 football World Cup all broadcast from the BBC – and of course, all can be accessed via the BBC iPlayer app live and on demand.

The BBC’s flagship football show, Match of the Day, has long been a hit across the country, showing highlights and in depth analysis of the day’s Premier League football action – with episodes available to catch up on demand if you miss them on live TV.

Films on the BBC iPlayer

Navigate to the films section on the BBC iPlayer app and you’re bound to find something to watch for any mood!

Catch 90s classics such as Cape Fear, recent Hollywood dramas like Beautiful Boy and thrillers such as Before I go to Sleep as well as some of the best films in cinema such as Citizen Kane (often named the greatest film of all time) on your iPlayer account.

Live TV

Get access to every BBC channel live via your Smart TV, Apple or Android phone or tablet with the iPlayer app. Under the channels banner in the app, you can live stream BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three and BBC Four, as well as Radio One, CBeebies and the network’s Scotland, News and Parliament channels.

Other BBC services and additional information

The BBC have other apps you can download and utilise on mobile phones, tablets and more, such as the BBC Sounds app, where you can catch a wide range of radio stations and podcasts free to stream.

Catch live radio as well as live TV with BBC’s range of apps, or catch up on demand in case you miss anything!

It’s worth it to note that while the BBC iPlayer app currently has no concrete way of assessing whether a customer has a TV licence, the network has announced in a recent report that it will be looking into ways of making this requirement more robust in future.

The BBC will also shortly be rolling out the requirement of creating an account that you will have to use to log in on each device before you can watch TV programmes, download your favourite shows and to view their news content on the website.

Other streaming services to sign up to

BBC iPlayer is one of a number of streaming services offered for freeview in the UK, along with Channel 4’s All4 and the ITV Hub – as well as of course paid-for subscription services, which are as follows:

To explore more streaming options, you can compare and contrast each streaming service on offer.

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