BBC iPlayer for iOS
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 October 2013, 3:53 am
I don't really like watching real TV any more. Having to watch at a specific time, and then getting interrupted by advertising breaks isn't comfortable enough for me. And I also like to be able to watch several episodes of the same show one after another, instead of waiting a week for the next one. In consequence I have a huge collection of TV shows on DVD, which suit me a lot better than live TV. But as I watch most shows only once, a TV on demand service streamed from the internet would suit me even better. Unfortunately the majority of the TV on demand services decided to deny me access because I live in a different country. Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, you name it, I haven't got it. Living in Belgium I have access to services like Belgacom TV, but that only has movies, and most of them in French or Dutch, not English.

The one notable exception from this is the BBC iPlayer for iOS. Not to be confused with the BBC iPlayer you can access via your browser, because that one only works if you live in the UK. The iOS version requires a subscription, which I picked up at a discount this summer for 50€ for a whole year, which is well worth it. Since then I have spent less time playing games, and more time watching TV on demand from the BBC.

Now the BBC iPlayer isn't perfect. The iOS version doesn't have subtitles, which is weird: The UK-only internet version of the iPlayer *does* have subtitles, but the international version doesn't. Not that I would want to deny the hearing impaired citizens of the UK their subtitles, but I suspect there are a lot more people that don't speak English natively outside the UK who would appreciate English subtitles for BBC programs. Especially if the program features speakers from UK regions with strong accents.

The other flaw of the BBC iPlayer is that the offer isn't complete. For example I was able to watch 19 episodes of Dalziel & Pascoe on the iPlayer, but there are another 27 episodes that aren't available. As the series stopped in 2007, and it is the later episodes that are mostly missing, it is hard to understand that selection. For some shows even very old episodes are available, I watched the very first Dr. Who from 1963, but for example for Top Gear the first seasons available are 6 and 8, in spite of that show being much more recent. (That is Top Gear UK. Top Gear USA is also on the iPlayer, but frankly it is a rather bad copy which lacks the personality of the original.)

Nevertheless overall the BBC iPlayer is very good, and good value for money. BBC series on DVD are comparatively expensive, because often one season only has between 3 and 6 episodes, and sells for about the same price as an US series with 12 to 24 episodes. And even if the DVDs are reasonably priced, e.g. a season of Top Gear for between 8 and 12£, getting access to 15 seasons for €50 for a year is much cheaper.

The BBC is making some good programs, with everything from cop shows to excellent documentaries on offer. But obviously on the BBC iPlayer you *only* get BBC programs. Thus I would be very much in the market for a TV on demand service which would let me watch American TV shows. Again my interests are wide, I like several of the show on Discovery or the History Channel, like Mythbusters, Pawn Stars, or Storage Wars, but also HBO programs like The Wire, or Boardwalk Empire, or many of the police procedural shows on other TV chains, e.g. CSI. $79 for an annual membership to Amazon Prime Instant Video? Sign me up! Except that Amazon won't let me do that. Nor apparently will anybody else. I would have to pretend to live in the USA and hope that some complicated deception using fake IP addresses would give me access, but as Amazon already knows where I live and getting a fake mailing address with credit card attached is probably illegal, I don't want to try. So the only thing I can do is waiting for the TV on demand services to expand their offering to different countries. Which apparently isn't a technical problem, but a legal one. So to borrow a phrase from Top Gear: "How hard can it be?"
Tobold's Blog



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