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BBC iplayer is a website that allows you to watch most BBC programming about an hour after it has been shown on TV usually for seven days after programming, although some BBC shows have extended availability ('Merlin' and 'Being Human', for example, were available for a considerable amounts of days). It is one of three British broadcasters that legally provide programmes online (the others being Channel 4 and ITV). The best thing about it? - It's completely free! As a penniless, TV-less student, it is a godsend. To the busy individual who may not have every evening free, it allows them to keep up-to-date with a particular programme. Working a back shift and lack a DVD recorder? - You need not worry as iplayer is there to save the day...
Possibly one of the best festive gifts you might wish for, iplayer was launched on Christmas Day, 2007. I must have had my head in the sand, however, as I didn't find out about it until months after its initial launch. Anyhow, the website has an excellent set-up and not only can you watch TV programmes that have recently aired but radio programmes too. It is often quite easy to find some of the best programmes as the frontpage has a 'Popular' section which provides links to the top 10 most viewed programmes at that point in time. On the right of this you can also find the 'last played' category. This is a wonderful feature that distinguishes it from other catch up sites. If you do not watch the whole of a programme you can go back to it later so long as it's on the same computer and the same browser (whether it was Internet explorer or Firefox, etc). You can then choose to resume the programme and it takes you back to just a few seconds before you last stopped it so you can recollect where you last were. This is great for me as during term time at university I don't usually have the time to watch whole programmes every day and will often watch parts of it throughout a day or a couple of days. It also means you can go back to other programmes that you've only partially watched. You can also go back to earlier parts or even fast-forward it to later parts of the programme should you wish. One piece of advice however - Just make sure you check when the viewing availability expires. It's quite annoying when you attempt to later resume a programme only to find out it's not available anymore. Should you not be able to find a particular programme in the top 10 there is a search bar at the top where you can type in the name
of the programme. If you can't remember the particular name of a programme or just fancy finding something random to view, the 'Categories' button at the top can direct you to various types of programmes and you can pick and choose what you wish to watch. In this way you may even discover programmes that you never realized were broadcast. It's opened my eyes to some interesting shows. Another two buttons also direct you to specific shows on specific channels and radio stations. To the left you can find timetable excerpts of TV today and yesterday. This shows up just what programmes are available on iplayer and which are not. For example, films are not usually shown on iplayer but some are - For example, I noticed that you could view 'Starter for 10' and 'What Women Want' a few months back. I don't know quite why only certain films are on it. Another feature of the website is the 'Download Manager'. My friend uses this to download episodes on to her computer but I personally see this as too much hassle and would rather stream it live.
*~Speed and Streaming Quality~*
There's only been one occasion when streaming for a programme has been messed up and the rest of the time it's absolutely fine and problem free unlike 4od and particularly ITV player (which can be a nightmare for streaming, especially in the evening when people have come home from work). The programmes are in excellent quality and can be put into a big screen mode that takes up the whole computer screen.
~ Some programmes come with a subtitles feature for the hard of hearing.
~They like to recommend programmes to you in the 'more like this' section beneath episodes and also provide links to other episodes available.
~Programme information is provided - This is particularly handy as it provides you with cast information, the date of broadcast, the episode duration and most importantly, the date and time of when the viewing availability expires.
*~Will it have a negative effect on BBC funds?~*
Since I have explained the features of iplayer what about one of the pressing issues of its introduction? BBC Iplayer terms stipulate that you can watch programmes broadcast after they've originally been broadcast on TV and do not have to pay a licence fee for that facility. The question is, does this discourage people from obtaining or renewing their TV license? People could, after all, switch over to streaming their content from their computer on to a large monitor screen in their living room, couldn't they? The unfavourable economic climate could even be argued to encourage such a consideration. In all honesty, this is not an issue I really want to address. I don't want to consider an issue which could tip the scales in favour of taking away my precious iplayer. I don't have a TV license and I've never bought one since I became a student and never intend to for the duration of my studies. I'm not ashamed to admit that in my first year or two I sometimes resorted to illegal streaming/download websites like many of my friends. Of course this did involve slow speeds, rubbish recordings and sometimes even virus-infested websites. If you PC restarted mid-programme or in the middle of a loading programme you wanted to cry but it was a risk I was willing to take. I wasn't willing to pay over a hundred quid for a TV licence that would provide us with yet another distraction in my flat and I wasn't one to risk breaking the law and being given a heavy fine. So I went to uni without any TV - a bit of a shock that added to my initial homesickness but it did take away one distraction from my studies. On the other hand, I wasn't willing to miss the small number of my favourite TV programmes. As 2007 moved into 2008 my discovery of 4od and iplayer came about with perfect timing as a lot of the websites I viewed my favourite programmes on disappeared due to legal action taken against them. BBC Iplayer helped ease my television-related woes.
So will the existence of cheap persons like myself lead to a depletion of BBC fund? Iplayer can, after all, be used on devices other than PCs and laptops such as Wiis, Iphones and the Ipod touch. Will this reduce the quality of BBC programming. I think not... Whilst I'm a student I'll continue to be a scrounging git in my tight-wad, sometimes stingy ways. Not having a TV license is all about minimising expenses. Iplayer just makes things a little bit nicer entertainment wise on a night in. However, one day I do hope to own a house or a flat and a comfortable job - By that point I will probably have a television and will probably pay the license fee. Why? Well, as I said, you can't watch every programme on iplayer, particularly live programmes and I'd like to be able to watch events like Wimbledon. Also, I do intend to get Sky television some day. I don't think that many of us would be willing to just rely on our net connection for TV programmes. I think the BBC understands that iplayer is not a threat but rather, more of an enhancement. Iplayer keeps us up-to-date with episodes we've missed but I'm sure most of us would prefer to lie back in a comfy couch to watch a programme in their living room rather than stare at a computer screen or rely on a net connection (which, knowing most computers, could be disrupted). So long as I am a student I will continue to watch things online. I don't even have space for a TV in my bedroom and I live with two boys. The current male presence means that our livingroom/kitchen isn't in the most liveable state. As it turns out, their smelly existence really can quash a woman's touch and make a place less homely (hence why I'm living with two wonderful girls next academic year). Currently my room and my laptop seems a more pleasing option than plonking a TV in that disgrace of a room...
*~Better than other Catch Up Websites~*
All in all, I regard iplayer highly and more highly than other streaming websites. ITV player and 4od/Channel 4 catch up has annoying adverts between breaks which I suppose is understandable as something needs to fund these facilities. However, it is nicer that the BBC has none of these. Iplayer also runs smoothly in great contrast to ITV player which has a tendency to stop and start particularly at popular times in the evening when people have come home from work. This is even worse if you don't have the best net connection. Whilst 4od has a greater range and availability of programmes, the fact that you can so easily resume programmes on Iplayer is what makes Iplayer win for me. It is so easy to access and the website is fast. 4od is something that takes up space on your computer and I've had a lot of occasions where it has frozen or failed to work. My last computer hated it! In addition to this, I love BBC programmes. A lot of my favourite programmes are on there and they always have interesting documentaries too and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Whilst some have voiced their fears over BBC funding through license fees I don't really think this is a significant concern. If it was such a problem the BBC no doubt would have rethought this facility quite a while ago but they haven't and it's been over a year since it was established. People will continue to buy TV licenses for their viewing pleasure and the BBC will, arguably, continue to be able to bring us some excellent programmes. Over the past year or so I have watched some splendid programmes including Heroes, Doctor Who, Merlin, Stephen Fry in America, QI, Live at the Apollo and Being Human - this is all thanks to Iplayer!