Mobile Downloads for BBC iPlayer

Tuesday 4 September 2012, 09:53

David Madden David Madden Executive Producer

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Today BBC iPlayer is launching mobile downloads on smartphones and tablets.

I'd like to talk about the thinking behind this new feature, and the benefits it brings to audiences.

Part of the BBC's strategy for iPlayer in the past year has been to take it beyond the PC, and onto a host of different devices, from smartphones and tablets, to connected TVs and games consoles. BBC iPlayer is now on over 550 devices, ensuring you can enjoy BBC programmes wherever and whenever you want.

It's been something of a watershed year for on-the-go viewing: the Olympics, for example, turned into the "mobile Games" for many. For iPlayer, take-up on portable devices has been particularly impressive, with 30m requests for iPlayer content via mobile or tablet in July alone: this represented more than 20% of all requests for iPlayer programmes across all platforms.

The numbers in pink and white in the circles above represent percentages of the total amount of iPlayer requests for content on tablets and mobile e.g 34% of the requests on tablets was for Children's content

More and more people are comfortable with watching TV across different devices depending on where they are and what they're doing. For example, our data shows that children's content is particularly popular on tablets, as they are devices kids can sit and play with wherever. BBC Three comedy is popular on smart phones, and is watched by young people while out and about or waiting for a bus or train.

There is, of course, a barrier to you watching your favourite BBC programmes wherever you want: you need to be online to stream video to your phone or tablet, which means you can't use BBC iPlayer on the tube or on a plane.

Today, that barrier is lifted. With the launch of mobile downloads for iPlayer, on-the-go viewing is transformed. For the first time, you can watch BBC programmes on your phone or tablet even if you don't have a Wi-Fi connection or 3G signal. You can download multiple programmes to your device and store them for 30 days. Once you've pressed play you can keep watching for seven more days. Why not take your favourite shows with you when you go on holiday? You could watch them on the plane, on the beach, anywhere you want.

The new mobile downloads feature is initially available on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices running iOS 5.1. We will be bringing this feature to Android phones and tablets soon, and are looking at making downloads available on other devices in the future.

iplayer downloads

A mock up of how BBC iPlayer programmes look while downloading on an iPhone

Here is how you download your favourite TV show:

• Tap the Download option on the programme you want to save

• The programme will be added to your download queue

• When you next connect to Wi-Fi, open the app and the programme will automatically start downloading to your device

eastenders ipad download

A download of Eastenders on an iPad

For those with kids who love watching Justin's House, a CBeebies favourite, they will now be able to enjoy Justin and his friends on a tablet or phone in the back of the car without the need for a 3G signal. And, people with smartphones can continue to enjoy the new series of Dr Who on the train or tube, without worrying about connections or data allowances - another benefit of downloading shows over Wi-Fi and watching them offline.

Today's launch is another big step towards ensuring BBC iPlayer and BBC programmes are available wherever and whenever you want. Download the app now and let me know in the comments what you've been watching and where.

The team would really welcome your comments and feedback on the downloads feature. When we Tweet about iPlayer we use a #bbciplayer hashtag, so if you would like to use this too that would be great.

I am always keen to know what you think and would love to hear from you.

David Madden is Executive Producer, TV & iPlayer Mobile, BBC Future Media

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Cool feature but you can only download tv program's. I want to download radio program's to listen too at night when I do night shift. I know there are podcasts available for some radio programs but they do not cover much of the radio output of the BBC. What is the problem with allowing radio program's to be downloaded?

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I agree with the above post - That's the main reason I wanted the app - I don't have a good broadband speed where I live, and the iplayer is subject to glitches. This even applies to the version that comes with my BT vision set up. I tried to catch up with Geoffrey Smiths Jazz, and the BT vision box, lap top and ipad versions all let me down!

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    It's just a shame you can't keep the app up to date with the most recent versions of Android.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    According to and others, Android has over 50% of the UK smartphone market and Apple around 30%.

    Now let me think? Which app should the BBC develop first???

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Will this be rolled out to the Global iPlayer for people outside the UK, eg Republic of Ireland?
    Just wondering is it a case if this is successful we'll do it or no it will never happen due to copyright issues and licensing deals. I believe this is the reason we have less content than the regular app.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Great news! Now - when can we have syncing across devices so that the programmes I've got on my desktop app can be accessed on my phone too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    @dukeofearl - There may be more Android users but IOS users currently use their device more. Many people have an android phone but just use it as a phone not a smartphone. Its also much harder to develop for the various different Android versions. Its the logical decision at the moment for most App developers

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    "The new mobile downloads feature is initially available on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices running iOS 5.1."

    I didn't see *that* coming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    @Rob_Quads, as a developer for both IOS and Android that is not actually universally true. For android you develop one app that (if you do it correctly and follow the design guidelines) works on all devices no matter how big or small or what shape they are. For IOS you are really developing an ipad and a iphone app. Granted, if you don't do the android one correctly you may have issues and there may have issues but I'd imagine the BBC is big enough to do stuff properly. The BBCs issue is that they based iplayer on android completely on a 3rd party piece of software that they knew was being withdrawn (flash). They took a lazy gamble and it didn't pay off. The fact that most people use Android so soon after the gamble is just an unfortunately side effect of technology moving so quickly and large development processes moving so slowly. It has nothing to do with the two myths that you mistakenly have quoted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    This is amazing. Thank you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Will this mean that the app will finally be available for devices that can't run Flash???

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    @stanleywinston - Its obviously VERY hard to code to the guidelines then (only know iOS myself) as its a small %age of the apps out there that are supported on all Androids OS levels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Will this app (for Android) be the new (non Flash) iPlayer app, or will they be separate and will it/they be based on Adobe Air (I certainly hope not!! The Air based ITV Player is even worse than the Flash based iPlayer, and that's really saying something)!!!

    @10 stanleywinstone: Thumbs up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Why start by saying "Today BBC iPlayer is launching mobile downloads on smartphones and tablets." and only later clarify that it's Apple only?

    Are you able to say whether the Android support will be in days, weeks, months or years? And will it come before or after you stop requiring flash on Android?

    And why wifi only? Surely it should be up to users to manage their 3G data usage. At the very least you should give the option to download over 3g as well as wifi.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    @13 Rob_Quads

    "(only know iOS myself)".....

    A bit like criticising a Ferrari when you have only ever driven a pedal car, then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    It's been mentioned on the blog before (in relation to the app on the Nexus 7/JellyBean) that the delay in the Android app at the moment is down to DRM and that the app is in the testing phase (if this is wrong/out-of-date hopefully a BBC bod will correct me).

    Flash was the goto product for Android's iPlayer. It incorporated DRM and was established on many Android devices. I don't see that as lazy. Developers reuse existing functions and products all the time. No sense re-inventing the wheel.
    Recent developments see Adobe withdraw flash and Jelly Bean not include it. Meaning the push towards developing the Android app has to be a new app with a new DRM model, rather than further changes to the existing app.
    HTML5 streaming is already available so that's easy enough but a working DRM model is more difficult - especially given Androids more open ecosystem. I think we can assume that the BBC will have to jump through many red-tape adorned hoops to show that any solution must protect the content and prevent, to the best of it's ability, unauthorised copying and distribution.
    Now that's going to take longer than a fairly minor tweak to the existing iOS app.

    So while it would be great if a multi-platform solution could have a unilateral release there's no sense holding back features on some platforms to wait on others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    No Subtitles available, that's very disappointing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    This will perhaps patch up the DRM bypass previously made available to iOS devices and exploited by get_iplayer.

    If it was OK to provide material DRM free to iOS devices thus far, then it should also be OK on Android devices now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The ability to multitask when using AirPlay has been removed - how come??

    Previously you could play / pause an AirPlay-ing iPlayer programme using the Apple Remote App -- you could then cary on using other apps on your phone whilst the stream continued to play via AirPlay in the background -- losing this ability is seriously annoying!


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