The BBC iPlayer was an Eldorado-sized fiasco when it arrived in 2007, but has since become the standard-bearer for internet TV services.
Unlike the majority of its rivals, iPlayer allows you to both stream and download selected shows. Programmes can be downloaded for either the Adobe AIR-powered desktop client, Windows Media Player, or portable players that support DRM-protected WMA files.
The DRM wrapper can be irritating: download a show on your laptop to watch on the train home, and you’ll be thwarted as soon as you hit the Play button because Windows Media Player needs to go online to check the rights (press Play before you leave the office to avoid this).
The iPlayer has become a genuine national treasure
And downloads time out after 30 days or within seven days of first pressing Play.
In a nod to Sky+, you can set the iPlayer client to download all future episodes of a series, while past episodes are routinely stacked up for streaming if you’ve joined halfway through.
The jewel in the iPlayer crown is HD, which is available for selected streams and downloads. It isn’t always Full HD, with the BBC classing anything above 1,280 x 720 (720p) as HD, and you’ll need a steady 3.2Mbits/sec broadband connection to keep the streams running smoothly.
Even standard-definition (832 x 468) shows hold up on the large screen.
With options to stream or download shows to several smartphones, media streamers and games consoles, not to mention the BBC’s unrivalled breadth of television and radio content, the iPlayer has become a genuine national treasure.
Internet TV software reviewed: