BBC iPlayer: available in the UK and now Europe!

The BBC iPlayer service is a live event, video on demand and “catch-up” service. If you are in the UK, then it is available on various platforms, like internet, and Freesat. It allows you to watch the BBC channel live on the internet, and also, under its catch-up service, view programmes that you may have missed.

The UK version of the BBC iPlayer is available for free, but you do require a UK TV License to watch the live TV broadcasts. According to the TV Licensing authority, if you use iPlayer to watch TV programmes at the same time as they are being shown on TV – such as live sporting events – then you need to be covered by a valid TV licence. However, if you use the service to watch programmes after they have been broadcast, either as downloads or via streaming on-demand, then you do not need a licence.

However, this “UK version” of the BBC iPlayer is for UK only use. If expats in Spain were trying to watch IPlayer services in Spain, then they would be blocked. The BBC iPlayer would check the “internet address” and see if the user was in the UK or not. There are a few ways around this, like subscribing to a “VPN” service or use a “”internet address” blocking service to trick the BBC iPlayer into thinking you are actually connecting from within the UK.

However, recently, after many months of speculating, the BBC have launched a version of the iPlayer designed for expats. The service will be a bit different for international users compared to the UK. Firstly, the BBC iPlayer “Global” version is currently only available on iPads. It is not yet available via internet or on Freesat receivers being used outside the UK.

The iPad app is free to download. And although some content on BBC iPlayer Global version is provided free, albeit with some pre programme advertising, to gain full access you will need a subscription of € 6.99 per month or € 49.99 per year.

At the moment the service is only available in 11 countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. Again, “internet address” checks are in place to make sure subscribers are within the iPlayer “official” territory. US and Canada will be next to gain access to the global BBC iPlayer in Q4 2011. Australia will follow in Q4 2011/Q1 2012.

Also, unlike the UK version of iPlayer, radio won’t yet be available on the global iPlayer.

And, there is no requirement for users of this global BBC iPlayer to have a UK TV license, as the service is not showing live content, just programmes after they have been broadcast.

It may be a nice opportunity for expats to be able to watch UK TV, but is it really worth it?
Many of the programmes are from the BBCs huge back catalogue of programmes, spanning some 50 years of broadcasting.
Many of the programmes are already available on other subscription TV service channels, like Dave and Watch, where the global BBC iPlayers owners and operators, BBC Worldwide, already have stake. In the same way that it is competing with BBC Worldwide other channels, like the BBC Entertainments / BBC Prime or BBC America channels, subscription based channels designed for expats.

At least it may help in bringing in some more revenue for the BBC, now that it is in the middle of a huge cost cutting exercise with the 5 year license fee freeze the UK government has implemented, which has already impacted on some losses of programming, the most highly publicised being the loss of some Formula One races being shown live on BBC TV from 2012.

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