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BBC iPlayer (UK)

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If you are a citizen of the United Kingdom, there are many options open to you when it comes to free TV streaming and free movie streaming sites. Thanks to the UK’s unique public broadcasting structure, the level of quality available on free TV streaming sites is unparalleled. Not only are there several incredible free streaming sites and apps filled with spectacular original TV series and movies (thanks to the BBC’s many imprints) but there are also some great free streaming services out there that provide access to some excellent licensed content as well.

Although it wouldn’t be 100% accurate to refer to many of these free TV streaming sites as “free,” would it? Not in the strictest sense, anyway. I mean, sure, there are some great streaming services that are free in that they do not cost anything to use; in other words, you do not have to pay a subscription fee to a site like BBC iPlayer. However, to say that BBC iPlayer is a free streaming site would be to ignore the television license required to view it.

In fact, that is the case of watching anything TV-related in the UK, isn’t it? Ever since September of 2016, the UK government has required its citizens to acquire a television license in order to stream content on sites such as BBC iPlayer. Whether you are streaming live television or simply watching reruns on-demand, a television license is required.

That being said, this is done entirely on the honor system. As of the time of this writing, sites such as BBC iPlayer do not require users to verify their licensure status. Nor is there a credentials checking system in place of any sort. So, be sure to get your television license before streaming anything – live or on-demand – via the BBC iPlayer streaming platform. It’s only about 100 quid per year, after all … it still winds up being slightly cheaper than Netflix (and grants you access to significantly more content altogether).

BBC iPlayer is one of the most favored English streaming services on the web. There is a good reason for this, too, seeing as it offers a great variety of TV shows, movies, documentaries, specials, and more. Personally, I love BBC iPlayer because it opens up the world of British media in a convenient and neatly organized manner. But it isn’t just British TV and movies that BBC iPlayer has available … there are plenty of classic and current American titles as well.

Have you ever wondered where BBC iPlayer came from? I know for some it seemed to just pop up overnight. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though. BBC iPlayer actually has been around, in one form or another, for nearly 2 decades now. The reason for the meteoric rise to popularity, however, is due to the platform’s more recent switch from Flash-based video streaming to the industry standard, HTML5. For my fellow history nerds out there, feel free to join me on a journey to the origin of BBC iPlayer (if history isn’t your thing, feel free to skip ahead, and meet back up with the rest of us in the “design” section).

History

BBC iPlayer began by utilizing their cross-platform, Flash oriented streaming system, BBC Redux. It started out as a proof of concept. When it left its beta testing, though, this Redux technology became integrated into BBC iPlayer and officially launched on Christmas day, 2007. The platform wasted no time in attempting to improve upon itself either, launching a new look for the iPlayer not even one full year later, in June of 2008.

The streaming site’s original tagline was “Catch up on the last 7 days of BBC TV & Radio,” serving as a reflection of the type of content that was available on BBC iPlayer, as well as the initial intention behind the streaming site. The “7 days” component of this slogan reflected the fact that content was initially only available for 7 days after it aired on live television. Later, the site changed its slogan to “making the unmissable, unmissable.” And in May of 2010, the site underwent what is referred to as a “social makeover,” adding in recommendations and other features.

Early on in 2011, the site once again modified itself. This time, though, it was a much greater change than ever before. In February of 2011, BBC iPlayer expanded its programming exponentially, offering content from all 4 ITV channels, Channel 4, E4, More4, 5Star, and several others. Along with this expansion, BBC iPlayer added a “channels” function onto the main page and search features of the site.

BBC iPlayer was yet again relaunched with a makeover and a more intuitive interface in April of 2014. Along with this shift, BBC iPlayer’s content was no longer available for only 7 days … now users could stream it for 30 days upon airing. Legal limitations, however, exclude most news broadcasts from this elongation (24 hours is the limit for news broadcasts). This is, more or less, the way that BBC iPlayer has operated ever since (the main difference being that it no longer offers radio broadcasts).

Today, BBC iPlayer is one of the most popular free streaming sites in the UK. And for good reason. It’s user-friendly interface, great selection of TV series and movies, and cross-platform availability make it a must-have for anyone with a television license. Still unconvinced that BBC iPlayer is the best free TV streaming site for you? Well, let’s delve in and take a look at everything that BBC iPlayer has to offer … maybe I can change your mind.

Design

First of all, I love the way that BBC iPlayer is designed. It looks just as good as even the best-paid premium streaming sites out there. And it functions flawlessly. Honestly, BBC iPlayer offers a more intuitive, user-friendly, and visually stunning site design than some of the most popular and critically acclaimed premium streaming sites on the web today.

The site is extremely well organized … offering several different ways to browse content. At the top of the page, for instance, you can browse by genre or category thanks to the slim site menu bar. Here, you can search for a specific title or series in the search bar, or you can navigate the site to Home, News, Sport, Reel, Work-Life, Travel, Future Culture, and More (such as music, sounds, nature, weather, and TV).

Below that, the design should look fairly familiar. Users can browse by genre and category – each section has its own side-scrolling library of suggested titles. The media player, too, is easy and logical to use. When watching a series, for instance, the rest of the seasons and episodes available can be quickly visited without having to do any clicking back and forth. The entire user experience, from browsing to viewing, is smooth and intuitive.

Content and Features

As I brushed upon earlier, BBC iPlayer has grown quite a bit over the years. Today, it offers hundreds upon hundreds of TV series, movies, specials, and documentaries. So long as you catch it within 30 days of airing (and it aired on one of BBC iPlayer’s participating channels), you will be able to stream it here. The channels that you can browse on BBC iPlayer include Channel One, Channel Two, Channel Three, Channel Four, Radio 1, CBBC, CBeebies, Scotland, News, Parliament, Alba, and S4C.

Due to the 30-day shelf life of the content on BBC iPlayer, it is a bit difficult to characterize what is available. Generally speaking, though, anything that airs on British television can be streamed on BBC iPlayer (so long as you catch it within its window of availability).

Mobile and Desktop Experience

BBC iPlayer is one of the most widely available free TV streaming services on the market. In addition to offering a beautiful desktop and mobile site, BBC iPlayer also offers an excellent, top-tier mobile app for both Android and iOS devices. That’s not all, though, UK citizens can also download BBC iPlayer apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chrome Cast, Roku, Sky TV, Virgin Media, Sky Go, Now TV, PlayStation, Xbox, as well as several others.

Not only is this free British TV streaming site available on just about every device known to man, but it offers an incredible user experience on each.

Likes & Hates:
Intuitive, user-friendly site/app design
Available on almost every device
No fees, no ads
Great selection of content
Most TV shows and movies are only available for 30 days
TV License required (not 100% free)