The long awaited BBC iPlayer is launching in two days time (on the 27th July) for Windows XP only. The service will allow people to download TV shows to their computers and watch them for a set number of days after.

Channel 4 launched a similar service called 4OD (on demand) a couple of months ago however has been plagued with problems, if the BBC are to succeed with the iPlayer it must not have the following problems that 4OD has:

  • Connection - 4OD only allows people in the UK to download shows, that's fine as we pay for the shows however the technology they use to only allow UK people sucks. For about the first month my BT connection was unable to use 4OD because I was apparently not living in the UK. I know some people now who are still told they cannot connect.
  • Quality - When making 4OD videos full screen everything is pixelated, I was watching 8 out of 10 cats last night and Sean Locks ear was one giant pixel. The average 45min show is 350mb to download off 4OD yet if I downloaded the same show off a torrent site with the same file size the quality would be so much better.
  • Application slowness - 4OD is basically a web page stuck inside Windows Media Player, this means that every time you click a link it loads another page. The problem with this is that the site and application doesn't look like a web page so you expect it to act a stand alone application. This makes 4OD seem incredibly slow to use and painful to navigate.
  • Program expiration - This I believe is the biggest problem of 4OD - everything expires so quickly. For most free shows you can watch them for seven days after use. So if you download it on the sixth day and then leave it for two days it will have expired. Also once you have watched a show the expiration date changes. I personally don't see why shows need to expire, the chances are if I have seen it I'm not going to buy it anyway.
  • Lame Technology - This may just be me but every time I go to stream a show it gets past the adverts (that don't particularly bother me) then it tells me I don't have the correct license installed to watch the show. It gives me no way to install the correct license and I just have to accept that I can't stream anything.
  • Windows XP, Internet Explorer 6, WMP 11 - I don't like applications that force you down one particular route of technology. I have a Mac as my main machine but I don't mind using my PC. On my PC I use Firefox but I'm told I must use IE then finally I use VLC for media but I'm told to use WMP.

The reason Youtube is so popular is that it is so convenient and just works - this is a far cry from the buggy inconvenient 4OD. However 4OD is still a Beta so its allowed to suck to a certain extent!

By the sounds of it the iPlayer is going to equally suck come this Friday but I will reserve my judgement for now.


Pete, do you know of any plans for these to come onto a Mac? I've always fancied trying 4OD by my PC is dead, so I canna

Jonnie - I don't know of any plans for 4OD for the Mac but I know the BBC have to provide the iPlayer for other systems and rumours are that it will be available some time this autumn for the Mac.

Whether it will have the same features as the PC version I don't know. I'm guessing it wont be built on Windows Media technology so real player could be a good guess.

I have not used 4od lately, but I did find a way to take the copyright off, so I could watch the programs at anytime.

that's just works.

Just a little detail: I'm in Belgium. We pay the BBC through a cable subscription. So the UK-only access might be a bit unfair if applied.

I signed up for the BBC iplayer, downloaded the library for it and tested it out on a show. I was quite impressed apart from one thing. It needed the latest version of windows media player (I also use VLC) and once I downloaded that a driver in my sound card corrupted and I needed to do a system restore to the day before. Then I thought things were working fine until I loaded up Photoshop to find the restore had invalidated my registration and I had to spend nearly an hour on the phone to Adobe to re-register PS. (/rant)

It's a shame because it could have had a lot of potential.

Debbie you got further than I did - I couldn't even get past the login window!