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The New BBC iPlayer - New Browsing System

John Archer

By John Archer



  • Recommended by TR
New BBC iPlayer


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Looking next into all the other category ‘headers’ below the main programme selection window, first up is a Most Popular option which, as you would expect, gathers together the most watched shows from the iPlayer’s servers. At the time of writing the number one show was, of course, EastEnders...

Next along the list of header options is arguably the new iPlayer’s biggest feature: the new Favourites window, which populates with any shows you’ve chosen as favourites when new episodes become available. It doesn’t take long using this feature to realise that it effectively functions as series link on iPlayer - which is, of course, a Very Good Thing.

In fact, the favourites feature changes the iPlayer from being a mere tool for catching up with occasional programmes we’d missed to a device that could actually become a core component of your regular evening TV viewing.

New BBC iPlayer

This potential is further enhanced by the way that once you get to the end of a show, the new iPlayer recommends and provides direct links to similar programmes to the one you’ve just watched. Obviously the iPlayer is not nearly as sophisticated in respect of its recommendations as Virgin’s TiVo box, but there were numerous occasions while we were testing the system where we really did elect to move straight into watching a programme that the iPlayer’s genre recognition service had recommended.

The genre recognition system also gives rise to a fairly effective genre-based ‘Categories’ section, where available programmes are divided into Children’s, Comedy, Drama, Entertainment, Sign Zone, News, Factual, Films, Learning, Lifestyle & Leisure, Music, Sport, Religion plus Northern Ireland/Scotland/Wales sections. The usefulness of this section in streamlining browsing speaks for itself, with the Children’s section likely to be a life-saver for many parents who don’t have Sky boxes to entertain their kids with.

The next navigation header breaks the available programming down into channels, and its menu structure does a brilliantly efficient and elegant job of allowing you to easily navigate between BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC HD, Cbeebies and CBBC content, as well as picking the broadcast date for each channel in question. We used this new menu regularly to quickly track down programmes we’d missed.

New BBC iPlayer

Aside from a self-explanatory ‘last played’ header that lets you go quickly back to something you maybe only got half way through at an earlier sitting, the last tool in the new iPlayer’s locker is the text search feature. This lets you type in letters and numbers via a virtual keypad on the screen, and immediately starts to generate responses from the moment you add the first letter.

For example, type an H, and visual headers for all programmes beginning with H appear, stacked on top of each other. Add another letter, and the list of options reduces accordingly. The previous iPlayer did this too, of course, but introducing graphical headers for the search results instead of the text-only results on the previous system makes the new search engine feel more friendly and intuitive.

One final welcome touch with the new iPlayer’s operating system is that there seemed to be much more content available from well beyond the usual week previous than there was before. Some shows have whole series on there, including episodes dating back months.

Catch-up series are there on the previous iPlayer system too, of course. But it feels as if there are more of them on the new iPlayer, and the way series are now presented in a ‘tiled folder’ format rather than just as a text list like they were before makes it much easier to find and navigate through each episode.

Matt G Baish

August 12, 2011, 2:57 pm

Don't think I have quite the latest version on my Sony Blu-Ray player but watched Torchwood hi-def on my 7 foot cinema screen last night & it looked amazing. I have no problem with fast forward or rewind on the Sony version & only ever get playback issues when my Thomson router starts to play up. I am on Be 20Mbit/s service although, being 2km from the exchange, actually only get bout 6MBit/s - maybe the better Be contention ratio makes for better quality playback in my case? Either way the Sony Blu-Ray version far outstrips the one on Freesat on my Panny plasma which drops out at least once or twice per viewing and used to become unbearable at times (suffice to say I no longer use it at all).


August 12, 2011, 5:07 pm

I've been using it for a few days and think it's leaps and bounds better than the old browser version. Best of all it works properly with the official PS3 remote! I haven't had any streaming issues and HD looks fantastic. I'm on O2 20Mbit, but I get 13/14Mbit in reality. I hope Channel 4 and ITV follow suite soon, as their browser based offerings on the PS3 are worse than the old iPlayer in my opinion.


August 13, 2011, 3:20 pm

Much better than the old version, especially now that the PS3 remote work properly. What we need now is for the other platforms to catch up, a bigger library, oh and access for license payers outside the UK!


August 18, 2011, 10:56 pm

@sctw "a bigger library". Here, here, here. I have written to the Beeb about them making their ENTIRE archive on-demand ever since I could access their programmes via cable. It becomes all the more desireable and of course is possible given the BBC iPlayer. They could rake in a fair bit of money by charging overseas viewers (non licence fee payers). The BBC could charge a subscription equivalent to the BBC tv licence fee or pay-per-view. Of course they could charge a lot more in richer countries like the EU, US, Canada, Australia and N. Zealand.

Please see my comments to the TR article:

BBC Unveils Redesigned iPlayer For The Living Room By David Gilbert, 08 August 2011


Of course the BBC are constrained by the Politicians and by their friends/associates/corporate lobbyists (Clue BSkyB). Just look at how the tv licence fee freeze was agreed: within months of the Tories coming to power!!! Look at how many times the PM Cameron met the Murdochs 26 times in 15 months - that takes to the time before the election was announced. Then look at what Mr Gordon Brown, former PM, said what Rupert Murdoch asked him to do regarding the BBC.

The Government and the BBC Trust have NO mandate from the TV Licence Fee payers to freeze it.

I do not expect the BBC Trust and/or the senior BBC executives to dare to challenge the Government by saying we will ask the viewers if they want a freeze or not? Self preservation comes first. Thus the viewers need to write in/e-mail/phone/complete an online complaint form etc.

Otherwise the BBC will become like the US Public Broadcast Service (PBS).


September 16, 2011, 7:35 pm

I've found the new version to be totally unusable even on standard definition due to constant buffering meaning I spend more time looking at the loading circle than watching the programme.

Gone back to using iPlayer on my PC where it works perfectly!


October 13, 2013, 3:25 pm

Sorry I hate the bbci player now. I want to be able to see what I missed on a particular night because I had to do something else. I do not know if I am going to miss a nights tv beforehand because of running my own business things just happen. I cannot find out what I have missed on a particular night as cannot get the tv programmes listing anymore.

As to mention the pictures of what you can watch I cannot see the writing of the programme title anymore, far to small I have poor eyesight and can hardly make out the pictures but I am wearing my glasses so how many others cannot see it.
I could see nothing wrong with the old iplayer.
So frustrating now keeps having to reboot. If I have time in the evenings to sit down I want to be able to find what I have missed and just relax now I have to squint stand up close to the tv. I don't just want what you have choosen I might want to watch something else. Maybe I am doing something wrong but I cannot find what I want.
Also not happy with the text style search. Yes I can see what I have texted on the screen but on the control I cannot see the letters that well. I am not a texter so it does not come quickly and easily to me and I am sure a lot of older people find this also.


November 17, 2013, 1:52 pm

The bbc iplayer is total rubbish compared to the commercial tv equivalents permanently buffering and you pause at your peril and to try to complain on the bbc website is a nightmare Itried and failed,Dismally...


April 3, 2015, 9:41 pm

BBC Iplayer is totally rubbish im connected to the internet and doesnt let me watch anything and ive tried everything so fix it because i dont think other people like it as well


April 3, 2015, 9:41 pm

but why doesnt it or on phones

mark shorrocks

January 1, 2016, 1:41 pm

Major flaws and very spasmodic playing make for a very poor service especially for a company so large and supposedly cutting edge.now top gear has gone its all down hill 2 stars only

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