BBC iPlayer on Freesat Review


If I had a tenner for every time I’d written in a review the words ‘And there’s an Ethernet port for future BBC iPlayer functionality’, my wife would have got rather more for Christmas than a couple of pairs of fancy pants and some bobbled bed socks.

The idea of uprooting the iPlayer from its original Internet home and shifting it into the much more natural domain of your TV, without needing some costly extra non-TV peripheral like a games console in between, has been kicking around from pretty much the day of the original Freesat press launch. After all, we all wondered then, what else might the Ethernet port found on the Freesat HD receivers and TVs be for?!

That launch, however, was way back in the spring of 2008. So it’s a real relief that finally, as 2009 drifts sanguinely and coldly into 2010, the long-promised, endlessly talked about Freesat iPlayer is here. Well kind of.

What we mean by this is that the BBC has finally reached a point where it’s sufficiently happy with how its Freesat iPlayer is shaping up to roll out a Beta build to a select group of Freesat users. A select group that includes, of course, TrustedReviews.

The idea behind this Beta build going live is that it helps the BBC assess and iron out any bugs and issues that might arise from taking the iPlayer out of its Ivory Tower and into the big, wide, hostile world. So it should be said right up front that while the iPlayer functionality as reviewed will stay essentially the same, the few bugs we’ve come across during our tests – more on these later – should hopefully have disappeared come the real launch of the system in the course of the next month or two.

The Beta build has currently only been rolled out to Humax Freesat HD and Freesat+ boxes. Though we have been categorically reassured time and again that the final build will work equally well on any Freesat box with an Ethernet port built into it. Which effectively means any HD box; if you short-sightedly tried to save a few bob by going for a standard definition Freesat box, then I’m afraid you now have iPlayer egg all over your face.

Accessing the iPlayer Beta currently entails pressing the red button while watching BBC1, then punching in a ‘secret’ four-digit code. That’s it. This means that anyone with a suitable Humax box can actually try the Beta if they have the code number. And since the number has been leaked to various Internet forums in recent days, we might as well reveal it here too: 5483. Just don’t tell anyone it was us who told you! For instructions on how to use the iPlayer, visit: BBC iPlayer beta trial 09

When the final iPlayer version goes live, of course, there will be none of this four-digit code access nonsense. You’ll simply be able to access it as an option on the list of stuff that pops up when you press the red button while watching one of the BBC’s Freesat channels.

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