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How does BBC iPlayer compare with the other streaming giants?

BBC iPlayer brings you the latest and greatest TV series and box sets from the BBC.

By LLM Reporters  |  February 1, 2022
TV Television BBC iplayer logo
Image Credit: Vantage_DS/Bigstock.com

When it comes to the most popular television streaming apps, BBC iPlayer is up there with the best of them. This popular service attracts millions of users daily thanks to its impressive catalogue of TV series, films, radio, and even live event coverage, with something to suit all tastes – and plenty to reel you in when you’re in need of some light entertainment.

And although the BBC is a quintessentially British institution, it isn’t just on our own shores that iPlayer has amassed a legion of loyal fans. In countries like America and Australia, more users than ever are logging on to catch up with their favourite programmes, and from natives to British expats, suffice it to say that the BBC has gone global.

There’s just one problem when it comes to getting your daily dose of TV drama from overseas – BBC iPlayer isn’t accessible outside of the UK. So how exactly are users bypassing the content blocks that stand between them and the latest must-watch show?

To access its highly sought-after on-demand content, BBC iPlayer Australia fans and the like have to use a virtual private network, which allows them to mask their current location. By using a VPN, it’s possible to spoof a UK IP-address – thus outsmarting the system and unlocking a whole host of great entertainment options from wherever you happen to be.

It’s not just BBC iPlayer that can be accessed via VPN whilst on your travels, or even if you’ve moved overseas – and from Netflix to Now TV, all of the most popular streaming services are at your fingertips once you’re all set up. In the past few years, we’ve seen a plethora of new competitors make their way into the on-demand entertainment space – but how exactly do they measure up?

streaming services
Since the introduction of Netflix and Amazon Prime – two of the biggest mainstream services globally – streaming has become increasingly popular with UK consumers. Image credit: Vantage_DS/Bigstock.com

Comparing BBC iPlayer with other streaming services

Since the introduction of Netflix and Amazon Prime – two of the biggest mainstream services globally – streaming has become increasingly popular with UK consumers. And now, with even more options to take our pick from than ever before, we’re quite literally spoilt for choice.

But streaming giant BBC iPlayer has been around much longer than these newcomers, and has a rich history worth knowing. While many users might head straight to the larger international apps to get their TV and film fix, others have remained loyal to the BBC, having watched its content on TV from a young age – and the classic six-part BBC drama remains a cornerstone of the service and a symbol of its unwavering commitment to quality.

Wins over other streaming giants through live content

Even today, BBC iPlayer remains the leading UK service for watching, listening, viewing, and streaming, enabling fans to enjoy all of their BBC favourites on demand.

And it’s not just its soaps and dramas that have cemented its reputation as one of the best services out there. Providing a whole host of film and radio channels means that it has a lot more to offer than some of its competitors, and its coverage of live sporting events like Formula One and music festivals like Glastonbury and V have seen it remain consistently a cut above the rest.

bbc iplayer radio 4
With its iPlayer service, the BBC has maintained a steady hold on a loyal audience, with the convenience of being able to watch content on-demand across many devices – at no cost – giving the BBC an advantage over its competitors. Image credit: chrisd2105/Bigstock.com

Offering up more than 60 channels and podcasts to its subscribers in total, users can watch and listen online from anywhere, as well as accessing the app via their smart TVs in the comfort of their homes.

BBC’s chief customer officer, Kerris Bright, says that the service has plenty more in store for fans over the next year, too, with some big plans afoot to improve the overall user experience.

“The changes we’re introducing are small but will make a big difference, and we’ll roll them out gradually across all of our services,” she explains.

“Over the next six months and beyond, iPlayer and Sounds will continue to change, followed by News, Weather, Sports and Bite Size.”

Although what exactly these new developments will entail remains to be seen, it seems likely that the changes will open the doors to a wide range of BBC programs, sports coverage, and on-demand services – including shows like Shetland, Four Hours on The Capitol, Strictly Come Dancing, and BBC News.

Subscription process made easy

From the start, BBC iPlayer has always been user friendly. You can visit the site, create an account, and if you’re in the UK, you can watch any programme for free, with a huge catalogue of previously broadcast programmes to choose from and accessibility via your laptop, tablet, mobile phone, and any other connected devices.

netflix
Netflix is one of the world’s leading entertainment services with 222 million paid memberships in over 190 countries. Image credit: Vantage_DS/Bigstock.com

But as mentioned beforehand, BBC iPlayer only allows those residing in the UK to access its content – as long as they hold a TV licence. Although it’s still technically possible to access the app in the UK without one, those who do so run the risk of incurring a large fine – and as TV licences in the UK cost only around £159 per year, it’s wise to simply get one and enjoy access to real-time BBC TV as well as being able to watch on catch-up and indulge in boxsets from times gone by.

The streaming service is free, however, for those with licences – which means that unlike Netflix, Now TV and the like, there is no subscription fee to pay on top.

Other advantages of using BBC iPlayer

Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have ruled the roost for a long time regarding on-demand entertainment services – but nevertheless, the BBC has managed to stay current and attractive to users to ensure that it doesn’t get left behind.

“As a result of our content winning 130 awards, including 31 BAFTAs, we need to ensure that the packaging for our content matches this level of excellence,” says Kerris Bright in a blog.

With its iPlayer service, the BBC has maintained a steady hold on a loyal audience, with the convenience of being able to watch content on-demand across many devices – at no cost – giving the BBC an advantage over its competitors.

But what exactly makes iPlayer tick? Is it merely because of accessibility? Or are there other factors at play, too?

In a word, yes. BBC iPlayer is the best for those looking for subtitled content, offering the highest percentage of all current streaming services, and its features also place it at the top of the ranks as the best player for audio-described content. If you’re a screen reader, you can easily stream content online on BBC iPlayer, and by ensuring that all users are catered to and can continue to enjoy its content for free, the BBC remains one step ahead of the game.