Whether it’s catching up on programmes I’ve missed, or discovering content I’d never have spotted live, I’m an avid BBC iPlayer user. But when I go on holiday, why can’t I take the service with me?
As a member of the Tech team, I’ve been contacted on many occasions by people asking for ways to watch BBC programmes abroad.
Currently, all iPlayer TV programmes are only available to stream in the UK. You can download already broadcast iPlayer content to certain devices to watch while you’re away, but you’ll need enough space for all those EastEnders episodes you want.
There are a few workarounds available, but they’re either pricey (the Slingbox 350 media streamer costs £130) or a bit of hassle (IP masks).
Should licence fee payers be allowed holiday access through some kind of login system?
The digital wind of change
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale thinks so. He’s called on the BBC to make iPlayer available outside of the UK:
‘It is only right that for someone who has paid access to a subscription service – or even just a licence fee – to be able to access that content on holiday overseas.
‘That’s why I urge the broadcaster to make their content available, and to come forward with proposals for portability and how this can be made to work for the industry.’
The BBC’s currently looking more closely at how iPlayer is operating as a platform in a world where viewers are increasingly enjoying their TV wherever and whenever they want.
There are some nice developments on the table, such as the ability to do Netflix-style ‘binge’ watching of BBC dramas. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to stream that content while on holiday?
However, this surely extends beyond the BBC to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. For example, you’ll be locked out of your UK Netflix subscription if you’re in another country – is that right? If we pay a subscription to use these services, why should we always have to be ‘at home’ to enjoy them?