Why I use torrents instead of iPlayer

BBC iPlayer
Great... but not perfect

I watch a fair bit of stuff off the BBC these days, yet I still find myself using torrents to download programmes rather than using the BBC iPlayer. I don’t have a TV so the internet is the only convenient way for me to catch up.

But why do I use torrents rather than streaming or downloading from the BBC directly? Some of the reasons are a little picky, I admit. Others genuinely bother me or could be something the Beeb could work on. In the meantime, though, despite the fact I can often download faster from Auntie, I’ll stick to slower torrents.

I’d like to point out, though, that I watch the programmes once then delete them – usually within the same time-frame given for iPlayer downloads.

  • Torrents are generally smaller downloads. An hour’s programming is typically 730Mb compared to iPlayer’s 850Mb or so. This does mount up if you’re on a limited, throttled or capped ISP account.
  • iPlayer playback can still be stuttery on my laptop and netbook. It’s particularly bad under Linux. No such issues with AVI files taken from torrents. GOM and VLC play them easily enough.
  • I can download or convert AVI files for viewing on a PSP. This means really small downloads if I get them direct and portable viewing once I have them.
  • iPlayer won’t work for me when I’m abroad even though I’m resident in the UK. This is very annoying though I do understand the BBC’s reasoning for the restriction.
  • Some programs on iPlayer are only available for streaming, such as Match of the Day. Again, I appreciate the licensing restrictions being placed on them by the Premier League, but that doesn’t help when I want to watch it at another time. After all, I could record it on video, DVD or hard drive direct from the TV to watch any time I felt like it.
  • There’s only so much stuff you can get on iPlayer until it vanishes over time. I like to watch series all in one shot, not week by week. With some series this is possible (series catch-up), but with others it isn’t. Some series just disappear completely. I managed to catch three episodes of Casualty 1909 then went abroad. I couldn’t get the last three on iPlayer when I got home.
  • I run dual OS’s on my laptops and also run two machines. I’d like to be able to d/l on one machine and still watch on the other – but I can’t due to the DRM. I have managed to d/l on one OS and watch on the other on the same machine, though.

Again, please don’t get me wrong. I think iPlayer’s great. It’s just a little too limited for my personal needs right now.

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almost witty

Tried going to the iPlayer website with your PSP? It’s a crazy idea, but it might just work..

John Coxon

Yes, but the iPhone version of iPlayer isn’t DRM’d either (it’s just an unprotected MP3/MP4 stream to the phone) so a PSP version isn’t completely out of the question… 🙂