Of course, this article will be out of date shortly but not quite as quickly as you’d imagine. When the BBC iPlayer first launched the majority of programmes where only available for thirty days and indeed many for much less than that. Today t he standard length for a programme is three months, so that’s over 90 days to watch from the day it was broadcast.
Although there are some exceptions, for example Match of the Day on BBC iPlayer is available for much less time, due to licensing restrictions with the Premier League. The vast majority is available for three months and some even longer. Indeed at the end of 2017 the BBC launched a new section called From the Archive featuring shows from the BBC vast archive from 1946! It’s truly a treasure trove of TV programmes, and I guarantee you’ll find some nostalgic gold if you browse through some of the programmes available there.
There’s some incredible shows from history there all available completely free of charge. In fact at any one time there will be 450 titles from the archive regularly rotated. Many of the shows are award wining, such as Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekend series, some great episodes of Storyville, old Dr Who episodes – pick your favorite Doctor and many others.
BBC documentaries are particularly well featured and include programmes from Horizon and broadcasting legends like David Frost, David Attenborough and Michael Parkinson. There are historical and sporting documentaries from the past decades of BBC television.
What’s on BBC iPlayer Now?
It’s difficult to classify the entire range of TV shows which are available on the BBC iPlayer archive at any time. Remember firstly you can watch any show without restrictions when it’s on live, obviously if you’re using a VPN to watch BBC abroad then you need to remember any time differences. I’ve often logged in to watch News at Ten or Newsnight on BBC 2 to discover it’s already gone. This is unfortunate as the news is one programme which isn’t archived for months (perhaps with good reasons).
Currently streaming in the Entertainment section are The Apprentice, the famous reality show, Strictly Come Dancing, Michael McIntyre and the very popular Mrs Brown’s Boys. My personal favorite is the Political Quiz ‘Have I Got News for You’ which is well worth watching if you like your comedy tinged with a little politics.
There are always loads of different documentaries on the various BBC channels but some of the best at the moment include one about Tina Turner, a great one called School which follows a real comprehensive school through the eyes of teachers, pupils and parents. There’s the new Theroux series called Altered States which covers some unusual situations, I’d recommend the one called Choosing Death which meets people preparing to end their own lives – it’s sad but important TV. If you’re interested in the UK in any way then I can also recommend a Box set called Inside the Foreign Office which is just as the title implies a visit to the people who run Britain’s Foreign Offices across the world.
Another interesting documentary is from Storyville entitled the Hurt Locker Hero about a bomb disposal expert called Fakhir Berwari who disarmed thousands of landmines in Iraq usually only using a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers – it’s got 28 days left on the BBC iPlayer and is well worth catching up with.
Obviously all our TV watching habits and preferences will vary but speaking for myself I generally watch the News live twice a day and also Newsnight on weekdays. I am normally in another country using a VPN but have got used to remembering to include the time difference. I also watch a couple of documentaries a week – there are literally hundreds on there at any time and of course all up to the BBC’s world leading standard.
I’ll usually pick a random one from the lists but do tend to follow a few box sets including those by Simon Reeve, you can still currently access his shows on Russia, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. One of the other must sees is the huge collection of David Attenborough Box sets. If you’re outside the UK and trying to justify the small expense of a VPN then here’s one justification – at the moment you can watch a whole host of the best of these sets which would literally cost you hundreds if you bought all the DVDs. The list will change whenever you read this, but here’s a selection which are currently on the BBC iPlayer –
Planet Earth – documentary series celebrates the planet’s natural glory and how the suns seasonal journey affects the lives of all living creatures.
Blue Planet I and II – possibly the greatest wildlife documentary to cover the planet’s oceans, took years to produce and has won countless awards,
Africa – documentary series covering the wildlife of the world’s most exciting continent.
Planet Earth II – David Attenborough visiting some of the world’s most remote islands to see some of the planet’s rarest creatures.
To complete some of my viewing options I enjoy Dr Who, you can watch the latest series but also catch up with many of the earlier programmes on the archive. I also enjoy Match of the Day and the occasional comedy show and even a few soaps when I’m in the mood.
There is so much it’s impossible to detail it all here but I would urge anyone to check out the new BBC iPlayer archive. It’s huge and what’s more isn’t packed full of ‘filler programmes’ like the vast majority of Cable and Satellite packages. In my opinion it’s far superior to the full Sky package which costs around £70 a month to enjoy last time I checked.
The only limitations are perhaps blockbuster movies and some top level of sporting events which the BBC has failed to obtain licenses for. However these are all easily sourced from other places, so it’s no real hardship.
Wherever you are in the world, it’s worth checking out the BBC’s vast archive, especially if you’re somewhere where the standard of broadcasting is not as great as the United kingdom. If you’re outside the UK then you will need some method to hide your IP address like a VPN however it’s not difficult and it only costs a few Euros/dollars for a fast service which can gain you instant access.