You're Using BBC iPlayer Wrong

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

We at Giz UK are big fans of BBC iPlayer, and we know that you, our readers, love it too. Being right proper TV bingers, we've been keen to uncover the lesser-known iPlayer tips and tricks that could help us squeeze every last drop out of the TV service. Here's our selection of handy little pointers that'll let you get the most out of BBC iPlayer. Use them responsibly.

Never Miss a Moment

Though most of us use iPlayer to either stream or download the shows we’ve missed, you can also use it to watch live television -- just make sure you have a TV License, yeah? Better still, there’s a feature on the desktop and TV versions of iPlayer called Live Restart, which allows you to jump straight back to the beginning of a show, so you don’t miss the recap, theme tune, or murder scene that the rest of the show hinges on, when your idiot of a fellow spectator decides to start a conversation at the worst possible moment. All you have to do is hit the well-named ‘Restart the current programme’ button. Live Restart will arrive on the iPlayer mobile and tablet apps later this year.

Ever noticed a ‘Sign in’ option on the iPlayer website? You’ve always ignored it, haven’t you? By creating an account and logging in, you can unlock a juicy little range of extra features. One of these is the ability to pick up a show where you left it. If you’re signed in, you’ll see a ‘Watching’ list in the ‘My Programmes’ section, which displays any episodes you haven’t finished (if they're still available), along with the next episode in the series. No more hunting around the A-Z section whenever you’re whisked away.

Personal Recommendations

Another plus-side of having an account is the fact that you’ll receive your own personalised TV recommendations, based on your viewing habits. Every TV service worth their salt has a feature like this these days, and it comes in very useful, especially if you have mounds of work to put off.

Music Recognition

It’s really cool these days to know songs that none of your mates has heard of, whether or not they’re completely shit, and iPlayer could give you a leg-up. If you have an account -- go on, just set one up -- you’ll be able to easily identify the music you hear in your favourite programs, with details appearing in an icon at the top right of the player. Click it to view a list of the tracks from that particular show, and you can even add tracks to remember for later.

BBC Radio Alarm

Sticking with musical stuff, if you download the BBC iPlayer Radio app for Android or iOS, you can set up any BBC Radio station of your choice as your alarm. Nothing that stops you sleeping should be celebrated, but it's a better option than those torturous melodies most phones come pre-loaded with. Sorry for using an image of Fearne Cotton, by the way. Too hip for her own good, that one.

Roam Around the UK

If you’ve recently moved, and desperately miss the telly from back home, you can easily change your location, to allow you to watch live TV from Scotland, Northern Ireland or any of 15 English regions. North West Tonight, I’ll be tuning in this evening (just to remember how much worth the weather is back home).

Pretend Your PC’s a TV

Transform your mouse or trackpad into a remote, by going full-screen on your computer. Channel icons will appear at the top of your screen, so you can flick through live programs as you would with a TV. It's the future, now. Not really, but it is a thoughtful addition.

Maintain Your Kids’ (Apparent) Innocence

Most people know that you can set up a four-digit PIN to keep youngsters away from potentially inappropriate content on iPlayer, but that protective little bubble can burst when you clear out your browser's cookies. To eliminate all risk, you can simply limit them to the special CBBC and CBeebies versions of iPlayer. No swearing, drug-taking or full-frontal action there. Not in front of the cameras, anyway.


Whether you're hard of hearing, trapped in the middle of a family argument or stuck on the Tube without your headphones, you can turn on subtitles by hitting the 'S' under the player. Hello again, lovely words.

Share the Best Bits

Did Idris Elba just make reference to an inside joke you share with your mates? Hands-down the best bit of TV that's ever been created, clearly. Share that specific moment by adding the minutes and seconds (e.g. #t=15m47s) to the end of the URL from the iPlayer website. That's streamlining.

Spinal Tap

It’s not a trick or a tip, but we couldn’t resist mentioning this one. If you've ever wondered why the iPlayer volume controls go up to 11, it's a nod to the famous scene above.

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