BBC iPlayer ditches offline downloads on PCs and Macs, but there's a workaround

A laptop screen on a pink background showing BBC iPlayer
(Image credit: BBC)

If you regularly download TV shows from BBC iPlayer onto your PC or Mac, we’ve got some bad news: those days are numbered. 

That’s because the BBC has announced that not only is the iPlayer Downloads app being shuttered, the ability to download shows from the BBC website is also being discontinued soon. That’s sure to cause some serious consternation among disappointed viewers.

Specifically, the BBC says that users will no longer be able to download shows from the web from March 11 onwards. According to the BBC, you will be able to continue watching any downloaded shows until April 8, after which they will expire and won’t be available to watch.

Meanwhile, the BBC iPlayer Downloads app – which helps you download shows onto your computer – is also on the way out. It’s been unavailable to download since February 2, and the app will stop working altogether on April 8.

The end of iPlayer downloads has been met with frustration from a number of users. Many people download iPlayer shows to watch them offline in areas where internet coverage is spotty or to give them something to enjoy when they’re outside the U.K. (as iPlayer downloads are geo-blocked in other countries). 

But the BBC has now said that the changes to offline downloads on PCs, Macs and the web were made "due to the low number of people using it" and the "cost required to keep it going".

Still, without the ability to download content to your laptop, being able to watch offline shows while traveling or on holiday just got a lot harder, even if iPlayer mobile downloads for phones and tablets will continue unaffected.

How to continue downloading content

Luckily, there are still a few ways to download iPlayer content. The BBC says that downloads will be unaffected for mobile and tablet users since downloading is built into the iPlayer app for those devices. It’s just PC, Mac and web users that will be affected.

If you still want to be able to record shows onto your computer, there is a (slightly nerdy) workaround. The get_iplayer app, for instance, should continue working as it downloads show directly from the BBC servers. As long as the BBC allows you to stream content online, get_iplayer should work. Note that you’ll still need to have a valid TV license to save shows onto your computer.

The good thing about get_iplayer is that it allows you to keep downloaded content for as long as you like. At the moment, shows saved from the BBC website expire after a set number of days, a restriction that get_iplayer is able to bypass.

That said, get_iplayer has an extremely basic user interface and is not the easiest app to use, requiring you to enter prompts like old-school command lines (unless you use the graphical user interface described in this YouTube tutorial). We also don’t know if it will keep working once iPlayer’s changes have come into place. 

Still, with the BBC choosing to restrict downloads for PC and Mac users, it might be your best bet to continue downloading some of the best TV shows for offline viewing.

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Alex Blake
Freelance Contributor

Alex Blake has been fooling around with computers since the early 1990s, and since that time he's learned a thing or two about tech. No more than two things, though. That's all his brain can hold. As well as TechRadar, Alex writes for iMore, Digital Trends and Creative Bloq, among others. He was previously commissioning editor at MacFormat magazine. That means he mostly covers the world of Apple and its latest products, but also Windows, computer peripherals, mobile apps, and much more beyond. When not writing, you can find him hiking the English countryside and gaming on his PC.