Gone are the days of setting reminders to remember a TV show, in fact even the days of setting a show to record are near numbered as catch-up TV gives you the power to pick. Watch what you want, when you want thanks to the BBC iPlayer.
From shows like Planet Earth II to Match of the Day, you no longer need to watch when they’re aired. Instead, you can connect your TV to the internet to watch on iPlayer whenever suits.
But how do you get watching on your TV? From smart connected screens to set-top boxes to laptop connections, there are plenty of options. Crucially, this means you should be able to use BBC iPlayer without wasting too much figuring out a way of getting it on-screen and certainly without needing to buy a new TV.
Here are the ways you can watch BBC iPlayer on the biggest screen in your home right now.
BBC iPlayer on TV: Laptop
One of the most straightforward ways to upgrade your television to make it smart enough to display catch-up TV is to connect your laptop to it. Since this already has all the hardware and software to make it ready for online streaming all you need to do is move that image to the big screen.
No matter the type of laptop you have there will be an adapter cable out there that lets you plug it into your TV. What you’re likely looking for is something that outputs to HDMI, so it’ll plug right into your screen.
If you have a Mac that might mean a DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort adapter, or for newer Macs a USB-C to HDMI cable. If you have a newer Mac and are buying an unofficial adapter be sure it’s rated to work with your model’s year.
For PC users you may have a DVI or even HDMI out right there on your computer. If you do have HDMI out then any HDMI cable should work.
Once connected, simply open a browser with BBC iPlayer, set to full screen and let your laptop and local Wi-Fi do the rest. A wireless mouse and keyboard are great options here so you can leave the laptop by the TV and still browse the next show from the sofa.
BBC iPlayer on TV: Smart streamer
An affordable way to upgrade your TV to make it smart, so you don’t need to get your laptop out every time you want to watch a show, is to get a streamer. These range from sticks to mini boxes that each connect via HDMI and use your home’s Wi-Fi connection (or in some select cases a wired ethernet connection) to stream content.
Options here range from £25 for the likes of a Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick or Roku Streaming Stick to the Chromecast Ultra, Amazon Fire TV box or Roku 3, priced at near the £100 mark.
For very basic viewing the stick options are fine, each with BBC iPlayer and enough processing power to run it quickly and in HD. If you want more, like recording or options for higher resolution playback, then you’ll need to go for a more modern box option like the Roku Ultra which offers 4K but costs about £200. Since BBC iPlayer isn’t 4K at the time of publishing, that kind of investment will be a future facing one.
BBC iPlayer on TV: Set top box
Many set-top boxes will allow you to use catch-up TV for streaming BBC iPlayer content over your home internet connection. If you’re a Freesat user then you can use most boxes to view catch-up TV.
Humax HD, Bush HD, Grundig HD and Goodmans HD boxes from after 2010 should mostly support BBC iPlayer. Many require an ethernet connection from your router, whilst others are Wi-Fi friendly. Check your specific box details to find out more, especially if you are buying a new one and want BBC iPlayer support.
BBC iPlayer on TV: Smart TV
One of the easiest ways to access the BBC iPlayer on your big TV is to have one that streams the service natively. A smart television will have the BBC iPlayer app either already installed or available to download. This will then, at a few button taps, have you streaming HD BBC iPlayer video as if it were being played over broadcast – except at any time of day you fancy.
Nearly any TV you buy nowadays will likely be smart and have some sort of app access. Since BBC iPlayer is one of the first and works widely across devices it will almost certainly be available on that television. The app is also extremely efficient so even on older TVs with poorer processors it should still run smoothly with fast buffering.
Of course, across all these devices you’re limited by your internet connection, so be sure to have a decent line of at least 2MB if you want smooth, fast playback. If you want HD playback, an even faster connection is recommended and 4K HD playback (if and when it becomes available) will require a fast connection still.
BBC iPlayer on TV: Smartphone or tablet
Another option for viewing BBC iPlayer on your TV is to use your tablet or smartphone. While some tablets have HDMI-out meaning you can simply connect the cable and enjoy, most need adapters.
You can buy USB to HDMI adapters that convert the signal allowing you to mirror your smartphone or tablet on the big screen. This means you can simply open the app you already have on your phone, connected via Wi-Fi or mobile data, and enjoy it on the big screen right away. Compatibility varies in terms of device and connection type but there are plenty of options, most of which are affordable so you should be up a running easily enough after a quick trip to the gadget shop.