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BBC iPlayer scraps offline downloads on certain devices from March

The iPlayer Downloads app for Mac and PC was removed on February 2 as part of plans to end downloads on laptops and PCs entirely (BBC)
The iPlayer Downloads app for Mac and PC was removed on February 2 as part of plans to end downloads on laptops and PCs entirely (BBC)

The BBC has stopped new iPlayer users from downloading programmes on Windows PCs and Macs, with the download service ending for all laptop and desktop users in March.

The iPlayer Downloads app for Mac and PC was removed on February 2 as part of plans to end downloads on laptops and PCs entirely.

“We have started the process of closing the Desktop Downloads App. Downloading programmes from a computer or laptop will no longer be available from Monday 11 March. You can still watch your existing downloads until Monday 8 April 2024,” the BBC website says.

That’s bad news if you like to load a laptop up with programmes before going on holiday or work trips. After March 11, BBC iPlayer downloads will be officially accessible only through Android and iOS phones and tablets.

Even though Chromebooks can download and run Android apps through the Google Play app store, they don’t get a reprieve either. That platform has never supported iPlayer downloads.

“You won't be able to download programmes as Chromebook does not meet the current system requirements to install the BBC iPlayer Downloads application,” the BBC says.

You won't be able to download programmes as Chromebook does not meet the current system requirements to install the BBC iPlayer Downloads application

BBC

This not only affects the iPlayer Downloads app, but also downloads from the iPlayer website. These are available at present on PC, but a “from the 11th March you will no longer be able to download content from the web” message pops up on requesting a programme download online.

Digging a little deeper, the other ways around this feature termination don’t work either.

For example, MacBooks with one of Apple’s M-series processors can run iPhone and iPad apps. But when you search for iPlayer on the App Store on Mac, it’s not available.

Similarly, Windows 11 lets PCs run Android apps, via Amazon’s Appstore. But, again, when you browse that library you’ll find BBC Sounds but not BBC iPlayer.

The crumb of good news is downloads for the mobile iPlayer app aren’t going anywhere.

The BBC says it is discontinuing the feature because not many people download programmes on PCs and laptops.

“We have made the difficult decision to close the Desktop Downloads app for BBC iPlayer, due to the low number of people using it and the cost required to keep it going,” a BBC spokesperson told us.

It’s the most innocuous reason for this move, although it seems a shame downloads have been removed from the web as well as ditching the dedicated iPlayer Downloads app.