Yes, you can watch the first three seasons of Blackadder in their entirety
The BBC has launched the international version of its iPlayer app for the iPad. The app, which lets users stream and download the Beeb’s TV shows, is free and available in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.
The app differs from the local, UK-only version quite significantly. The UK iPlayer service is intended as a way to catch up on shows from the past week, and all content is free for its short life on the service. The international iPlayer works more like Hulu. There is a significant back catalog of around 1,000 hours stretching back 60 years — currently featured are vintage episodes of Doctor Who starring William Hartnell. The iPlayer also contains non-BBC content. The excellent Misfits from Channel 4 is in there, for example.
Also new are streaming over 3G and offline viewing. The latter lets you download and keep episodes to watch later — perfect for vacations or plane rides.
Some content is free, and you can grab the app and try it out right now. For the meat of the service, though, you’ll have to pay. A monthly subscription costs €7 ($10) and a yearly one €50 ($71). This is very cheap compared to the compulsory television License Fee payable by every TV owner in Britain, currently £145.50, or $238, or €166. Subscriptions are paid for in-app, just like any other iTunes purchase.
So how is the app itself? Not bad. The experience is slick, and navigation is fast. You can browse or search for shows. Each episode has a plot summary, where you can hit play, download the show or — inevitably — recommend it via Twitter or Facebook.
Streaming starts pretty much immediately (you get a bandwidth warning first if you aren’t connected to a Wi-Fi network), and the quality isn’t bad. It’s not as good as a torrented file ripped from the hi-def version, but its good enough for the small screen.
Two major faults stand out. The first is a lack of subtitle support, which is absurd in an app showing English language shows to foreign audiences. For example The Lady, who speaks perfect English, is sometimes foxed by the weirder English accents on TV.
The second is a lack of AirPlay support, even for audio. This is thanks to the app’s custom video player. You can always hook up the iPad to a TV or stereo using a cable, though.
The iPlayer app is pretty great, and fills the gap for smug Europeans left by Spotify launching in the U.S. And best of all, unlike the paid version of Hulu, there are no ads (you do get some pre-roll commercials in the free version).