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BBC iPlayer iOS app to offer free content downloads to subscribers

The British Broadcasting Corporation will launch an updated iOS app for its iPlayer service, allowing subscribers to download free video content to tablets and smartphones for offline viewing at no extra charge.

iPlayer, the BBC's on-demand media streaming service, will initially launch an iOS app for Apple iDevices on Tuesday, to be followed by an Android iteration sometime in the "near future," reports The Guardian.

According to Daniel Danker, the broadcaster's general manager of on-demand programs, the iPlayer app marks a major shift in content consumption as the service previously limited streaming to portable devices via Wi-Fi, leaving downloads for desktop computers.

"This fundamentally changes one of the most annoying restrictions about viewing programs," Danker said. "It means audiences are liberated from the constraints [of online-only viewing] and it fundamentally changes what it means to go on holiday."

Danker is referring to the updated app's capability of downloading content before going on vacation instead of being tethered to a Wi-Fi hotspot at a hotel or incurring data roaming fees. Once a program is downloaded, a user has 30 days to start viewing and seven days to finish after the media file is first opened. The 30-day limit is akin to Apple's rental stipulations in iTunes, however in that system, customers are only allowed 24 hours to finish a video before it becomes unavailable.

BBC iPlayer

Development version of BBC's iPlayer iOS app. | Source: BBC

Unlike current offerings from Netflix and other content providers, the BBC's service will allow subscribers to keep wireless bills down. A 3G option is on the way for those with not concerned with data limits.

"With mobile downloads, you can now load up your mobile phone or tablet with hours and hours of BBC programs, then watch them on the road, on the tube, on a plane, without worrying about having an internet connection or running up a mobile data bill," Danker said.

iPlayer is currently offered on a number of devices, including game consoles like Nintendo's Wii and Sony's Playstation, computers and cable TV, among others.