Author Topic: Using get_iplayer to download BBC iPlayer content - beginner's guide & tutorial  (Read 4214 times)

Offline mattosensei

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Skill level: Beginner

this guide is aimed at those domiciled in the UK / BBC license-fee payers only, as a guide to download content. Most people have a set-top box and can save anything they watch or listen to on the BBC, and play back whenever, even years later. However, you can't (easily) transfer content to other devices from a set-top box. The alternative is to use the website/service BBC iPlayer, but due to rights issues, content is usually taken down 30 days after being aired. For a lot of content (e.g. Glastonbury sets shown just after performances) you may have only a few days to watch content before it expires. Being able to save content to your computer allows you to playback at your convenience.

Disclaimer: this guide is not about 'circumventing' BBC content restrictions via proxies, etc. Nor is there anything illegal about saving content direct to your hard-drive rather than set-top box. This guide is only aimed at those domiciled in the UK and who therefore have normal access to BBC iPlayer (this is not available outside UK). get_iplayer does not circumvent DRM and is perfectly legal to use.

Software: get_iplayer

Author's page:

This is a great piece of software for saving BBC content. I use the command line interface (CLI) although there is also a PVR (web-based) GUI interface that you can use. However, I've found it easier to just use the terminal.


Download the software. You can download from the repos. However, I prefer to download from the author's site, as per his notes:

"Linux/Unix packages are maintained by volunteers and may not be updated for some time after a new release of get_iplayer, thus the version of get_iplayer packaged for your system may be obsolete."

When I have downloaded from the repos in the past it has always been several versions behind, so I always download from the author PPA. As ever downloading from an author PPA, you do so at your own risk. Personally I have had no problems over the years and trust this source.

To add the PPA repository:

Code: [Select]
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:jon-hedgerows/get-iplayerEnsure package database is current:

Code: [Select]
sudo apt-get updateInstall get_iplayer from PPA with dependencies:

Code: [Select]
sudo apt-get install get-iplayerDownloading content with get_iplayer

Right, surf over to using your browser of choice and decide what you want to download. Example here is the brand new (ostensibly for children  :D) episode of The Clangers. You have 29 days left to watch 'online', but you want to save and watch at a later date, and or transfer to tablet/phone. Therefore you would like to download it to your computer as an MP4, rather than only have it on your set-top box.

Note the unique alphanumeric in the title (click for larger):

In this case it is: b05zh5dp

Open a terminal using CTRL+ALT+T and at the prompt type:

Code: [Select]
get_iplayer --pid b05zh5dpThat's it. It will start downloading the file and convert once it has finished.



You now have a high-qual mp4 file to view on any device:

Further instructions and info on the author's informative site if you need it:

There are lots of tweaks you can make should you want to (lower quality download, etc, etc).

get_iplayer is a great tool for being able to save BBC content in high quality and to play back in your own time on the device you want.

Enjoy  :)

PS This is my first tutorial - all feedback welcome  ;)
« Last Edit: June 16, 2015, 04:01:07 am by mattosensei »

Offline PCNetSpec

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And an absolutely brilliant first tutorial it is mattosensei :)

Cheers for that .. keep em coming.

Just need to tweak it a little to convert to XviD and I'll be a happy chappy .. is there any GUI front ends for this that you know of that actually work ?
(I'm fine in the CLI, just wondered)

I never knew you could dig the number out of the URL .. I thought you had to do a text search in the terminal .. very handy tip :)
« Last Edit: June 16, 2015, 09:01:59 am by PCNetSpec »
WARNING: You are logged into reality as 'root' .. logging in as 'insane' is the only safe option.

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Offline Slim.Fatz

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Nice work, mattosensei!!   8)

I like the way you organized it and gave an indication of the skill level required. I'll probably go back to my tutorials and add something similar to them!  ;)


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Offline mattosensei

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Thanks for the feedback guys  :D