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The BBC iPlayer Adds Old Shows From the Archive

Dave Parrack 25-09-2017

The BBC is adding a slew of classic programming to the iPlayer. These older shows will live in their own section called From the Archive, which launches today. From the Archive means BBC license fee payers will be able to stream classic BBC broadcasts whenever and wherever they want.


The BBC was founded in 1922, and is now the oldest national broadcaster in the world. The BBC launched the iPlayer in 2007, when streaming television was still very much in its infancy. And it’s now a staple for anyone resident in the UK. Everyone else can choose between BritBox and Acorn TV BritBox vs. Acorn TV: Which Is Better for Streaming British TV? Between BritBox and Acorn TV, you can stream the best British TV content. But which one should you subscribe to? Which is better? Read More .

The BBC Plunders Its Archives

Shows available on the iPlayer have, until now, been recent broadcasts. They’re available for between 7- and 30-days, and then they disappear. But now the BBC is adding a selection of older shows to the iPlayer. A move which makes sense given the forthcoming loss of the BBC Store.

There are initially around 450 shows available in From the Archive, with the BBC promising to add more “in the coming years”. Highlights include Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends, The Great War Interviews, and a whole host of documentaries, including some by David Attenborough.

The BBC iPlayer Adds Old Shows From the Archive from the archive screenshot

From the Archive turns the BBC iPlayer from a service similar to Hulu, providing access to recent shows, to a service more akin to Netflix, where old and new shows mix freely. However, while Netflix buys old shows in from third-parties, the BBC has decades of old archives to plunder.


As noted above, the BBC iPlayer is only freely available to television viewers resident in the UK. However, in the same way a good VPN will you access other countries’ Netflix offerings Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix? Netflix is cracking down on VPNs, but there are a few that still work. Here are the best VPNs to use with Netflix. Read More , there are ways around this geoblocking. You just need to ask Uncle Google for some much-needed advice.

Reinventing the BBC iPlayer

This is likely to be the first in a series of changes aimed at reinventing the BBC iPlayer over the next few years. The BBC wants the iPlayer to become the biggest streaming service in the UK, and able to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. From the Archive is a promising start.

Do you regularly watch content using the BBC iPlayer? Are you resident in the UK? Or do you use a workaround from elsewhere? What do you think of the BBC adding older shows to iPlayer? How else could the BBC improve iPlayer? Please let us know in the comments below!

Related topics: BBC, Media Streaming, Online Video, Television.

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  1. klu9
    September 26, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    "Everyone else can choose between BritBox and Acorn TV."
    And by "everyone", you mean "practically no one".
    "We're sorry, BritBox is not available in your country."

    At least BritBox has the decency to inform you straight up that you can't use it. AcornTV suckers you in until you're halfway through the signup procedure and then you realise all the options are for yanks and Canadians only.

    I don't even know why I bother reading MUO articles about streaming video services anymore; I can't remember a single one ever having useful or accurate info about international availability. (And to add insult to injury, most of the services themselves, like AcornTV, don't give it to you up front either.)

    | end frustrated rant.

  2. Peter
    September 25, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    FYI, VPNs work with iPlayer too. I live in China and use ExpressVPN to stream.

  3. DanDan
    September 25, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    >>Shows available on the iPlayer have, until now, been recent broadcasts. They’re available for between 7- and 30-days, and then they disappear.

    Err wrong I'm afraid. Whilst most programmes on the IPlayer fall into this category, the BBC have had programmes from their archives available on the IPlayer for years now and these have not been subject to the 7/30 day availability. Your photo illustrating your article in fact shows one of these programmes (Clive James).

    However, it has been the same group of programmes for years now with the BBC rarely (if ever) changing them. The news that they are finally adding more programmes from "the archives" is to be congratulated. However, I wonder how old many of these programmes will be. "Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends" is hardly what I would term archove material.

    The BBC has a huge number of tv programmes going back to the early sixties (and earlier) and most of these have not been made available by them. As they were largely paid for by the tv licence fee it's about time that tv licence fee payers got the chance to see them again!

    EDIT - I've just had a look at the "from the archives" and am disappointed to note that a large percentage of the available programmes are the same ones that have already been available on the IPlayer for years now with no change or update.

    I am not impressed.