PS3 Firmware 3.0: Hands On With BBC iPlayer

September 1, 2009 Written by Sebastian Moss


Firmware 3.0 hit the PlayStation 3 tonight, and a long requested feature of UK gamers came along with the update. We got our hands on the BBC iPlayer to give you the full run down of the PS3’s latest new service.

BBC iPlayer is a video streaming and downloading service that allows UK citizens to watch BBC shows online a mere 1 hour after it has shown on television for up to 7 days. It also boasts a ‘Series Stacking’  feature which allows viewers to watch previous programmes from selected series until the series has ended, with a limit of up to thirteen weeks after first broadcast.

While the service came under heavy criticism, with the development costing well over £6million and with running costs estimated to be as high as £830 million, BBC iPlayer has become a highly requested feature among UK gamers.
The BBC iPlayer is certainly no stranger to consoles, on April 9, 2008 it was announced that the Wii would be able to stream video content via the Internet Channel by a recoding of the iPlayer to use Flash 7 rather than Flash 9.

Understandably, many PS3 owners grew annoyed that the Wii, as well as iPhones and several other leading phones gained iPlayer access while the site was not accessible through the iPlayer website on the PlayStation 3 browser.

An unofficial hack was created a week after the Wii launch, which combined Javascript, CSS and user-agent masking to mimic the Internet Channel browser, allowing PlayStation 3 owners to access the iPlayer through the unofficial website. Whilst the BBC admitted they were “impressed”, they also remarked that it was not “the best possible iPlayer proposition for that console”, and that they would be “investigating the optimal video profile and browser proposition” for it in due course.

From December 2008, the PlayStation 3 was able to work directly through the iPlayer website and at Gamescom 2009 it was announced that an official iPlayer application widget would be provided with the newly released 3.0 firmware update.

David Brent
The widget, which is essentially a stylised shortcut link, brings PS3 owners to the BBC’s ‘BigScreen interface‘ (UK residents only) website, where users can stream iPlayer programs and listen to live radio. Fortunately, the site utilises the full screen flash capability of the PS3, which was brought in after Firmware 2.53. However, the PS3 does lack the download feature of the PC software which allowed viewers to store videos on their hard drive for up to 30 days, and can only, like the Wii, stream videos through the website.

The BBC link can be found under the TV icon (between Video and Games) and is accessible after updating to firmware 3.0, but is restricted to UK residents only as it is funded by British citizens paying a license fee of £142.50 per household. The BBC is one of many European broadcasters that has pledged its support to PSN, with others including rtve, Antena 3, laSexta and 2DF.