How-To for BBC iPlayer without requiring XBMC

So, I’ve posted a few places on these forums and blogs, but thought I’d make it a proper post.


You can use BBC iPlayer from the Couch Surfer Pro browser and not need to install XBMC.


The trick is to set the browser to the right user agent so that the web site (BBC’s iPlayer) thinks you aren’t an Apple TV.



Background: A search on the Firecore forums and the rest of the internet will reveal that there’s no viable Flash Player capability in the ATV 2 (black) such that it will perform well enough. Some have suggested that a really old version for PPC Mac’s will work, but probably far more difficult than what I describe below



So, one way to get the BBC iPlayer to work is by a Video or Program plugin for XBMC (detailed many places on these forums). It’s essentially the embedded app. that set top boxes use - but don’t quote me on that!!!. Other On-Demand style players are also available.


The other lighter way to use the BBC iPlayer is via Couch Surfer Pro.

So, by simply using the ‘iPad’ user agent setting in Couch Surfer Pro’s settings, you can use the iPlayer and possibly others without requiring the Flash Player - but this requires that the video service offers an alternative rendering method than Flash (BBC iPlayer does).

I’m not sure about the other services such as 4oD, Demand5 etc.


Normally, when you request a page from BBC iPlayer or most other web sites, it checks the User Agent and redirect your browsers request to the correct backend service assuming they offer different rendered services.


After you set the User Agent to ‘iPad’ in Couch Surfer, you then need go to the ‘big screen’ website location and not actually rely on simply going to the iPlayer start site. The Big Screen site will render a PS3 compatible iPlayer (try going to it from Safari browser, then again with Developer menu enabled and select User Agent Safari iOS 4.3.3 - iPad). This PS3 compatible iPlayer will render on the ATV’s Couch Surfer Pro, but there are a few minor cursor and selected button alignment issues. The blue outline is not quite the same size or location as the button it’s supposed to highlight, but using the ‘mouse’ pointer method of selecting the button seems to work correctly - just ignore the blue outline.


If you try going directly to the big screen site with the normal User Agent set, then the main page will render but no content seems to play - so, I’d assume the backend streaming server is checking the user agent and allowing iPad, which of course there’s an ‘App’ for that!

For more info. on the PS3 Big Screen mode, just google for ‘BBC iPlayer bigscreen’ or check this info. page



I hope this will be helpful to those who haven’t read my reply in the latest ATV3/iOS5 blog entry or my response to another members post.


Failing that, download the BBC iPlayer app (free) and AirPlay to the ATV. Job done.


NB. It helps if you have an iPhone!


Well, on setting on the Couch Surfer and a URL (you can bookmark) is all it takes!


I agree, but you need to spend the price of a 50in+ Plasma/LCD to AirPlay it and if you’ve got such a panel, then iPlayer will surely be on it!!!  :slight_smile:


Also, the quality of the feed from the iPhone isn’t as good because you’re actually need a iPhone 4S to do Mirroring … which is not quite the same as AirPlaying a stream.


The stream bitrate and res. details for for most BigScreen playback is 796kbps h264 AK3.5 (I think AK relates to the Audio) @ 640x360.

Bigscreen works ok except for the funky navigation. That interface has been around for quite a while and I think the newer interface now on the PS3 is quite a bit slicker. Apparently all of the IPTV apps on PS3 are actually webkit, so I assume it would work with Couch Surfer, but I can’t say for sure. To see it, just open in a browser while using the following user agent.  (I use the “develop” menu in Safari). 

Mozilla/5.0 (PLAYSTATION 3; 3.55)

Would take just a few seconds for the Firecore guys to add PS3 as an additional user agent. What would be really slick would be if when bookmarking a page on Couch Surfer, you could select which user agent should always be used. 

Ok - I opened up the couch surfer app in a hex-editor and changed one of the user agent strings to the PS3 (had to add a bunch of blank spaces after it to keep it exactly the same number of characters):

The results: automatically displays the same interface as the new one on PS3, but I cannot navigate it with arrows or mouse-mode. Furthermore it is not fully zoomed.  The good result, however, is that when using this agent, the bigscreen URL works much better. It fills the screen and navigation works exactly as one would hope it would (i.e. the pink boxes line up.)

I’d still love to see the new PS3 interface investigated because it offers the ability to set favorites, browse recently watched, and resume. Maybe it would be best investigated as a separate app so that it could be customized to work with that service - just as the PS3 uses a special webkit browser for the PS3 app instead of it’s native (non-webkit) browser.

Firecore team - it sounds like the community has outlined the beginnings of a plausible approach to allow you to add iPlayer as an aTV App…

So why not simply install iPlayer add-on via XBMC and watch it that way? I have BBC iPlayer installed and access it via XBMC. Works a treat. Installation is easy enough.

I’m going to look at the Couch Surfer door though - but I must say, it’s a rather average browser to use…

I agree. Firecore should integrate BBC iPlayer. The service is free; nothing untoward.