Downloading TV programmes perfectly legally has been a massive hit in the UK for a few years, but there’s no longer any need for entire families to crowd around a laptop to watch BBC iPlayer.

The Beeb has been using our licence fee to work on myriad apps and interfaces to fit iPlayer inside a whole new generation of gadgets. Although its spread to TVs and portable gadgets is welcome, it’s not quite as easy as it should be due to copyright restrictions. The iPlayer only works within UK borders and you won’t find any US sitcoms and dramas brought in by the BBC for its regular live TV channels. 

iPlayer may be merged into Project Canvas  kit in 2011, or beaten down by Microsoft, heaven forbid, but for now Auntie dominates the supply of demand - and not just in the living room. Here's how you can get it other than just your computer screen.

TVs had Ethernet ports to connect-up to a router for a while before British brand Cello took that idea to its logical conclusion and brought out its iViewer range of LCD TVs before Christmas. Not only able to show iPlayer - albeit in rather simple fashion - its Oregan Media Browser interface links to weather, news and a miscellany of internet TV channels. Choose between the 26-inch HD-ready version or a 32-inch Full HD model.  

Cable viewers might be looking forward to the next-gen TiVo box from Virgin, but for now it’s the easiest way (and, at a quarter of all iPlayer hits by the far the most popular, after the laptop) to access iPlayer on a TV - just skip to BBC One, hit the red button, and wait about 20 seconds. 

It first appeared on the Wii a few years ago, but now the iPlayer has its own dedicated Wii Channel; visit the Wii Shop Channel to download the BBC iPlayer Wii Channel. Picture quality isn’t fabulous - especially if you watch it on a big TV - but then that was never the Wii’s strong point. After a year or 2 of hackers and coders trying to get the iPlayer on to the PlayStation 3, it finally appeared late in 2008; make sure you’re running version 3.0 software, select the TV option on the Xcross Media Bar, and choose iPlayer. 

As we reported yonks ago, the BBC has announced an app for the iPhone and iPod touch that will at last make live streaming possible (on the iPhone) - with a BBC Sport App due in April that will show live World Cup matches come June. 

The only brand to pack both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners into its latest range of TVs, Panasonic’s G20 Series of plasmas, will shortly be getting iPlayer when Freesat’s beta trial comes to fruition. And if you don’t want trailing cables between the TV and the router, try a HomePlug adaptor from somewhere like Eurosat, which, for £89-£99, connects your TV to a router via any electrical wiring. 

It’s not exclusive to Samsung TVs - some Sony Bravias include a similar service - but the Korean brand has introduced an App for iPlayer across all of its premium flatscreen TVs for 2010. It operates on its Internet@TV service, which relies on a wired Ethernet link, though a wireless dongle will be available. Find iPlayer access on its C7000, C8000 and C9000 LED TVs, its C650 and C760 LCD TVs, and its C6500, C7000 and C8000 plasmas, as well as Samsung’s BD-C7500, BD-C6900, BD-C6500 and BD-C5500 Blu-ray players.

Blackberry has finally got its act together and sorted out an iPlayer service for users. It’s fairly rudimentary, with a special web page created for Blackberry’s browser though viewers will need to make sure their phone is running OS 4.2-5.0. It’s still a step or two behind the iPhone - no live channels can be watched, and the service only works over Wi-Fi.

There are also a fistful of other handsets that you can watch iPlayer on but many involve you having to navigate to the iPlayer site rather than having a dedicated app. The Nokia N96 and N97 are two of the notable exceptions and, for those on Android, there is an unofficial app called Beebplayer by developer Dave Johnston which does the trick very nicely indeed. 

After a pretty rudimentary version on last year’s crop of Bravias, Sony returns in 2010 with a ramped-up version of its Bravia Internet Video platform that now includes access to BBC iPlayer. It stars in these two 3D Blu-ray players; just in case you get bored of the third dimension, you can go back in time and watch EastEnders in plain old 2D. If you tire of that, it’s also got the usual YouTube tomfoolery and access to Lovefilm’s movie library. 

The beta trial of iPlayer is about to spread to all Freesat HD products, but for now it's these Humax boxes, Technisat HD, Bush HD, Goodmans HD, Grundig HD, Sagem Freesat+ and Sony’s Freesat HD televisions that can currently show iPlayer. The Foxsat-HD is a receiver only, while the step-up Foxsat-HDR can record to a 320GB hard disk - that’s about 80 hours of hi-def. Freesat HD viewers will soon get access to ITV Player, too. 

Sideloading - taking programmes you downloaded from iPlayer on a computer and transferring them to a portable device to watch later - only applies to PC users who own specific portable media players from the likes of Philips (GoGear), Samsung (YP-P2, YP-P3 & YP-Q1), Archos (605 Wi-Fi, 7 and Internet Media Tablet) and Sony (some Walkmans). The Creative Zen X-Fi is one such product, though with a teeny screen and no chance of streaming or on-the-go access to iPlayer, it’s little more than a novelty feature. Beware the new Zen X-Fi 2, which doesn’t appear to support iPlayer sideloading at all.

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