1. Computer Skills

How to Use Your Mac to Time-Shift Your Television Viewing

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If, like me, you can’t find the time to watch your favourite (or interesting) BBC television shows, and the iPlayer catch-up time limits are too short, then you need Get iPlayer Automator.

This ingenious app enables you to time shift your viewing indefinitely so that, like me, you can watch your programmes when it is convenient to you. Even if that happens to be months later.

Get iPlayer Automator is supplied without any instructions. In this tutorial I will show you how to download and store your favourite BBC programmes beyond the time limits of iPlayer.

Getting Get iPlayer Automator

Get iPlayer Automator can be downloaded from the Tom-Tech website and is compatible with OS X 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion. I have not yet tested it with OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

The app is donationware, so please do make an appropriate donation to the developer if it is something that you plan to use. This ensures that the developer’s hard work is recognised and that the app can continue to be improved.

The Legalities of Recording Television Programmes

In order to view live television broadcasts, in the UK, you must purchase a television licence. You need this licence if you own any equipment capable of receiving a live broadcast, for example: a television set, a PVR or a video recorder (younger readers google this one). If you plan to watch live broadcasts – on your Mac, iOS device or other computer – you will need a television licence.

A television licence is not required to watch catch-up programming available on BBC iPlayer. By default, programmes are available from iPlayer for seven or 30 days, after which time they are removed – even if you used the BBC iPlayer app to download them.

The use of Get iPlayer Automator essentially turns your Mac into a PVR. The recording of a programme means that you can store it, potentially indefinitely, in the same way as a conventional PVR such as a Humax would with live broadcasts.

Whilst I can not see the BBC endorsing this innovative app, nor can I see the time-shifting of viewing with this app being any different to a dedicated box (a PVR) doing it. Provided that I do not distribute the content I download and use it only to time shift my family’s viewing, then I am comfortable that I am operating within the spirit of the rules.

Indeed, the BBC is working on plans to increase the availability of their programming content for the future.

Downloaded television shows in iTunesDownloaded television shows in iTunesDownloaded television shows in iTunes
Downloaded television shows in iTunes

Configuring Get iPlayer Automator

Once you have downloaded the app, click on the Preferences icon and check some settings. Click the BBC Formats and Other Formats tabs and ensure that the highest quality format is listed at the top.

This will ensure that you download programmes at the highest possible quality, ie 720p, which is adequate for a high quality image on all but the largest of television screens.

Checking that programmes are downloaded in HDChecking that programmes are downloaded in HDChecking that programmes are downloaded in HD
Checking that programmes are downloaded in HD

Finding a Television Programme

Finding a television programme is simple. Launch the app and, in the Search for Shows… box, enter the name of the programme you are looking for.

A list of programmes, matching your search criteria, will be displayed in the central pane. Alongside the results will be the network on which that programme was broadcast, for example: BBC One. This can help you in selecting the correct programme to download.

Searching for a television programmeSearching for a television programmeSearching for a television programme
Searching for a television programme

Recording a Television Programme

Recording a single television programme is straightforward. Launch the Get iPlayer Automator app and type the name, of your desired programme, into the search box.

Get iPlayer Automator will download updated programming schedules and identify your programme – provided that it is currently available to view on BBC iPlayer.

Click to highlight the programme(s) you wish to record, click the Add to Queue button – which places the programme in the lower pane – then click the Start button.

Your programme will then be downloaded and converted to a Mac and iOS-friendly format before being added to iTunes for your convenience. If you also have an Apple TV, connected to your television, you will find this to be an extremely helpful process. Your downloaded programmes will be ready to view.

Recording television programmesRecording television programmesRecording television programmes
Recording television programmes

Recording a Television Series

To record a television series, start by clicking on the PVR icon on the toolbar of the Get iPlayer Automator app. This will launch a separate PVR Manager window.

In the PVR Manager window, the layout is similar to the Get iPlayer Automator window with a Search for Shows… box, a results pane and a Series-Link pane.

Enter the name of the television series, that you with to record, in the Search for Shows… box.

Select the desired programme by clicking on it, once, in the results pane. Even if there is currently more than one episode available, click on just one of the shows and then click the Auto-Record button. This adds that programme to the Series-Link pane.

Next, click the Add Available Shows to Queue button. This sends all available shows to the Download Queue of the Get iPlayer Automator app window.

To record all the available shows for this series, click the Start button. The programmes will then be downloaded and converted to a Mac and iOS-friendly format before being added to iTunes for your convenience.

Recording a television seriesRecording a television seriesRecording a television series
Recording a television series

Recording Radio Programmes and Podcasts

The Get iPlayer Automator app doesn’t just record and download television programmes. It is also able to record, download and place in iTunes the broadcast radio content that has been made available on iPlayer.

Recording radio programmesRecording radio programmesRecording radio programmes
Recording radio programmes

Recording Other Channels

It’s not just the programming output from BBC Channels that can be recorded with the Get iPlayer Automator app. The app will also search online catch-up content that is available from Channel 4 (4oD) and ITV (ITVplayer).

That said, Get iPlayer Automator is unable to load many of the programmes from 4oD.

From my experimentation, one big advantage of downloading programmes from ITVplayer, using Get iPlayer Automator app, is that you do not get subjected to any of the advert breaks or the adverts. A big plus!

Viewers Outside of the United Kingdom

Get iPlayer Automator is an app that has been designed to download, without time restrictions, the BBC iPlayer content that has been made available to licence-paying viewers in the United Kingdom.

Where BBC iPlayer content is not available to overseas viewers, nor will it be available via Get iPlayer Automator app.

Whilst there are ways to circumvent geographical restrictions, to explain how to do so would be outside of the spirit (and, most probably, the rules) of the law.


Get iPlayer Automator app is a useful tool, even if it is a little clunky, for downloading and time-shifting your television viewing.

The fact that it translates the downloaded content into an iTunes-friendly format makes it ideal for streaming your favourite television programmes, via an Apple TV, to your television. You may wish to take this a step further and create a dedicated Mac to handle your media requirements.

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