The online TV market in the UK is predicted to almost double in 2008 thanks in part to the growing popularity of the BBC iPlayer free catch-up service.
Media analyst Screen Digest forecasts that about 1.5 billion TV shows and specialist programmes will be downloaded or streamed in the UK this year – up from 0.8 billion in 2007.
It said the BBC’s on-demand video services, including the iPlayer, accounted for 38% of the UK’s free-to-view web TV services last year.
But Screen Digest says the iPlayer’s success also highlights how other broadcasters are lagging behind when it comes to web-based TV.
It says growth is being hampered because some online catch-up TV services – such as Channel 4’s 4oD – require viewers to download a desktop program before they can start viewing.
In contrast, the iPlayer gives people the option of watching programmes in a web browser without the need to download anything.
This technology has also opened up the iPlayer to people with non-Windows computers – something that services from ITV and Channel 4 have yet to do.
Which? Technology Editor Matthew Bath said: ‘The BBC’s iPlayer has had tremendous success since its launch, with the broadcaster claiming 250,000 programmes are being downloaded or streamed each day.
‘With the convenience that time-shifted online TV offers viewers, other broadcasters such as Channel 4 and ITV need to recognise that consumers increasingly want to view programmes whenever they want, using PCs and the internet, and make it as easy as possible to watch online TV.’