Dave Gee: Entertainment Now: Free Video Downloads from the BBC
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The BBC has launched a free online video service, offering surfers the chance to download and watch top programmes from the British TV broadcaster.

The BBC's iPlayer allows surfers in the UK to download for free a range of programmes broadcast on the BBC within the past week. The video files have a 'self destruct' built into them, meaning users have to watch the files within the next 30 days, before they're automatically deleted.

The on-demand tv service currently offers around 400 hours of programming, but the BBC says a lot more is on the way. British web surfers can use the BBC iPlayer service for free and without advertising, while overseas users will apparently have the option of either paying to download ad-free programmes, or to watch content containing advertisements for no charge.

Users need to download the iPlayer software to their computer. About 70% of the previous week's BBC schedule is available for download, including hit shows like Doctor Who and Eastenders. (Programming excluded from the online service are American shows and sports matches).

Currently the service only works on PCs running Windows XP and Windows Media Player 10 or later. However, the Beeb says versions for Mac OS, Windows Vista, and Linux will be available by the end of the year. The BBC also wants the iPlayer to become a universal on-demand service on cable and other tv platforms, as well as mobile phones.

It's the latest UK broadcaster to go down the download route, with ITV, Channel 4, Five and Sky also operating online video service offering a range of programming for download.

A commercial version of the iPlayer will be launched early next year by BBC Worldwide, eventually offering a range of ad-funded and pay-per-view content from the archives of the BBC. The British broadcaster is also developing versions for other countries, including Australia and the United States.

* BBC UK: Download BBC iPlayer