Sky has given a little glimpse into what could be the future of on-demand television. Its announced that it's making all six seasons of US series 24 available via the Sky Anytime on PC on-demand service. That's 144 episodes of Jack Bauer action available to download legally over the net.

Sky is also making available the first two seasons of smash-hit Prison Break as well as other Fox shows Standoff, Journeyman and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

The question is: could this be the way that on-demand television works in the future? Instead of an online seven-day catch up service, could we soon see television companies making all episodes of their shows available for download?

Like many things, it could all come down to cost. And at the moment Sky's on-demand service is far more expensive than it is to simply buy the shows on DVD. Season One of 24 will cost you £60 to download-to-own via Sky and yet you can buy the whole series on DVD for around £18 online.

The future of on-demand TV?

But let's ignore that detail for the moment. At present, most on-demand internet services allow viewers to re-watch shows after their original broadcast dates for between 24 hours and seven days. But this new approach from Sky suggests it wants to extend this kind of service to allow for much older shows to be downloaded. Will other broadcasters follow suit with this approach?

One thing's for sure, it's likely to be popular with viewers who want to discover older shows without having to buy the DVDs. For instance, if you want to start watching 24 from today, having missed it for the last six years, you can give Season One a try by downloading a few episodes from Sky Anytime.

If you like it, you can keep watching and pay more. If not, you can stop watching. That's the advantage with the episode-by-episode downloading. It's more expensive in the long-run, but at least you're not committed to paying for the whole lot in one go.

Multi-platform access

"We are delighted to further extend the wealth of content now available to Sky customers through Anytime on PC. No other broadband video download service offers so much fresh, blockbuster entertainment, movies and sport," says Griffin Parry, director of on-demand services at BSkyB.

"We know that our customers want to access Sky content at a time and a screen of their choosing, and Anytime on PC offers a key element of our multi-platform, on-demand offer.

"Whether it's 24, Lost, the Premiership, Test Cricket, Miami Viceor Borat, Sky customers enjoy access to the broadest range of online, on demand content."

Seasons One through to Six of 24 will be available to own for £2.50 per episode, or to rent at £1.50 per episode. New episodes are available the day after their main TV broadcast.