Virgin Media is expecting to pass one billion video on-demand views this year – with a trends report revealing that if its VOD service was a channel it would be the third most popular on UK cable.

The Virgin Media Entertainment Index 2010 shows over 900 million programme views though the on-demand service, a 10 per cent rise on 2009.

In the context of other channels, this would place it third behind only BBC1 and ITV1.

Credible bronze

"Virgin Media's on-demand service is the third most watched 'channel' on the platform with customers, on average, each watching for almost two-and-a-quarter hours every week," suggests Virgin Media.

"This is longer than the typical UK family sees anything on TV other than BBC1 or ITV1."

The 900 million programmes add up to a whopping 430 million hours of viewing – which would apparently take a single person 49,000 years to watch.

Transformational

Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said: "This year looks set to be transformational in terms of how we watch our favourite shows and I expect we'll break through the milestone of one billion views in the coming months.

"We've pioneered On Demand in the UK, putting nearly five thousand hours of programming at the fingertips of our customers for them to watch when they want.

"As connected TVs bring even more great content to the social screen, the ability to navigate this vast world of entertainment will become critical.

"Search, browsable collections and recommendations are set to become the dominant discovery tools for the next generation of TV viewers."

Sky, games consoles and internet

Sky's Anytime on demand, along with the BBC iPlayer (available on several platforms), proprietary services from manufacturers like Samsung and Sony and on-demand services though games consoles are also boosting the use of on demand in the UK.

Virgin Media are now rolling out a new set-top box which TechRadar's hands on: Virgin Media TiVo box review suggests will be a major boon for finding and accessing on demand on the cable service.

It's certainly clear that video on demand had quickly become a vital part of UK television viewing, and it's only going to become more pivotal in the coming years.