Media analyst firm Screen Digest today released its latest figures on the UK online television market, and it looks like the BBC iPlayer is proving more popular than first thought.

A ‘sharp upturn’ in the number of TV downloads and streams from the BBC’s catch-up service have forced Screen Digest to revise its forecast for 2008, the analyst firm said.

BBC’s free-to-view model has proven popular, and free-to-view is now driving the usage of online TV services in the UK. Channel 4 and ITV both offer similar catch-up services but some content is paid for.

800 million streams, downloads

Last year, 800 million free-to-view online TV streams and downloads – including TV shows, sports and niche programming – were started by UK broadband households. This figure is expected to go up to 1.5 billion during 2008, and hit 2.8 billion by 2012, Screen Digest said after revising its figures.

Video streams initiated via the bbc.co.uk domain, including the BBC iPlayer service, accounted for 38 per cent of total free-to-view streams and downloads in the UK last year. In its first two weeks of service, the BBC iPlayer attracted over 1 million users to the site, downloading or streaming over 3.5 million programmes.  

Screen Digest predicts that the BBC will continue to develop the BBC iPlayer open platform to offer ‘platform syndication’ strategies such as enabling users to embed the BBC iPlayer into third party websites and personal blogs.