The BBC recently unveiled a new TV service that allows viewers to download programs on demand, dubbed iPlayer. The service will be debuting in a "controlled launch" late next month, and is set to attract 500,000 users after six months. iPlayer will allow users to download programs, free of charge, up to seven days after transmission and can then be viewed for up to 30 days before being automatically deleted. The service will include 400 hours of BBC programming per week.

"BBC iPlayer is a free catch-up service for UK license fee payers, your favorite programs from all the BBC's network TV channels will be available to download over the Internet, and watch on your PC without advertising for up to a week after transmission," said Ashley Highfield, Director of Future Media & Technology at the BBC.
Initially the service will offer only peer-to-peer downloads, meaning users who want to watch a show via the iPlayer will have to download it in its entirety first. However, users will be able to stream content when the service receives its marketing launch in the autumn. The BBC is reportedly in talks with a number of possible distribution partners, including MSN, AOL, Facebook, Yahoo, and others, to get the BBC out there wherever people are on the internet.

The iPlayer would be rolled out first to Windows XP users only, then cable TV - through the Virgin Media cable service - then to Mac and Vista users. The BBC's iPlayer, like many other players from Joost to big names such as Apple, is also looking for a place in consumers' living rooms.