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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
What does on-demand TV offer?
The BBC has been given approval for its on-demand services, allowing it to deliver programmes at any time via the internet and cable TV.

There are now several ways of getting tailor-made television piped into your home - but what do the main players offer?

BBC
ITV
Sky

BBC

EastEnders
The BBC's iPlayer will allow viewers to catch up with EastEnders
The corporation's iPlayer service will launch in a trial version on 27 July.

It will allow viewers to catch up on programmes for seven days after their first TV broadcast, and some series can be downloaded and stored for 30 days.

Other on-demand offerings are already available - including BBC Radio's popular listen again service, podcasts and a seven-day catch-up service on cable television.

At first the iPlayer will only be available on PCs running Windows XP but the BBC says it is committed to making it available on all platforms. The BBC Trust says it will keep a close eye on how this is progressing. All BBC catch-up content will be free.

ITV

I'm A Celebrity
Clips from I'm A Celebrity are already available online
ITV is rolling out its broadband media player in stages.

Soap operas were the first programmes to be made available, and you can now watch Coronation Street and Emmerdale for 30 days after they are broadcast.

Future updates will make drama, lifestyle, entertainment, sport and news programmes available online alongside classic ITV programmes.

The channel also plans to stream its programmes on the internet and says it will only charge for premium events like football matches.

CHANNEL 4

Ugly Betty
Ugly Betty is available for download on the Channel 4 website
Channel 4 already offers hundreds of hours of programmes like Celebrity Big Brother and Ugly Betty - not to mention films, documentaries and classic series such as Father Ted - on-demand.

Shows can be accessed on a PC (not a Mac) by downloading a small piece of software from the 4oD website, and many are also available on cable.

The broadcaster estimates download times to be about twice the programme length and, once on your hard drive, files are valid for one month.

However, downloaded programmes expire 48 hours after they have been viewed for the first time.

Unlike the BBC and ITV, Channel 4 charges for much of its on-demand content.

FIVE

CSI: NY
Episodes of CSI:NY cost up to 2.49
Five's flagship motoring programme Fifth Gear was one of the first in the UK to offer video downloads.

Since 2005, fans have been able to purchase specially-edited features from the programme to watch on their PCs.

Last year, the channel also secured the online rights to hit crime drama CSI and made the unusual decision to let viewers download episodes before they were broadcast on TV.

Downloaded episodes of CSI and spin-offs CSI: NY and CSI: Miami can be stored for 14 days.

VIRGIN MEDIA

Most Haunted
Most Haunted is one of Living TV's most popular programmes
Virgin Media has more than 1,500 hours of programming on-demand.

The BBC, Channel 4, Living TV and Bravo all offer seven-day catch up services featuring programmes from Countdown and The Culture Show to Most Haunted and Top Gear.

And entire series of programmes like Cracker, The Darling Buds of May and Cold Feet are available for instant viewing.

The cable provider also hosts music videos, adult programmes and high definition films, all of which incur a fee.

Programmes are accessed directly from the set-top box, or via the company's TV Drive personal video recorder (PVR), which can record up to 80 hours of television to be replayed at any time.

Web users can also watch five channels on Blueyonder TV, including lifestyle, music and sport programmes.

SKY

Sky Anytime
Sky Anytime will look almost identical to the Sky Plus service
The one-way nature of satellite broadcasting makes it harder for Sky to provide a true on-demand service to its customers.

The broadcaster has used spare capacity on newer Sky Plus recorders to store "a selection of the week's best programmes".

The service automatically places 40 hours of "hidden gems and blockbuster stuff you may have missed" on the Sky Plus hard drive.

A Sky spokesman gives the example of offering the season finale of Lost shortly before a new series begins, allowing viewers to catch up with the plot.

The service is an extension of Sky Anytime, which already allows viewers to download programmes like Lost and Stargate, not to mention over 300 movies and thousands of sports clips to their PCs or mobiles.

Sky Plus also acts as a PVR, allowing users to store 80 hours of programmes on the hard drive.

TISCALI TV

Girls Aloud
Tiscali TV viewers have access to 5,000 music videos
Tiscali TV delivers video on-demand straight to your TV via a broadband connection and a set-top box.

It currently offers about 1,000 movies, from blockbusters to Bollywood musicals, and about 5,000 pop videos.

TV programmes as varied as Futurama, The West Wing and Magnum PI are also available, alongside the BBC's seven-day catch-up service and 4oD.

A pre-school on-demand service, Scamp, allows youngsters to choose the programmes from a video wall and is free from advertising. There is even a special child-friendly remote control.

All on-demand content, except films, is free. A PVR with wireless computer connection is to be launched later in the year.

BT VISION

Louis Theroux
BT Vision subscribers can re-watch Louis Theroux's documentaries
BT Vision mixes digital TV channels, received via a Freeview decoder, with on-demand programmes delivered via broadband.

The service's set-top box contains a PVR, allowing users to timeshift live TV and record up to 80 hours of television programmes.

On-demand shows include classic television, children's programmes and movies.

Sports fans will be able to watch on-demand football matches "as live" (with a three or four hour delay) starting next season. Matches screened on the Setanta channels will be available live.

BT Vision characterises itself as a "pay-as-you-go" service, with no compulsory monthly subscription for the TV service - but you do need a BT broadband connection.

FREEVIEW

Although the standard Freeview package does not offer on-demand programmes, there is a limited service available through Top-Up TV.

For a monthly fee of 9.99 customers get access to 120 hours of programmes from channels like MTV, Paramount Comedy and UKTV Gold every week.

The shows are automatically stored on a hard-disk TV recorder, which also allows viewers to pause live TV and record Freeview programmes to be watched at a later date.




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