The BBC is developing "on demand" technology that will allow viewers to download and watch its television programmes through the internet and digital television, writes Leigh Holmwood.
The BBC interactive media player (iMP), unveiled by BBC director of new media and technology Ashley Highfield this week, will allow viewers to download shows from any of the BBC's television channels for a limited two week period around the time they are originally broadcast.
Dubbed the "super electronic programme guide", the initiative is similar to the internet radio player, available on the BBC website, which allows people to listen to radio programmes up to a week after they have been broadcast. However, the service is in the early stages of development and the BBC has not set a date for its introduction.
Highfield, who described the iMP as the "gateway to the future", said: "It will work both on the PC screen when you've got a mouse in your hand, and the TV screen controlled by an ordinary remote control.
"iMP will allow you to record programmes in advance, like Sky Plus or the humble video recorder. It will stream programmes live and will allow you to download any content we have broadcast, say in the past week."
He added that the internet radio player had boosted listening for radio programmes such as Radio 4's The Archersand Radio 1's Essential Selectionby up to 30%. "There's no reason to suppose iMP wouldn't be as popular with TV programmes," he said.
Meanwhile, Highfield confirmed that the BBC would offer extra features such as votes, webcams and message boards to BBC radio services on digital TV next year.