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UK hails year of catch-up television

Catch-up television over the internet has proved hugely popular in the UK, with the BBC's iPlayer leading the way, but most households are limited to watching on a computer screen.

Yet all that is set to change in 2010, according to industry experts.

Richard Lindsay-Davies, the director-general of the Digital TV Group (DTG), said: "A big step change will happen in the UK this year. More TVs will come with internet connections in the set, and the move to bring free-to-air catch-up TV through Freeview and Freesat is a positive move."

Beyond viewers connecting their laptop to the television, currently the best way to access catch-up services to the set is through managed services from providers such as BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, over their closed networks.

The providers decide what programming is available and viewers can access it through the electronic programme guide, similar to searching the linear broadcasting.

Yet, Mr Lindsay-Davies said: "There is no universal, mass-market, easy-to-use on-demand internet product currently available."

Freeview and Freesat are set to change that. The new HD boxes, in the late stage of testing, will allow viewers free access to the iPlayer through their televisions, with ITV.com to follow.

David Cutts, the managing director of S&T, told the DTG's summit last Friday that "of the 60 per cent of internet users who watch video, 69 per cent watch catch-up TV. And when they can do this on TV, as with Virgin, they do it more."

The BBC Trust is also running the slide-rule over whether to approve Project Canvas, the joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five and BT to bring more comprehensive "video on demand" to the living room. Both Sky and Virgin have raised concerns over the BBC's involvement in Canvas, fearing the corporation will control the branding and the interface of the system, and distort the market as a result