'Top Gear' episode rental launched on Facebook

Fans of hit motoring show Top Gear can now watch some of their favorite episodes on Facebook.

Following in the footsteps of film studios such as Warner Bros. and Miramax, BBC Worldwide announced August 22 that users can now rent full episodes of the Top Gear television series via the social networking site, paying using the Facebook 'credits' currency system.

By becoming a fan of Top Gear, users will be able to select episodes and stream the content online, without leaving the Facebook site, for 48 hours.

However, not all episodes will be available, with BBC Worldwide planning to initially stagger availability of select episodes - the 'Polar Special' will be on show this week, the 'US Road Trip' will go live August 28 and the 'Vietnam Road Trip' episode will be available from September 4.

Fans in Europe, the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand will have access to the shows, which cost 15 Facebook credits (roughly $1.50, €1, £0.94) each.

Top Gear is the world's most popular motoring show, screened in 198 territories to millions of viewers around the world.

That popularity has made it an online hit, with its multiple Facebook fan pages amassing some 14 million fans - although in the last few years it has also become a target for illegal distribution by pirates.

On several occasions, the show has been named the world's most pirated television program, with hundreds of thousands of illegal downloaders using P2P networks such as Bittorrent.

By making the show available using Facebook, its producers will be hoping to bring that number down.