Grade: charge for online content

The former ITV chairman Michael Grade has urged broadcasters to start charging for online viewing, levying micropayments for TV shows such as Downton Abbey.

"What content owners are struggling with, and this is true of the music business too, is monetising the digital highways," Lord Grade said.

But he said viewers were now more willing to pay. "If you download an app for 99p, you don't even think about it," he said. "Take the example of missing an episode of Downton Abbey. You say to yourself, 'Here's a chance to watch it on the train for £1.25.' You wouldn't even think about it. Or you're sitting at home and there is nothing on TV tonight. 'I know, let's watch that episode of Spooks we missed for 25p'."

Lord Grade, who chairs the online grocer Ocado, faced criticism for not investing in online during his tenure at ITV between 2007 and 2009.

Speaking to the corporate finance firm Clearwater's magazine The Wire, he said new technology must be seen as an opportunity for TV companies that own high-quality content. The main UK broadcasters have preferred so far to sell advertising around free online content.