ITV gives Melvyn Bragg 'vodcast' launch

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The Independent Online

ITV1 will launch its first vodcast - a podcast that provides video as well as audio - tomorrow when it offers Melvyn Bragg's South Bank Show for free over the internet.

The broadcaster, which has endured a torrid year, wants to test demand for watching television on MP3 players such as iPods.

Viewers will be able to download and store each programme of the new series of the flagship arts show, which started last Sunday, from the website.

No adverts will be screened on the vodcast version, but ITV hopes to attract more users to its website and its online adverts. If the show proves popular among vodcasters, ITV will consider ways of running adverts on future vodcasts of other programmes.

ITV has seen advertising revenues tumble as viewing figures fell over the past year. Former chief executive Charles Allen last month bowed to mounting pressure when he announced he was stepping down.

ITV is looking to generate more profits from its interactive and new media operations. Mr Allen set a target of generating more than half the company's profits from activities other than advertising revenues from ITV1, its main channel, by 2010.

Launching vodcasts, and podcasts (which provide only audio content) is one potential new revenue stream. Media companies do not know how profitable - if at all - offering its content in this way will be. Companies are content to test the popularity of watching and listening to content on MP3 players before working out how they can incorporate advertising into it or offer it on a subscription basis.

ITV offered downloadable video clips of its much maligned reality television dating show Love Island on its website this summer. These were downloaded about 1.5 million times.