Virgin puts iPlayer on cable TV platform

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The Independent Online

Virgin Media launched the BBC iPlayer on its cable television platform yesterday, upping the ante in its ongoing rivalry with BSkyB in the pay TV market.

The cable company's customers can now access the past seven days of BBC programmes, some 350 hours of content, for no extra charge by pressing the red button on any BBC channel. The service is a landmark addition to Virgin Media's existing video-on-demand service, which has 4,300 hours of programming and is accessed regularly by almost half of the company's 3.4 million customers.

Malcolm Wall, chief executive of content at Virgin Media, said: "The enormous success of iPlayer online has demonstrated the desire that television viewers have for viewing quality programmes at a time that suits them, and now it's available from the comfort of the living room."

The deal is also part of the BBC strategy to turn the iPlayer into a multi-platform, rather than internet-only service. Ashley Highfield, the broadcaster's director of future media, said: "This partnership takes us a step closer to transforming the way our audiences watch TV."

BSkyB's Sky Plus service enables customers to record, pause and rewind live television. But video-on-demand offering an archive of content is difficult to support with existing satellite broadcast technology. James Murdoch, BSkyB's chairman, said last week that the iPlayer is a "pre-emptive intervention" in the internet TV market that is "squashing a lot of competitors".

If Mr Murdoch is wary of the iPlayer, the BBC's other major video-on-demand initiative may prove even more unpopular. Project Kangaroo – a joint venture with ITV and Channel 4 – will give viewers online access to 10,000 hours of the channels' programming when it launches later this year.