ITV, the main commercial broadcaster in the United Kingdom, has revealed its plans for a new broadband service that will provide live streaming of its television channels, a 30-day catch-up service, archive programming and unique online material.
ITV unveiled its new web site in advance of the public launch which is expected within weeks.
“We are combining the best of TV with the best of the web to create a service unrivalled by any other commercial broadcaster, anywhere in the world,” said executive chairman Michael Grade. “Some are already streaming their channels, some are providing catch-up, and some building their archive, but ITV.com will provide all three. This launch is a major step in ITV’s development.”
He said that ITV would not make the same mistake as the music industry and hand control of pricing and distribution to a third party. However, he said that advertiser funded content was likely to be more popular and profitable. While he would not rule out payment models, the vast majority of programming would be free to view.
Programmes viewed as live simulcasts online will carry the same advertisements as the on-air channels, while those viewed on demand will include advertising that could be more targeted.
By the end of the year, ITV hopes to have 20,000 hours of archive programming available online.
The announcement comes as the BBC Trust has finally given approval for the corporation to launch its long-awaited online video service, dubbed the BBC iPlayer. There is still no announced launch date, but it seems likely that the ITV service will be available before that of the BBC.
While the BBC also plans to provide its channels as live streams, much of its emphasis will be on providing programmes as downloads.
ITV is instead intending to offer its on-demand programmes as a streamed service, so that users to not need to wait for a download before watching. The online service will be supported by advertising, which should cover the additional streaming costs.
Channel 4 and Five have already launched broadband video services, charging for individual downloads, although Channel 4 has moved to making much of its programming available for free within seven days of transmission.
Within a matter of months, the majority of programmes on the major channels in the United Kingdom are expected to be available legitimately online as either streams or downloads.