Over 3.5 million programmes were streamed or downloaded through the BBC iPlayer in the first two weeks of its launch of Christmas Day. The online video service has already attracted over a million users. On average a quarter of a million programmes have been streamed or downloaded each day.

The number users choosing to stream programmes has outnumbered those downloading by eight to one, apparently vindicating the decision to open up the iPlayer to streaming using Flash, a format available to the majority of computer users. Since the change, and a highly-publicised launch of the service, there has been a tenfold increase in the number of users.

On average each programme is viewed for just under 25 minutes, according to BBC research, suggesting that users are not simply sampling shows, but are generally watching whole episodes.

The most frequently streamed programmes correspond to some of the most popular shows over Christmas, led by Doctor Who, Extras, Top Gear, Catherine Tate and EastEnders. Also among the top ten programmes were Sense and Sensibility and Robin Hood.

The top ten programmes accounted for just under a quarter of those consumed, while the top fifty made up over half. The long tail of other programmes downloaded also included those from digital television channels BBC Three and Four.

“We are delighted with the public’s response to the BBC iPlayer,” said Ashley Highfield, the director of future media and technology at the BBC. “Typically, people who use the BBC iPlayer are spending nearly half an hour a day watching streams of their favourite programmes, suggesting that it looks set to revolutionise the way BBC Television programmes are viewed in the UK.”

“Significantly, while the BBC iPlayer allows the public to catch up on their favourite mainstream BBC shows, it is also encouraging to see that nearly half of all programmes streamed or downloaded are placed outside the top 50, demonstrating how on demand services can bring niche programming to a wider audience.”

Meanwhile, a report from Tiscali TV predicts that television schedules could be irrelevant within a decade.

A survey of 1,760 adults in the United Kingdom, conducted by Tickbox and commissioned by Tiscali TV, revealed that over a third of them now determine their own viewing, rather than relying on television schedules, compared with only 17% a year ago.

Nearly two thirds of those surveyed said that traditional television schedules were too restrictive. More than three-quarters of those polled predicted that television schedules would have disappeared entirely by 2018.

Neal McCleave, the managing director of media services for Tiscali UK, said there was a growing demand for flexibility. Viewing habits were changing fastest among the under-30s, and the boundaries between computer and television were increasingly blurred. “If you look at the habits of the under-20s these days, a lot of time is spent online, and a lot of their time is spent with on-demand services,” he said.