ITV, the main commercial television network in the United Kingdom, is to make selected programmes available for sale through the Apple iTunes online service. Initially they will be limited to a few classics from the archive, but 20,000 programmes have already been digitised for the broadcaster by BT Media and Broadcast, enabling them to be released on new platforms.

Over 260 hours of archive programmes will initially be available for download from £1.89 per episode. They range from the cult puppet drama Captain Scarlet to the classic Brideshead Revisited. Later this year they will be joined by more programmes, from The Prisoner to Inspector Morse.

Current shows will not be available through iTunes, although more recent programmes may become available 30 days after they have been broadcast.

“ITV has thousands of hours of classic content in the archive which we are bringing to a whole new audience via iTunes,” said Dawn Airey, who is responsible for global content at the network. “We want to give our viewers the opportunity to watch their favourite shows wherever they are. Our strategy is to deliver 360-degree value for our content on multiple platforms, and in multiple territories.”

BT Media and Broadcast is providing digital archive and workflow services for ITV using its BT Mosaic Service. So far, BT has digitised 20,000 ITV programmes, making them available for download or broadcast as well as protecting against loss.

“BT Mosaic will enable ITV to reinvent its channels to market to reflect the way consumers — and other broadcasters — interact with content both in the UK and globally,” said Richard Cross, technology director for ITV. “The BT-developed content store is the core platform that will enable ITV to flourish in the new, globalised, digital world.”

“BT worked collaboratively with ITV and invested significant time and effort in developing this innovative service and we are excited by the prospect of working together to give new audiences worldwide access to years of ITV’s high-quality television.”

The BBC and Channel 4 already make selected programmes available for sale through iTunes. Like ITV, they also have their own online video services. The three broadcasters are also collaborating on a joint venture video-on-demand service code-named Kangaroo which is scheduled to launch later this year.