Virgin Media says that within a year its customers will spend more time viewing its video-on-demand service than watching Channel 4. Customers of the British cable television company use the video-on-demand service 22 times a month on average. “We are at the start of a fundamental shift in the way people consume TV,” Virgin Media chief executive Neil Berkett told delegates at the Cable Europe conference in Madrid.

He compared usage of video-on-demand to the television ratings of the commercial network Five. “Within the next 12 months usage will exceed that of Channel 4,” he said.

The cable company only reaches around 3.2 million homes with its digital television service, or around 13% of the market. The absolute impact is therefore less than the widely reported headline implies, but in relative terms among those with access to video-on-demand the trend is clear.

Ironically, Channel 4 could be one of the beneficiaries of video-on-demand viewing, as a substantial proportion of its schedule is made available through its 4oD service.

Virgin Media had 38 million video-on-demand views in March. Around half of subscribing homes use the service.

Neil Berkett said the company will concentrate on promoting video-on-demand and broadband as differentiators, describing broadband as its “hero product”.

He pledged support for usage of the BBC iPlayer online video service, soon to also launch on the video-on-demand platform. “Our competitors have suffered in terms of the impact on their networks,” he said. “We can provide a superior experience in broadband and also bring iPlayer into the VOD arena.”