Sky has announced that programming from the BBC iPlayer and ITV Player will soon appear on the Sky Anytime+ video on demand service. Sky Anytime+ will also be offered to all five million Sky+ HD homes in the United Kingdom and Ireland, across any broadband service provider. The move marks a breakthrough in bringing programming from the main public service channels in the United Kingdom to the video-on-demand service of the Sky satellite platform. It comes in advance of the launch of the YouView hybrid broadcast and broadband platform backed by the BBC and ITV, among others.

Sky Anytime+ is available in more than a million Sky homes with Sky broadband and has seen weekly usage increase by 80% in the last three months of 2011. In addition to programmes from Sky’s own channels, it offers access to content from partner channels such as MTV, Discovery, FX, History, Disney, UK TV and the National Geographic Channel.

Some ITV archive programming will immediately be available on the service, accessible through the main Sky Anytime+ menu as well as a new dedicated ITV Player section.

The BBC iPlayer will join the service later in 2012. Archive BBC programming, such as Doctor Who and Top Gear is already available on Sky Anytime+ through an existing deal with UKTV, which is 50% owned by BBC Worldwide.

“Sky Anytime+ will go from strength to strength in 2012 and we are delighted that the addition of the BBC iPlayer and ITV Player will allow customers to also enjoy the best of terrestrial TV, whenever they want,” said Jeremy Darroch, the chief executive of Sky. “We’re also delighted to be able to widen access to the service so that millions more Sky customers can enjoy the added flexibility it offers.”

Mark Thompson the director general of the BBC said: “Having the BBC and Sky work together to further build on the BBC iPlayer success story can only be fantastic news for audiences. Making BBC iPlayer available on all platforms is key to our commitment to universal access and this agreement takes us one step further towards that goal. I’m delighted to take this first step on a story of innovation for both organisations.”

This ends a long stalemate during which the BBC refused to allow Sky to carry its programmes on demand outside the BBC iPlayer brand. It now seems that some accommodation has been reached on both sides.

This comes in advance of the launch of YouView, the hybrid broadcast and broadband platform backed by the BBC and ITV among others, of which Sky has been critical in the past. The BBC and ITV have previously not allowed Sky to carry their programming on demand on an unbundled basis, preferring to promote their own online services.

Opening up access to Sky Anytime+ to broadband service providers other than Sky may have been critical. Although it removes a unique selling proposition of Sky Broadband, this was probably not sufficient, and opening up to other broadband service providers will significantly extend the addressable audience.

This development might soften the opposition that Sky has shown to the planned YouView platform, although it will also undermine its proposition, by allowing Sky subscribers to catch up with programming from the BBC and ITV through their existing familiar interface.