The BBC's Ashley Highfield, who yesterday had his annual bonus cancelled, today announced that the BBC's iPlayer service will finally start on 27 June 2007. He expects half a million users within six months and a million after a year.
Putting the best possible face on the controversial service he said "BBC iPlayer is a free catch-up service for UK licence fee payers, your favourite programmes from all the BBC's network TV channels will be available to download over the internet, and watch on your PC without advertising for up to a week after transmission."
But those licence fee payers who are excluded from the iPlayer, which includes Windows Vista users, all Macintosh users, and anyone under the age of 18 will be disappointed that they will not have access to the service.
BBC Director Jana Bennett added "This is a significant moment, as it heralds a new era when viewers will have the freedom to watch programmes from the BBC's linear TV channels when they want. It's a revolutionary service which offers audiences more value, because from now on they never have to miss out on their favourite programmes or those that they didn't previously have the opportunity to try."
The much delayed service, which has been created by Red Bee Media (a privizatised BBC department), uses Siemens for technical infrastructure, Microsoft digital rights management and Kontiki's peer-to-peer service (a closed version of BitTorrent).
Just like using BitTorrent, you select the programmes (the iPlayer will have around 400 hours of programming at any time) you wish to watch and they are downloaded and watched once complete. On 2Mb/s ADSL, this means waiting a half-hour for a half-hour programme. Faster cable users will have much faster access.
Once the programmes have been downloaded, you will be required to grant Auntie's software the right to delete them from your own hard drive after 30 days.
The BBC will properly integrate the iPlayer application into the bbc.co.uk website later in the year, and have links from other websites such as YouTube.
Other contributors are being offered the iPlayer service, including Microsoft's MSN, telegraph.co.uk, AOL, Tiscali, Yahoo!, MySpace, Blinkx and Bebo.
The existing BBC Virgin Media cable TV catch-up service will be rebranded as iPlayer "later this year" and the BBC has the rather pie-in-the-Sky idea that " that other TV platforms will follow soon after".
The BBC claims to be "committed to developing a version for Apple Macs and Microsoft Vista".
BBC iPlayer will go live to the general public in open Beta on 27 July before a full marketing launch in the autumn.