09.43 Europe/London, September 20, 2011 By Julian Clover

ITV’s Downton Abbey has helped to finally put the ITV Player on the map. However, the popularity of the Sunday night costume drama that had been scheduled against the BBC’s Spooks, meant the online service was unable to cope with the demand.

Instead of following the fortunes of the Crawley family against the background of the First World War, viewers instead saw three commercials repeated in a loop. Within a short space of time ITV had posted a notice blaming ‘technical difficulties’.

ITV Player has historically struggled against the dominance of the BBC iPlayer in the catch-up TV. Its low point was in November 2009 when ITV was enjoying small screen success with I’m a Celebrity… and X Factor its online service was still beaten by 4oD and the BBC iPlayer.

However, in recent months new management at the commercial broadcaster have introduced applications for the Apple iOS and Android.

There is also talk of a paid service, potentially including micropayments, though ITV has made clear that this will be additional content and nothing now free will be converted to pay.