BBC VoD moves both welcomed and feared

The BBC's plans for video on demand - extending the iPlayer and developing other platforms - have prompted diverse reaction from Digital Spy readers.

The corporation has taken a lead in the sector, particularly since the iPlayer was launched in earnest on Christmas Day, and this week saw faster movement than most.

First BBC Worldwide started selling headline shows such as Doctor Who on iTunes. Then, back in the corporation's public service division, the latest impressive usage figures for the iPlayer were unveiled - along with news of several development plans. The player will soon be available on Virgin's cable service and high definition content should be added within the year.

Next it emerged that the BBC was to become a partner in a major Europe-wide scheme to develop new peer-to-peer internet television software aimed at many platforms.

Several Digital Spy forum posters were happy about the plans to add HD material and get the iPlayer, with all its content, into Virgin cable homes in March.

Dmc5007, from the Midlands, declared: "I'm glad to see that it is coming to fruition and for me the addition of more VOD and HD is great news. The TV side of VM has been quiet over the last few weeks, hopefully this is part of an ongoing commitment to VOD and to its TV service."

Pingu's Dad agreed: "Excellent... can't wait for that, the online iPlayer is a marvel." Tvtimes added to the glee: "It's only the content I am bothered about and there is gonna be lots of it!"

However, the news about the European VoD work, called P2P Next, provoked concern about the convergence of public service broadcasting and the internet. Forum member MRebel worried: "This will be used as another reason to make net surfers buy a TV licence, I expect."

A key factor is how much programming is broadcast live, or simulcast, on the web, some noted. KennyT, a forum member from North West London, said: "At that point, (The TV Licence) becomes applicable to broadband internet access. Even more interesting times ahead..."

Others thought it was good to see the BBC innovating, though. Iain said: "This whole 'tv on the net' isn't some BBC initiative with devious motives, but is an industry wide initiative which is simply moving with the technological times." Mossy2103 noted that any product of P2P Next was "many years away".

In January Ashley Highfield, BBC future media and technology director, acknowledged the licence issue on the internet blog.

"If we saw, over time, that some people stopped receiving live broadcasts at all, stopped paying their licence fee, but continued to consume television programmes, solely on-demand through the iPlayer (or other players), then we might have to consider talking to the Government... so that they can then consider whether on-demand tv viewing might be brought within its aegis," he wrote.

However, he too believed it was some way off with the number of non-TV Licenced broadband homes currently "infinitesimally small". It was an interesting point, he said, "but it's not causing our finance director sleepless nights".