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Television

Submission + - BBC iPlayer about to offer HD streams

arkhan_jg writes: The BBC's iPlayer offers British residents the chance to stream or download recently broadcast BBC programmes for free, even without paying for a TV licence. Now, the BBC is to start offering high definition versions of some programmes. While BBC HD content has been available as a premium option for some time on Sky satellite and Virgin cable TV, and as a recently free option via Freesat, takeup remains relatively low at less than 1/3 of households with even a basic subscription service. Over-the-air HD freeview broadcasts are still years away in the UK. The viewing of programmes over the internet via iPlayer has proved exceedingly popular though (387 million requests to stream or download since it launched on Christmas Day 2007), and for many this will be their first legitimate free exposure to BBC HD programmes.

Yet this news will not be popular with everyone. Almost all ADSL ISPs have low bandwidth quotas on their packages, often ranging from 5GB for the cheapest to 50GB for the premium packages. The BBC and ISPs have already clashed over the iPlayer, with ISPs claiming the on-demand TV service is putting strain on their networks, which need to be upgraded to cope. Tiscali suggested that they should be paid by the BBC to carry iPlayer traffic. Late last year, the BBC's head of digital media technology Anthony Rose suggested that iPlayer access should be part of tiered packages, and available to customers for an additional fee.

With such clashes over who's going to pay for the increased capacity needed to deliver the growing legitimate content demands of British customers, the new BBC iPlayer HD streaming is bound to intensify them.

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