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BBC iPlayer heads to set-top boxes

The BBC, Channel 4 and BT will work on a platform to carry on-demand content to new broadband-enabled TV receivers

Having conquered the PC world with one million requests per day, the BBC's iPlayer could soon be coming to set-top boxes.

An agreement announced on Thursday between the BBC, Channel 4 and BT will see the threesome working on a platform to carry on-demand content to new broadband-enabled TV receivers.

Such a platform will mean the likes of BBC's iPlayer and ITV's newly rebranded ITV Player will be available through a web-connected set-top box without the need for a PC.

The content will be provided free and with no subscription.

According to the trio, the union will see "the development of a standards-based open environment" with any number of interested broadcasters able to push their content through the platform or ISPs to make it available.

The project should garner more participants from among device makers, ISPs and broadcasters before its launch, the organisations said.

A spokesman for BT told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com that the three partners hope the platform "will grow and become a, if not the, de facto standard" for on-demand web TV services.

The project is subject to consultation and approval from the BBC Trust, the body that overseas the BBC. Pending approval, it is understood the platform could go live from 2010.

A separate web TV joint venture between the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV — Project Kangaroo — recently fell foul of the Competition Commission. The commission decided that the service — an online media player carrying content from the three broadcasters — could spell a "substantial lessening of competition" in the UK video on-demand market.

A spokeswoman for ITV said the new service should pose no competition worries.

"No, we don't envisage competition implications. It is not a new content service; it is just a platform for content services through a single technical spec. It is an open environment," she told silicon.com.

The BBC meanwhile is continuing to add to its own iPlayer on-demand service, with the announcement of a new mobile service now in beta.

The service will feature live TV and radio, as well as catch-up content, and will make iPlayer available to a slightly extended range of handsets. Currently, iPlayer only works with the iPhone and Nokia N96 — the beta service will work on the Samsung Omnia and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1.

The BBC is promising to add more devices in the future, including the Sony Ericsson C905 next week.

The corporation isn't deliberately showing a fondness for Windows Mobile devices, according to Jon Billings, BBC head of technology, mobile, and future media and technology.

"The Samsung Omnia and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 are Windows Mobile-based, but this is a coincidence. These phones have been selected as they hit our requirements of Wi-Fi and 3G support with great browsing and media playback experience," he wrote on the BBC's internet blog.