Channel 4 VOD service hits milestone

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LONDON -- Channel 4 said Wednesday that its VOD service 4oD has passed the 100 million download mark since its December 2006 launch and seen 6 million downloads or streams since Christmas.

The broadcaster, which pioneered the PC- and VOD-based service in the U.K., allows viewers to download programs for free up to 30 days after they have been transmitted as well as giving access to thousands of hours of free- and premium-priced archive content.

Channel 4 said it has 3.3 million 4oD users, with 1 million downloading content on their computers and 2.3 million accessing content by cable TV operator Virgin or VOD platforms BT Vision and Tiscali. The service cannot be accessed by such satellite platforms as British Sky Broadcasting because of technical limitations.

Encouragingly for broadcasters that are concerned about losing youth audiences, Channel 4 head of video Sarah Rose said the top five shows downloaded on the platform were all squarely aimed at young viewers. Teen soap "Hollyoaks," cutting-edge teen drama "Skins," reality show "Big Brother" and cult comedy sketch show "Peep Show" were the network's most popular downloads this year.

Video downloads are proving increasingly popular with British viewers. The BBC recently said its own VOD download service, the i-Player, had 16 million viewers by Christmas, while ITV has achieved about 2 million downloads on its Web site.

Britain's leading broadcasters are working on the launch of a joint VOD platform dubbed Kangaroo, which will allow viewers to access programs from all the broadcasters via the same portal.

"We are delighted by the performance of 4oD, which continues to go from strength to strength," Rose said. "There's a huge demand for on-demand viewing, something we recognized very early on, being the first broadcaster to launch into this market and which is now being born out by the success of the industry as a whole."
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