Future bright for Internet TV in U.K.

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LONDON -- The appetite for Internet television is growing in the U.K., but the small picture for television on mobiles is darker, with the uptake numbers static, according to a report.

The report from research agency Continental Research, published here Wednesday, paints a rosy picture for the future of Internet TV viewing. According to the stats, 2.9 million people watched streamed television via the Internet in 2007, up from 1.9 million the previous year. And downloaded programming fared even better with 2.4 million this year booting up television via the Internet to watch later, up from a lowly 1.3 million in 2006.

The research, titled "Autumn 2007 Internet & Convergence Report," shows that including streamed and downloaded content, about 4.3 million accessed Internet TV in 2007, up from 3 million the previous year.

"The Internet can act as a huge TV library, where old shows can be stored and the viewer can watch at a time that suits them, removing the need to store videos/DVDs of favorite shows," report author James Myring said.

But the issue of screen size and picture quality plays against fast take-up of Internet television using a cell phone.

"Whilst watching via a PC offers a much greater screen size than watching via a mobile phone -- the numbers watching mobile TV has actually not increased in the last year -- there is still significant number dissatisfied with the screen size," Myring said.

He added that in a world where TV screens get bigger and bigger, "people have a much higher expectation of screen size."

And the report also said the future for Internet TV looks rosy.

In addition to the 2.9 million who have already watched streamed TV online, 2.4 million said they are likely to in the next year, according to the report. Downloaded TV looks set to grow even faster, with current users being forecast to swell by a further 3.3 million likely to download TV.

The complaint level is fairly low for the current services offered with the report stating that "satisfaction amongst those viewing TV online is generally positive, with only 12% not satisfied with the service overall."

Content providers winning the battle for Internet eyes include U.K. broadcaster Channel 4's on demand service 4OD, which is claiming a 25% of the Internet TV viewers presently.

But the report also points to a burgeoning interest in the BBC iPlayer, which is set to launch in the next few months.

Research participants, when asked if they would use the BBC iPlayer, a free service enabling Internet users to download and view programs from BBC channels up to a week after transmission, 40% were in the market to check it out.

"The strength of the BBC brand name helps ensure very considerable interest in experimenting with the iPlayer," Myring said. "A greater presence by the BBC online can only help serve to boost the popularity of Internet TV in general, but the numbers who start to regularly use the iPlayer will be dependent on how easy the iPlayer is to use."
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