BBC iPlayer a hit with 75 mil viewers

Average weekly users at 1.4 mil in April

LONDON -- More than 75 million viewers have downloaded programs from the BBC iPlayer since it launched at Christmas, outgoing director of future technology Ashley Highfield said Tuesday.

The iPlayer allows viewers to catch up on shows that have aired in the past seven days, with top downloads including such shows as "EastEnders" and the drama series "Mistresses."

The platform, which allows viewers to watch TV programs on their computers, has recently struck a deal with broadband operator Virgin Media to allow users to rewatch shows on their television sets, and the evidence suggests that increasing numbers are turning to the service as a virtual PVR.

Speaking at the Google Zeitgeist 2008 forum, Highfield said there had been 21 million download requests in April, up from 17 million in March.

Average weekly users of the BBC iPlayer reached 1.4 million in April, up from 1.1 million in March and about double January's average of 750,000 users. Additionally, the average daily number of requests to download or stream programs via BBC iPlayer rose to 700,000 in April.

Highfield will leave the BBC next month to head up Kangaroo, the new service that will combine catch-up TV services for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.