The most popular programmes are perhaps no surprise with the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Top Gear and the festive edition of EastEnders coming out on top. What is interesting however is that almost half the content played via iPlayer was outside the top 50 most popular shows on BBC. Some one million people have used the online service since 25th December downloading or streaming 3.5 million programmes.
It is not clear from the news item whether the 3.5 million programmes includes shows watched to the end, or whether streamed content that people watched for a couple of minutes and then turned off was included. It is worth noting that the quality of the video the download version appears to provide a much better resolution and frame rate than the Flash based streaming version. One other advantage that the download version has is that when watching the video you should not suffer due to internet congestion causing the playback to stutter, this is particularly an issue on slower broadband lines that connect at 500Kbps.
While download services such as BBC iPlayer and 4oD can create a wider audience for niche audiences, the danger exists that if the small niche audience only watches the content online that TV management will still axe shows due to falling traditional TV viewing figures.
In the past electricity companies would track popular TV shows and ensure enough capacity was online to cope with kettles being switched on at the end of the show. 2008 could see broadband providers having to do something similar managing their networks to ensure that popular content works rather than customers moving to providers able to cope with the rapidly changing patterns in broadband usage. The difference between services like BBC iPlayer and more traditional torrent downloads, is that BBC iPlayer is likely to appeal to a wider cross section of the broadband community.