Free service available via TV platform

HOLLYWOOD — The BBC’s iPlayer is moving off the Internet and onto cabler Virgin Media, in a move that will give further cause for concern to News Corp.’s paybox BSkyB.

Starting today, Virgin Media’s 3.5 million TV customers will be the first to get the free service via a TV platform rather than on the Web.

Subs will be able to watch full-screen pictures on their TVs without the need for downloading by pressing the red button on any BBC channel. The iPlayer will be added to the electronic program guide menu this summer.

BBC iPlayer allows viewers to access more than 350 hours of BBC content from the previous seven days.

Last week, BSkyB topper James Murdoch, who is also CEO of News Corp. in Europe and Asia, accused the iPlayer of destroying competition in Blighty’s broadband TV market.

But that was when the iPlayer was still Web-bound.

The free service could impact Murdoch’s paybox now that it’s available on regular TVs — and, to make matters worse, on a rival cable platform.

Malcolm Wall, CEO of content at Virgin Media, said: “The enormous success of iPlayer online has demonstrated the desire TV viewers have for viewing quality programs at a time that suits them, and now it’s available from the comfort of the living room. Virgin Media is proud to be working with the BBC to continue to lead this revolution in TV viewing.”

Ashley Highfield, BBC director of future media and technology said, “This partnership takes us a step closer to transforming the way our audiences watch TV.”

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