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IPTV - TV that's beamed over the net - is set to become the next big thing for boggle-eyed couch potatoes everywhere.

Within the next ten years, you won't have to leg it home early to settle down and watch the latest instalment of Eastenders or Corrie. Instead, you'll be able to stay out all night and watch it whenever you like.

That's because TV shows won't just be broadcast over cable, satellite or via an aerial, they'll be accessible via broadband networks.

And according to a report IPTV: Broadband meets broadcast by London-based Lovelace Consulting, TV will become more like the web, as traditional scheduled broadcast channels are elbowed to one side as viewers are given a choice of "millions of programmes" available on-demand or for download.

IPTV (internet protocol television) - the delivery of digital television and other audio and video services over broadband data networks using the same basic protocols that support the internet - will "transform television", says the report.

"New players will exploit the disruptive power of the internet and change the form and function of television forever," said Dr William Cooper, co-author of the report.

"Broadband television will ultimately adopt the attributes of the web, providing access to an almost limitless selection of programmes."

Co-author Graham Lovelace chipped in: "The 'pull' of broadband network television will replace the 'push' of traditional broadcast television.

"In this new and massively fragmented environment, control will flow from the supplier to the consumer, as viewers construct their personalised schedules from a vast array of international providers, and watch programmes whenever and wherever they want."

Last month a report by analysts at Informa Telecoms & Media predicted that the global IPTV market would be worth $10bn by 2010.

There are around 2.5m IPTV subscribers at the moment but this figure is expected to grow tenfold to 25m by 2010, said the report. ®

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