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Beeb confirms iPlayer streaming dominance

P2P outnumbered 8 to 1

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The BBC has revealed that eight times as many people are using its Flash-based streaming iPlayer than the desktop P2P version.

The first publicly available official figures since the Christmas launch say 3.5 million iPlayer programmes were watched by more than one million viewers between 25 December and 7 January.

More good news for the once-cursed project comes with data showing people are watching an average of 25 minutes, overturning popular wisdom stupidity that surfers will only watch web video for a few minutes. That may be true of cats falling down stairs on YouTube, but multimillion-pound professional TV productions seem to have more enduring appeal, shockingly.

It's a reasonable assumption that the vast majority of iPlayer viewers wouldn't have bothered if streaming hadn't been available. We won't bore you again with why.

That would leave about 390,000 users of the Windows-only download client - well short of the July 2007 target* of 500,000 within six months. At that time there were plans to introduce streaming, but no timeframe**.

The Beeb's recently-minted corporate line, espoused by director-general Mark Thompson to a House of Commons select committee hearing last week, is that platform-neutral streaming was always part of the plan.

That's not true, of course - the BBC was forced to act swiftly under pressure from its own Trust and Downing Street - but it's a position that now allows top brass to claim management brilliance. Expect the download iPlayer, resembling an increasingly chalky pachyderm (costing at the very least £4.5m), to be spun as a "choice for viewers".

Today's official recognition of the predominance of the Flash underscores independent data from web traffic monitoring firm Hitwise last week.

In the BBC's press release celebrating its own genius today, Jana Bennett, its head of multimedia production, said: "The BBC iPlayer is a wonderful present, offering viewers the opportunity to catch up whenever they want."

We're not sure how things work round Jana's gaff, but it's traditional at our house that the person receiving a "present" doesn't pay for it, let alone see millions of pounds of their money wasted in the process. ®

*Although in October BBC technology chief Ashley Highfield pushed the date back to April this year. Or he "reiterated" the target, if you write press releases.

*The Beeb asked us to clarify that it had said it aimed to offer streaming in the future. A statement in July said: "In time, extra features will be added to BBC iPlayer, such as streaming on-demand (allowing users to watch a programme straight away), series stacking (which allows users to download episodes from selected series retrospectively) and the highly successful BBC Radio Player."

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