Channel 4 Piles Pressure On BBC As Back Catalogue Goes Online For Free

Channel 4 has become the first mainstream UK broadcaster to announce that it will be putting all its archived programming content online for free.

More than 4,000 hours of rights-cleared content - or 10,000 programme titles - will be available online including the classics like Brass Eye, Father Ted and Teachers as well as regular series like the F word, Grand Designs and Bremner, Fortune and Bird.

Channel 4 currently has an on demand service called 4OD which allows users to browse through thousands of classic Channel 4 shows. The range will substantially increase in July and will scrap the 30 days period offered by the broadcaster to users to view programmes.

However, rather strangely, Channel 4 news won't be included in the deal as will some US shows like the still-popular TV series Friends. Other films and shows are available for download at a fee, starting from 99p for a single programme to £1.99 for a movie from Film4.

The revamped 4OD has proved to be a hit with the fact that it is compatible with Mac, Linux and Windows and that like most other online players, it no longer needs a clunky client to play the content.

Channel 4's announcement comes after the Competition Commission stopped Project Kangaroo, the online venture by BBC, ITV and Channel 4 to create a commercial video on demand version of Freeview, to go ahead.

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Our Comments

4OD means that Channel 4 will be losing money on box set sales but online advertising should more than make for that. 4OD could well find itself competing with Hulu by the end of the year. It will be interesting to find out how BBC, Five and ITV will react to the decision by Channel 4 to bring the long tail to TV content.

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