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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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Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.