The BBC's new on-demand internet service has been set live allowing viewers to download programmes broadcast over the previous week.

Today's low-key beta launch of the BBC iPlayer at will see a limited number of people allowed to sign up to avoid the service becoming overloaded.

Channel 4 successfully launched a similar service, 4oD, earlier this year.

By using iPlayer PC users will be able to download about three-quarters of some of the most popular BBC shows and view them at their leisure.

Following amendments to the original plans through the BBC Trust's public value test (PVT), episodes will be available for seven days after being broadcast on TV and can be stored for up to 30 days on Windows-operated PCs.

More than 10,500 individuals and organisations responded to the trust's PVT.

The iPlayer is scheduled to be set fully live this autumn, by which time the BBC is expected to have developed plans to extend the service to Apple Mac computers and PCs using other operating systems such as Microsoft Vista or Linux.

BBC director general Mark Thompson said he was "delighted" with the package offered by iPlayer to licence-fee payers.

And Ashley Highfield, the corporation's director of future media and technology, said the BBC iPlayer represented "a critical part of the BBC's strategy to maintain impact and relevance in a world where viewing and listening habits are shifting from linear to on-demand".

27/07/2007 13:00:05