BBC Worldwide has announced it is to launch its own iPlayer in an attempt to rival Apple's iTunes for downloaded music and video content. It is expected to be approved in the Spring although no official date has been set for the release.
Since the BBC is a publically funded institution, the iPlayer had to prove that it will fulfil a public service. As a result, it will initially only be available to UK licence-fee payers and will allow them to re-watch programs broadcast within the past 7 days (more on the negotiations here). However, the BBC plans to take further controversial steps towards commercialisation by generating revenue from advertiser driven content and pay-per-view downloads. It's even possible that other commercial broadcasters may be invited on board which would turn the iPlayer into the biggest online broadcaster of terrestrial channels in the UK.
The new project is part of the BBC's renewed drive to embrace online video including plans to put clips of popular shows on YouTube. Its also currently in the process of working with IBM to create an online searchable database of its children's programmes.
However, there's no guarantee that such an on-demand service will work. UK broadcasters Channel 4 and Sky have both experiemented with putting content online but without spectacular results. Most people who miss a program that is broadcasted on TV record it on a VCR or hardrive anyway so it's debateable whether people will really want to watch a rerun of a soap such as Eastenders online. However, if the BBC were to put its unique archive online on a pay-per-view basis, it might find more success.