UK state-funded broadcaster the BBC hopes for success similar to Apple's iTunes with a new downloadable internet television service.

The corporation is about to test an iMP (interactive media player) program that will enable 5,000 selected viewers to download and share most of its programs, including soap operas, news and sports events.

The public-service broadcaster, which is already ahead of the game globally in making its radio and TV shows available online, will run the test for three months. If successful iMP will be freely available to all viewers from next year.

The program allows viewers to watch only shows already broadcast. In addition, to protect against piracy, 'digital rights management' software from Microsoft has been built into the player. This disables the shows seven days after they are broadcast.

As there are no ads on the BBC, the broadcaster is mulling selling the technology overseas, although it says it is too early to discuss the plans in detail.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff