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BBC shows to hit iPlayer before TV in year-long streaming trial

The experiment will see shows made available online ahead of being broadcast the traditional way.

The BBC is going to make programmes available to watch online before they're aired on TV, as part of a year-long trial.

The BBC Trust has given the thumbs up to the project, BBC News reports, in a move that will see up to 40 hours of programming hitting the Beeb's iPlayer service before they're beamed out at their usual scheduled time.

The BBC's decision follows the debut of Netflix's House of Cards, which had all 13 of its season one episodes made available to stream from last Friday, eschewing the one-per-week broadcast pattern that's long been the standard, and bypassing any TV channels.

Limiting the trial to 40 hours of programming may be a technical limitation, or could indicate that Auntie is proceeding with caution -- wary of abandoning (or being seen to abandon) the droves of viewers who still watch telly the traditional way, by tuning in at an appointed time.

Online streaming lets viewers gorge themselves on programmes early, or watch whole seasons of shows in one long binge. It's great not to have to wait, but I can see why TV-makers might be wary -- on-demand streaming doesn't generate the shared 'water-cooler-chat' among viewers that widely-watched scheduled broadcasts do, and there's less opportunity for shows to gather momentum and attract a wider audience over the weeks and months.

On the other hand, as licence fee-paying citizens, perhaps we should be able to watch BBC programming exactly when and where we want, without having to wait.

Personally I think the trial is a great idea. Not only will it give avid telly buffs the chance to get early access to programmes, but the results of the experiment will provide an insight into the popularity of online streaming, and how it compares with traditional telly.

Fingers crossed the Beeb opts to share the data it harvests throughout the 12-month trial. Would you head to iPlayer to watch programmes early, or do you prefer your telly viewing to occur the ol' fashioned way? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.