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TV station puts downloads up for sale

British broadcaster starts selling clips from popular car show, a move that could help thwart rampant U.K. piracy.

In a move that mimics iTunes, British terrestrial TV broadcaster Channel Five has announced that viewers will be able to download digital program snippets for less than three dollars each.

The channel, the most recently launched nondigital station in the United Kingdom, has begun selling online downloads of its motoring show "Fifth Gear," which it promises are DVD quality.

Five and its program makers are hoping that consumers' reaction to TV downloads will match their reaction to the raft of music store openings, with many pirates willing to buy from legitimate sites when offered a legal choice.

TV piracy is already rampant in the United Kingdom and now accounts for one-fifth of the world's TV piracy, according to a recent report.

Online auto fans won't be able to download whole editions of the car show for the price tag of 1.50 pounds ($2.85). The excerpts will be individual features from the series, including reviews of "supercars" such as the Porsche 911, as well as a televised race between a Lamborghini Gallardo and a Ducati 999 motorcycle.

Five is also hoping to entice wannabe Michael Schumachers with downloads available for purchase by cell phone.

The channel picked 7 Digital to supply the download store and will use Microsoft's digital rights management technology to keep the video clips locked down.

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.