The BBC's iPlayer is proving a big hit, with more than 3.5 million programmes watched since its official release on Christmas day.

More than one million people have used the Beeb's online video service, and on each day since the Yuletide launch, an average of 250,000 have been either streamed or downloaded. Streamed programmes outnumber actual downloads by a factor of eight.

The iPlayer's popularity is also demonstrating a feature typical of download culture: great diversity of taste, or what some have called 'The Long Tail'. Nearly half of all programmes streamed or downloaded since Christmas day are outside the top 50 most popular shows, the BBC said.

Ashley Highfield, the BBC's director of future media and technology, says that this trend 'demonstrates how on-demand services can bring niche programming to a wider audience'.

The iPlayer lets users download programmes to a PC, or stream more than 250 BBC programmes from the previous seven days. There was some controversy, due to uncertainty about whether the iPlayer would be made available to Mac and Linux users, or if it would be PC/Windows-exclusive.

But the BBC Trust decided in December that 'platform neutrality' was a condition of approving the launch, and told the corporation to make the iPlayer compatible with Macs. Mac users can now use the player to stream content, though they are not yet able to download programmes due to issues with DRM (Digital Rights Management).

The most popular programmes watched via iPlayer since the launch include the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Top Gear and the Christmas edition of EastEnders.

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