BBC to trial selected shows online

iPlayer grab Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony was the most requested programme on the iPlayer last year

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The BBC Trust has approved a 12-month trial which will see selected BBC TV shows broadcast online ahead of their scheduled TV transmission.

The trial will see up to 40 hours of programming across a range of genres initially available on the BBC iPlayer.

Until now, the BBC's online-only content has been limited to pilots and one-off shows such as the Doctor Who web series Pond Life.

Last year saw a record number of requests for programmes on the iPlayer.

Overall 2012 saw 2.32 billion requests for TV and radio programmes, a rise on the 1.94 billion recorded in 2011.

The annoucement comes at a time when streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu are booming in the US.

Last November Virgin Media launched TV Anywhere, an internet TV service that streams programmes to computers, tablets and smartphones.

The BBC iPlayer is still dwarfed by scheduled television broadcasts and only accounts for about two per cent of all of the BBC's viewing figures.

House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright Kevin Spacey (r) stars in House of Cards, which made its debut on Netflix last week

According to media analyst Claire Enders, though, the BBC can afford to take the risk.

"This is a very interesting experiment to see how much people follow specific shows," she told the Daily Telegraph .

"The BBC accounts for about 20 per cent of all viewing in this country, and it is such a significant force that it can afford to experiment."

Last week Netflix premiered the entire series of the US remake of House of Cards online, bypassing traditional networks entirely.

No data has yet been made available on whether the decision to stream the series to paying subscribers has been a success.

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