The BBC iPlayer service is driving online TV services in the UK, new research claims.

The service has driven a major increase in the number of consumers turning to the web to watch television shows.

Screen Digest's research claims over 1.5 billion shows will be downloaded or streamed in the UK this year. It also claims iPlayer helped account for 38 per cent of usage of the UK's free-to-view web TV services last year, with 800 million streams or downloads initiated by the UK viewing public.

The BBC's move to introduce streaming of television shows using Adobe Flash triggered yet more use of the service, Screen Digest claims, predicting that new viral elements the BBC is working on (such as introducing the ability to embed shows within web pages) will drive fast adoption and usage.

Other services, such as Channel 4's on-demand service which require users install proprietary software are described as slowing consumer adoption of such services.

"The application-based strategies pursued by some UK broadcasters, which require users to download a heavy proprietary application before being able to download content, has so far erected an unnecessary barrier to initial consumer adoption and hampered market growth," the researchers said.

"Screen Digest's long-term financial outlook of the UK online TV sector will now be dependent on the future development of convincing platform strategies by UK commercial broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Five, as well as new entrants such as Bebo, MySpace, YouTube and Joost," said Screen Digest senior analyst, Arash Amel.

"It is expected that the success of the BBC's iPlayer open web streaming model, and future 'viral syndication' strategies, will encourage UK commercial broadcasters to enter a long-term reassessment of how they deliver programming to users."