Apple kick-started a new online video distribution industry when it added video sales to iTunes.

Though plenty of activity had taken place before Apple revealed its new service, new research points out that the online video "big bang" started then.

"At this year's CES, gadgets took a back seat to the bevy of announcements by large online and content players," said Mike Wolf, principal analyst of broadband and multimedia with ABI Research. "The flood of online content announcements from Google, Yahoo and others shows that after years of hesitation from the larger media players, the market for premium content online is finally beginning to take shape."

New offerings include those from Starz and Google. Starz launched its own premium movie subscription plan - Vongo - which uses Windows Media Player. Google also announced its own premium video download service, Google Video Store. This uses Google's own video player.

This new industry sector is expected to grow fast: "As both content and platform providers enable an online video distribution chain, ABI Research believes that the premium online video market should grow 89 per cent annually through 2010," Wolf said. "When companies such as Intel, with their new Viiv entertainment PC platform, and other large stakeholders such as Apple and Microsoft, focus their attention and resources, the combined impetus will force this market to expand, and consumers to open their wallets."