The British Broadcasting Corp. released a major update to its BBC iPlayer, an online service that makes most of the national broadcaster’s television and radio programs available on-demand for a limited time following their initial airing.

Most significantly, the BBC iPlayer now works with connected televisions as well as on Nintendo’s Wii and via a Sony PlayStation 3 app, bringing the online service into the living room and on to the biggest screens in viewers’ homes. It also brings the entire concept of on-demand streaming television from the tech-savvy fringe directly into the mainstream.

As the BBC puts it, the BBC iPlayer is evolving from a catch-up service to a complete connected TV experience. The new version uses HTML 5, so future evolution should be easier.

Additionally BBC iPlayer has redesigned its interface for simplicity and viewing on a television rather than a computer. “The new version gives audiences the control they want directly on the TV, in a design custom-built for the living room, so the BBC iPlayer experience feels just like TV,” the BBC said in a statement.

Unlike television, the service now enables viewers to choose their favorite programs, return back to the last thing they watched, and discover new shows that the service recommends based on individual usage patterns.

Daniel Danker, BBC’s General Manager, Programmes & On Demand, U.K., said, “Last week, Ofcom reported that 10 percent of TV sets sold in the UK are internet ready. But BBC iPlayer is already available on over 300 connected TVs and Blu-ray disc players, which has resulted in a five-fold growth of iPlayer on TV over the last six months alone. At this rate of growth, in the next few years we could well see over half of iPlayer use directly on the living room TV.”

Danker told TechRadar that he wanted to expand the service to Microsoft’s Xbox, but not if it meant limiting access to viewers who paid for an Xbox Live Gold subscription.

According to the BBC, viewers made 157 million program requests during June, up 34 percent from the same month in 2010. The iPlayer’s iPad app is close to 1 million downloads, and about a third of U.K. iPad owners use it to watch streamed live TV.

The BBC and the BBC iPlayer service include eight national TV channels, several regional broadcasts, ten national radio stations, and 40 local radio stations. It also delivers BBC World Service broadcasts to the world on radio, on TV and online in 32 languages, some of which are available on the BBC iPlayer, and it operates a commercial arm BBC Worldwide.

Related Links:

BBC’s iPlayer page –

The Guardian (U.K.) –

TechRadar (U.K.) –