The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is to use its iPlayer catch-up television platform to see how many viewers' watching habits are based on schedules.
For a 12-month period, the BBC Trust has approved plans that will see the Corporation make 40 hours' worth of programing available for viewing on iPlayer every week ahead of its television transmission slot time. This is likely to show how many people watch programs because of habit or because they have remained on the channel, rather than being interested in what the show is about.
Furthermore, the experiment could also reaffirm the growing use of online platforms to watch television, with Netflix among those continuing to boom across the US and other parts of the world. iPlayer alone saw around 2.32 billion requests for television and radio programs last year, with a subscription service opening up content to worldwide viewers.
The Corporation still has more television viewers than it does iPlayer, however. According to its own figures, only around two percent of the BBC's overall viewing figures are accounted for by the online platform. But this latest move could bump this percentage up in the coming years.
Speaking about the move, BBC publicist for future media Ian Walker said that the Corporation is always looking for new ways to deliver programming to people. "During 2012, the BBC brought selected online-only programmes to audiences," he noted. "These included BBC Three comedy pilots, a Doctor Who web series called 'Pond Life', and curated archive programmes for BBC Four.
"We will build on this in 2013, and make more programming exclusively available to our audiences via BBC iPlayer."
The BBC is not the first British broadcaster to undertake a move like this, however. The IT Crowd, broadcast on Channel 4, was made available as a free download in 2006 before making the opening episode of the fourth season available online a week ahead of its broadcast four years later.
As many analysts have pointed out, the BBC is in a privileged position when it comes to undertaking experiments with its programming. Because it is not funded by advertising - instead by a license fee paid by UK television users - there will be no financial loss from the move. Television viewing figures, however, could take a hit.
Do you think other broadcasters will follow suit in the future? Is this the beginning of the end for television scheduling as we know it?