The BBC has launched its on-demand TV service, iPlayer to capture the growing popularity of online streaming video content.

A beta version will made be available to the public in a month’s time, on 27 July. It will allow peer-to-peer sharing of content during its beta phase, but make downloaded streaming content available direct to users when it is officially launched in autumn.

Despite making the beta available only two months after the BBC Trust approved the service, it still faces challenges from open software advocates who object to the digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that will be imposed on users by virtue of it only being available through the Microsoft Windows Media player.

The BBC has said it is necessary to use the Windows platform to ensure content cannot be unlawfully distributed or viewed after 30 days and to protect the rights of independent producers.

It plans to use online partnerships with YouTube, MSN and Facebook to access the service in addition to via bbc.co.uk. While it also said it would look at making the iPlayer available for Mac users in future and is working with Virgin Media to develop a cable version later this year.

At the launch in London BBC Director General Mark Thompson said the potential impact of the iPlayer was comparable to the launch of colour television in 1967.