The latest stats from media analyst Screen Digest suggests a surge in the number of viewers for the BBC iPlayer.

Probably down to the fact that you can't catch a show on the Beeb without it following an advert for the service, the phenomenon has led the analyst to re-evaluate its predictions for the UK uptake for free-to-view (FTV) TV.

Screen Digest calculated that 0.8bn free-to-view online TV streams and downloads were initiated by UK broadband households last year (this includes TV shows, sports and niche programming).

This figure is set to soar up to 1.5bn for this year, and carry on rising to 2.8bn by 2012, it says.

And the BBC is coming out trumps. Screen Digest says that video streams from domains, including the iPlayer sub-domain, accounted for 38% of total UK FTV streams and downloads in 2007.

According to an article by Digital Lifetsyles, the BBC’s decision to move from their proprietary iPlayer to an open access web streaming model coincided with a significant uplift in online viewers.

Continued growth will be driven by "platform syndication" strategies, namely allowing the iPlayer to be embedded into third-party websites and personal blogs.

Arash Amel, Senior Analyst told Digital Lifestyles: "Screen Digest is monitoring the development of the market. Our 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 Four and Five, as well as new entrants such as Bebo, MySpace, YouTube and Joost".

"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", he added.