An interview published by TV Week throws light on Disney's motivation for agreeing its ground-breaking deal to distribute TV content through Apple's iTunes service in the US. It seems that a combination of the technology being available - and web-users downloading content regardless of whether it was legal or not - made the deal inevitable.

Legitimately downloading TV through iTunes has proved successful in the US. A movie-downloading service is planned for European users of iTunes 7.0 from early 2007.

Apple says it has sold more than 30 million videos through iTunes since October 2005. That's impressive. But YouTube is known to serve up at least 100 million viewings per day, and - copyright concerns notwithstanding - you can get just about everything you could possibly want to watch in one place. And for free. Without ads. So the pressure is on for the big providers to dish out their shows in a simple way that doesn’t directly cost you, the punter.

In the article, Disney-ABC television group president Anne Sweeney describes a visit from Apple CEO Steve Jobs. In the summer of 2005 Jobs demonstrated iTunes and a video-enabled iPod, by showing Ms Sweeney an episode of her network’s own show 'Lost'.

This caused Sweeney to recall a previous, more ad hoc demonstration, when one of her colleagues downloaded (for free), and then played, an episode of 'Desperate Housewives' within an hour of it airing for the first time. This served to convince the network that there was a market for TV downloads, and that doing nothing was not an option.

"There's a competitor you can't see, and that's piracy," Sweeney says. Quite. And, as the evidence suggests that viewers remember adverts more when they download programmes, there's an obvious motivation to take on that competitor.

Sadly, there's not a great deal of legitimate content available to UK consumers right now, but expect this to change soon.

The BBC is increasingly putting TV online, but it tends to be clips and previews, rather than full programmes. You can get TV programmes and short films from sources such as iTunes or Google Video, or watch movies on BT Vision and LoveFilm. These services enable you to watch films on a laptop, PC or mobile player, without illegally ripping a DVD.