Virgin Media expects one billion TV shows to be watched 'on demand' this year.

According to the ISP and TV provider's Entertainment Index, just under 900 million shows were watched on its On Demand service in 2010, that's a 10 percent increase on the previous year.

Virgin Media said if the service was a TV channel it would be the third most popular with its customers, having racked up a total of 430 million hours – that's an average of two and quarter hours a week per person. Virgin says this is longer than most families spend watching ITV1 or BBC1. Furthermore, if a single person were to watch this much television back-to-back, it would take more than 49,000 years.

Virgin Media's On Demand TV service, which was launched four years ago and is currently used by more than one million UK households, was also responsible for more than one in every five BBC iPlayer video requests throughout 2010.

"In our increasingly time precious lives, more and more people are switching over to On Demand. It's a chance to catch-up on something you missed earlier in the week or just watch what you really want at a time that suits you," said Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media.

"This year looks set to be transformational in terms of how we watch our favourite shows and I expect we'll break through the milestone of one billion views in the coming months."

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See also: Virgin launches TV powered by TiVO this month