The BBC’s doubling down on drama has paid off once again this year, with a record-breaking February for BBC iPlayer.
The Beeb’s on-demand service recorded 9.9m daily requests for streams and downloads, up from the previous record of 9.8m in January. There were a total of 277 million requests for TV programmes, down slightly month-on-month, but given that February is a shorter month with only 28 days, the dip is negligible: if February were to run for an additional three days, it would have topped January’s record viewing figures. Indeed, year-on-year, requests jumped 16 per cent compared to February 2016.
The surge in streaming is being fuelled primarily by the broadcaster’s growing emphasis on drama. Rebranding BBC One as the home of “Pure Drama”, the Beeb’s flagship channel got an extra £30 million added to its dramatic budget last year, following the closure of BBC Three. Since then, the BBC has also stepped up its co-productions with US networks, teaming up with AMC for The Night Manager and FX for Taboo. The latter was one of iPlayer’s latest shows given an extended life as a box set. And, sure enough, that added digital shelf time led to Taboo being one of last month’s most popular titles.
Drama shows achieved a clean sweep of BBC iPlayer’s most popular programmes, with every single one of the top 20 most-watched shows being a drama.
Two-part drama The Moorside, starring Sheridan Smith, was the most popular show of the month. Its first half was the most-requested programme in February with almost 2.5 million requests, while the second was the next most popular with almost 2 million requests.
Taboo, meanwhile, made up four of the top 20 most-requested episodes, matched by Apple Tree Yard – BBC One’s other February box set. (You can catch up with Taboo until 27th March.)
New dramas also proved popular, with the first episodes of both US slave trade drama Roots and alternative history drama SS-GB each appearing in the top 20, with over 1m requests apiece for their debut episodes.
Dan McGolpin, controller of programming and daytime, says: “BBC iPlayer’s popularity continues to grow as the appetite for high quality unmissable drama reached a record high in February with almost 10 million requests a day. New titles The Moorside and Roots joined Taboo and Apple Tree Yard as viewers continue to come to iPlayer to discover great stories at any time of the day or night.”
Sometimes, though, there is no drama like real life – and the BBC’s acquisition of OJ: Made in America proved hugely successful. Winning the Oscar for Best Documentary, the seven-hour series was one of the top 20 best performing series overall last month, racking up over 600,000 requests.
For more on BBC iPlayer, including highlights of what’s new, what’s worth watching, and what’s leaving soon, click here.