BBC iPlayer has enjoyed a record-breaking start to 2017, with 304 million views in January.
The Christmas period has always been the peak season for catch-up telly, one that spills over into January, as people keep up to date with whatever they missed over the holidays. Last year, Sherlock’s New Year’s Day special, The Abominable Bride, smashed records and took iPlayer’s overall monthly viewing requests to a record high. This year, the same thing happened again – and Sherlock was once more at the heart of it .
Season 4’s opening episode drew 3.34 million downloads and streams in January 2017, almost a million more than last year’s episode. The following two episodes both attracted more than 2.2 million requests. The only show to match that was Taboo, with the first episode of the Tom Hardy drama attracting 2.8 million requests. With Episode 2 and 3 also making the top 10 most popular episodes, it’s no wonder that the BBC has decided to make the series iPlayer’s new box set, alongside Apple Tree Yard. The first episode of that drama, starring Emily Watson, also performed well, with 1.7 views. EastEnders and Silent Witness made up the rest of the top 20.
Overall, January 2017 saw 304 million requests, the highest ever seen by the BBC. The month’s views were 8 per cent up on December 2016, which was iPlayer’s previous best ever month, and racked up over 50 million requests more than January last year.
Charlotte Moore, Director of Content for the BBC, says: “It’s great to see such large audiences coming to iPlayer to watch the New Year’s most talked about shows from Sherlock to Apple Tree Yard and Taboo – when they want and where they want.”
The figures mark an encouraging beginning to a year in which BBC iPlayer is attempting more than ever to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other VOD services.
“Our goal, even in the face of rapid growth by our competitors, is for iPlayer to be the number one online TV service in the UK,” BBC Director General Tony Hall said in a speech last month. “That will mean doubling our reach, and quadrupling the time each person spends on it every week. And we want do it by 2020. That’s tough, but I know we can do it.”
Recent research from YouGov has also warned that the BBC is “treading water while Amazon and Netflix are starting to make waves”.
Taboo and Apple Tree Yard being made available as box sets is part of iPlayer’s new measures to boost its presence in people’s living, alongside an ongoing focus on making iPlayer more personalised for users. Sign-in for connected TVs was announced alongside January’s viewing figures, allowing people to pause programmes on their televisions and then resume them on other devices.
Further features, including personalised recommendations, will be introduced in the near future.
Photo: Hartswood Films / Todd Antony