As the end of the year approaches, Bodyguard remains BBC iPlayer’s biggest show of 2018. The first episode of Jed Mercurio’s thriller has smashed records to reach 10.5 million requests in total – making it the most popular episode ever on the Beeb’s catch-up service.
Every episode of the Golden Globe-nominated drama – which stars Richard Madden as personal protection officer to Keeley Hawes’ home secretary – made it into BBC iPlayer’s top 10 most-watched episodes of the year, receiving 41.3 million requests overall, which makes it BBC iPlayer’s biggest box set ever.
“Jed Mercurio’s ridiculous and ridiculously tense paranoid thriller is relentlessly pulse-pounding television,” we wrote in our review.
The other big success story of the year is Killing Eve, the genre-busting spy thriller from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, starring Sandra Oh, who’s up for best actress for the series at the upcoming Golden Globes, and Jodie Comer in a star-making turn as assassin Villanelle. The first episode of the series is the second-best performing BBC iPlayer episode ever, with 8.9 million requests, and the series overall has 40.7 million requests – the second biggest box set iPlayer has ever streamed.
“Dark, violent, and endlessly witty, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s addictively unpredictable thriller is a funny, female-led treat,” we wrote in our review.
Together, the two shows make up every episode of BBC iPlayer’s top 10 episodes of the year so far.
Other successes of the year include McMafia, which picked up 4.5 million requests for its first episode, and sleeper hit Welsh mystery Keeping Faith, which racked up 3.9 million requests for its first episode. Also popular was Jodie Whittaker’s first outing as the Doctor, with Doctor Who’s Season 11 opener sparking 3.6 million requests, as well as the first episode of the new season of Our Girl and Jenna Coleman drama The Cry, each of which got 3.4 million requests.
England’s World Cup quarter final against Sweden was the most popular live episode of the year, with 3.2 million requests – 2.8 million of which were live.
November continued BBC iPlayer’s record year, with 311 million requests for the month, up 8 per cent on the same month last year. Dynasties’ first episode, Chimpanzee, was the most popular programme of last month, with 2.3 million requests, followed by the airline advertising episode of The Apprentice (1.8 million requests) and The Little Drummer Girl with 1.7 million requests.
Charlotte Moore, director of content, BBC says: “These figures show that the BBC iPlayer remains the first choice for thrilling dramas, big sporting moments and the very best natural history and factual programmes. This year’s figures are the best yet and show that the BBC iPlayer is going from strength to strength. With Les Misérables, The Greatest Dancer and a new series of Fleabag coming up in the new year, there will be more great programmes for audiences to enjoy in 2019.”
The figures highlight the growth that BBC iPlayer has made in recent years, with the last 12 months in particular seeing the site bump up its box set quota significantly, both extending the amount of time shows are available for after their broadcast and bringing back older shows on-demand. However, Ofcom has now rules that the BBC must carry out a Public Interest Test before continuing with its plans, which means that the BBC will have to launch a consultation in the New Year.
For now, though, iPlayer’s formidable line-up remains in place: Bodyguard, Killing Eve, McMafia, Doctor Who and Our Girl are all available to watch now as box sets.