Viewers went snooker loopy for The Rack Pack at the start of 2016.
The snooker drama about Steve Davis and Alex “Hurricane” Higgins racked up 684,000 views in January 2016, enough to make it the first original content from the site to enter its monthly chart of the 20 most-watched programmes.
Despite the film’s positive performance, though, BBC iPlayer is beginning to show signs of a slowdown in growth. BBC iPlayer and BBC iPlayer Radio had 315 million TV and radio requests in January, an increase of 2 per cent month on month. Overall, increases were seen across all devices, most notably on mobile devices. The increases across devices, though, were mostly driven by radio requests, which increased by 15 per cent in January compared to December, as people returned to their regular routines after the Christmas break.
There were 250 million requests for TV viewing in January 2016, down from 253m in December 2016 and 252m in November 2015. The figure is also significantly down from the 273m recorded in Jan 2015, when a busy New Year’s Day managed to help January become one of iPlayer’s busiest ever months. The start of this year, though, paints a less rosy picture, with average daily requests hitting 8.1 million, down from 8.8m 12 months ago.
The one-off episode Sherlock: The Abominable Bride was by far the most popular TV title, delivering over 2.3 million requests. Other New Year’s Day episodes proved particularly popular, with EastEnders and Billionaire Boy both also available on BBC iPlayer from that day.
War and Peace won fans across the month, with Episode 1 earning 1.4 million views and Episode 2 also entering the site’s most popular episodes, as audiences continued to stick with the drama.
Using data from the iPlayer performance packs 2009 to 2015, though, VOD Professional notes that while the number of online TV requests has risen in 2015, iPlayer growth has gone from 57 per cent in 2009/10 to just 8 per cent in 2014/15.
Why is iPlayer’s growth declining? VOD Professional attribute it to a range of factors, from increased competition for viewing time from Netflix, Sky, Amazon and other streaming services, but also the shifting schedules of content, as 2014’s festive period particularly enjoyed high demand for titles such as Top Gear.
Will the trend continue in 2016? The BBC is already taking steps to boost iPlayer’s profile among viewers, such as a range of personalisation features designed to offer a similar experience to Netflix and other profile-driven VOD platforms. There is even the rebooted version of Top Gear racing towards screens.
Original titles, too, are a growing focus of the site, as BBC iPlayer joins the range of VOD services producing their own content. Indeed, exclusivity certainly seems to have paid off in the case of The Rack Pack. The snooker drama continues to perform strongly with close to 1 million requests in total, according to the BBC, which makes it the most successful BBC iPlayer Original to date. iPlayer is far from dead in the water, as the whole UK population gradually shifts its viewing behaviour into VOD waters – a process that will take a long time and unfold at a varied pace. With BBC Three’s move online this month adding to BBC iPlayer’s library of online-only content, the question is how long it will be until the Beeb’s catch-up service rediscovers its mojo.