BBC iPlayer racks up record six months
James R | On 06, Aug 2020
BBC iPlayer has racked up a record six months this year, as lockdown drove up viewing on the Beeb’s streaming service.
A record-breaking number of viewers turned to BBC iPlayer in the first half of 2020, with 3.1 billion requests to stream programmes, up by 47 per cent on the previous year. (Note: The BBC defines “requests” as the number of successful requests to either stream or download a programme. It defines “successful” as a request when a stream or download actually starts, rather than someone just clicking on a programme.)
April-June also marks a new best-ever quarter for iPlayer with 1.6 billion requests, an increase of more than half (59 per cent) on the same quarter last year. Viewing was already up prior to the UK lockdown, with the first quarter 34 per cent higher than the same quarter for 2019.
New dramas such as The Salisbury Poisonings and the return of The A Word helped to drive viewing, along with reality TV escapism from The Great British Sewing Bee and MasterChef. And, although Worthy Farm couldn’t open its doors this year, many relived highlights from Glastonbury with iPlayer’s dedicated Glastonbury channel, while the return of the FA Cup proved another highlight as football fans streamed the quarter-final match between Norwich City and Manchester United.
Box sets, too, have proven a powerful tool for the Beeb, with shows such as My Family and Waterloo Road added to the platform once more, alongside new box sets such as I May Destroy You.
However, BBC iPlayer’s viewing remains undoubtedly driven by two programmes in particular: BBC Three drama Normal People and the third season of Killing Eve make up all of the top 10 most popular episodes so far this year. The latest chapter of Villanelle and Eve’s story tops the list, with Episode 1 achieving 6.95 million requests and Season 3 receiving a total of 35.6 million requests so far. It’s followed by the start of Connell and Marianne’s love story in Normal People, with the first episode receiving 5.54 million requests and the 12-part series getting an enormous 54.8 million requests – the highest for a drama series so far this year.
That’s a notably narrow field of big hitters for the BBC, with the most popular episodes per series from January to June 2020 revealing that the next biggest successes were Dracula and The Split, which aired in January and February, and The Nest, which aired in March.
Dan McGolpin, controller of BBC iPlayer, says: “It’s fantastic to see record viewing levels on BBC iPlayer across the first half of 2020, with huge numbers for the brand new and simply unmissable Normal People and for hotly anticipated returners like Killing Eve, This Country and Race Across the World. In a year full of challenges, BBC iPlayer has entertained us, connected us to events like the virtual Glastonbury and the restarted football season, broadened our horizons through Culture in Quarantine, educated our younger family members through BBC Bitesize and all the while kept us informed of the latest news from around the globe.”