Top Gear tops iPlayer in record month for BBC
James R | On 02, Apr 2015
Top Gear topped the BBC iPlayer chart in February 2015, in what turned out to be a record month for the Beeb’s VOD service.
iPlayer has always been dominated by two shows: Top Gear and EastEnders. The soap opera, which remains popular with a large number of traditional linear viewers, relies upon its constant churn of episodes to keep people tuning in: miss an episode and you’re not up to date with the latest gossip. Catching on episodes, therefore, is a priority for iPlayer users, who are largely under-55 in age (compared to the typically older TV audience) and may not be in when the show is broadcast.
February, though, saw EastEnders’ popularity soar, as the show celebrated its anniversary with live episodes – a piece of event TV that, on the one hand, was designed to increase live viewing, but also encouraged more people to catch up post-broadcast online. EastEnders accounted for five out of the 10 most-watched episodes on iPlayer last month, with the 19th February Flashback episode downloaded or streamed 2.01 million times.
In fact, BBC iPlayer had its biggest week ever beginning on 16th February, when audiences wanted to catch up on the 30th anniversary episodes of EastEnders, with 75m requests.
There has been no bigger event, though, than Jeremy Clarkson being dropped by the BBC in March – and the month before it happened demonstrates just how big a draw Clarkson has been for the broadcaster. Top Gear made up four of the top five most popular episodes on BBC iPlayer in February, with Episode 2 of Season 22 racing up to 2.65 million views.
Combined, they helped to total requests on iPlayer to 299m, making it a successful month, given that February is three days shorter than January. There were an average of 10.7m daily requests overall, making February the best month ever for requests to TV programmes, with an average of 8.6m requests a day.
There has been lots of speculation about whether Clarkson, now uncoupled from Top Gear, would hook himself up with Netflix instead, or another channel. Is this the kind of indicator of demand that could see an SVOD or rival broadcaster step in to snap up the presenter?
The Casual Vacancy and Wolf Hall also proved popular, with Episode 1 of the J.K. Rowling adaptation racking up 997,000 views and Episode 3 of the Mark Rylance-starring history epic just behind on 951,000 views; a sign that audiences continued to stick with the latter series. Much like Clarkson, though, a brand is a powerful thing, something proven by The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, which returned to loyal audiences and promptly became the third most-watched programme on BBC iPlayer in February.
At the same time, iPlayer audiences are watching more on mobile devices than ever before. In February, mobile and tablet requests increased to 52 per cent of all requests to TV programmes on BBC iPlayer – the highest level seen to date.
Photo: ©BBC Worldwide Ltd