The BBC iPlayer reported the highest ever number of requests for February, at 285 million, although down on the record 328 million for the previous month. Significantly, its most popular programme was a co-production with Netflix, which released its Requiem internationally.
The number of requests for the month was 4% up on the previous year. February is a shorter month, but there was an average of 10.2 million requests per day, compared to an average of 10.5 million a day in January, which was boosted by the holiday period.
The top ten most requested episodes were all drama, with the first episodes of Requiem and Collateral receiving 1.88 million and 1.68 million requests respectively. McMafia followed these with 1.43 million and 1.16 million for episodes seven and eight, down from the 3.36 million of the opening episode the previous month.
Interestingly, Requiem was a co-production with Netflix and was released internationally on its subscription online video service. All six episodes were also released on the same day as the broadcast on BBC One.
The opening episode of Requiem received a total television audience of 4.84 million, or 5.57 million measured over 28 days.
The second episode received just under a million requests through the iPlayer. It did not feature in the top 30 programmes that week on BBC One, all of which had audiences over three million.
The highest rating BBC programme on television in February was Call the Midwife with 9.57 million viewers in 7 days, or 10.27 million measured over 28 days. It received 940,000 requests on BBC iPlayer.
Episodes of the long-running serial EastEnders continue to receive around a million requests through the BBC iPlayer, compared to 6-7 million on television.
The Winter Olympics, FA Cup football and Six Nations rugby contributed to the proportional increase in overall live viewing on the BBC iPlayer, which accounted for 21% of all requests, its highest proportion since June 2017.
That said, the Winter Olympics did not feature in the top 20 programmes on iPlayer, which all received over half a million requests.
The BBC iPlayer programme audience figures exclude data from Sky and Virgin Media, due to delays in processing data from these platforms.
As in previous months, over half of the requests came from television platforms, at 52%, compared to 54% the previous month. Two years previously the figure was close to 20% to 30%. Conversely, the percentage of requests from handheld screens has fallen from 50% to 32%.
This suggests that viewing is coming back to the television screen as usage of the BBC iPlayer becomes more mainstream.
The trend in BBC iPlayer viewing has been rising steadily for a decade, with regular seasonal variation, receiving about five times as many requests as it did in 2008.
However, the growth has been gradual rather than transformational. The BBC iPlayer received 327 million requests in December, which included the Christmas holiday period, which was a 17% increase on the previous year. The increase in January was 8% year on year and the gain in February was less than 3%.
Requiem, the most requested programme in February, was a co-production with Netflix, with all the episodes released as a ‘box set’ on the day of broadcast. The effect seems to have been a significant reduction in its audience over the run.
The risk is that the BBC iPlayer is competing with the likes of Netflix for a similar audience, rather than providing something that is distinctively different. That could indeed represent a Requiem for television, resulting in Collateral damage.