The second half of the FIFA World Cup and Wimbledon helped BBC iPlayer views grow 19 per cent year-on-year in July, with requests reaching 281 million for the month. That sounds like a lot, and indeed it is, but barely stands comparison with television. A careful look at usage by hour of day shows how the average iPlayer audience and usage is still relatively small compared to television.
The FIFA World Cup dominated the July’s most popular episodes on BBC iPlayer, with England’s quarter-final game against Sweden taking the top spot with 3.15 million requests, making it the BBC’s highest online-viewed live programme ever. The semi-final between France and was second with 2.05 million requests, and the quarter-final between Belgium and Brazil was third with 1.76 million.
Live viewing contributed 22% of requests in July and 26% in June, the highest share of live viewing since the Rio Olympics 2016.
Beyond sport, the most popular programme was Our Girl, with 1.51 million requests for the fifth episode of the drama series following the adventures of medics in the British Army. Previous episodes are available as a ‘box set’ on the BBC iPlayer.
There were 281 million requests for programmes on the BBC iPlayer in July, up 13% on June, and up 19% compared to the previous year. Over half of requests were on television platforms.
In its regular performance report, the BBC has a chart showing use of the BBC iPlayer by time of day. This shows a peak audience of just less than 700,000 in June 2018. This is compared to peak television viewing in the United Kingdiom of 23 million at around 9pm and the internet peak of over 28 million users.
These charts are superimposed to show that the overall profile of viewing of the BBC iPlayer through the day is similar to that of television. Although it notes that the scale for each line is very different, the overwhelming impression is of significant online usage. That is despite a peak BBC iPlayer audience of less than 700,000 at around 8pm. That is just over 1% of the country, or about 3.5% of the number watching television at that time, or 2.6% of those using the internet.
If we show the same data to scale, we see that iPlayer viewers are down in the noise floor compared to television viewing and online usage in general. It averages at about 475,000 users an hour between 9am and midnight.
It is not that a peak of almost 700,000 users an hour is not a substantial number, or that a record high of 3.15 million watching a World Cup match is not significant, but this should be seen against the background of television viewing in general.
281 million iPlayer requests in July sounds like a lot, and it is, but in the United Kingdom we watched over 5.3 billion hours of television in that month.