Over 90% of the adult population in the United Kingdom use BBC services at least once a week. The percentage watching BBC television has fallen from 80% to 78% in a year but among those aged 16-34 it has fallen to 56%. Average viewing of BBC television has fallen by over a quarter an hour a day in five years. Meanwhile other use of the television set has grown by 156% to an average of three quarters of an hour a day.
“The BBC is paid for by the public and our job is to provide great services for everyone,” said Sir David Clementi, the chairman of the BBC. “We’re working in an ever more competitive environment and audiences increasingly expect to receive value for their licence fee through our online services.”
“The fact that we have had 3.6 billion programme requests — up 10% on last year — on BBC iPlayer, significant increases in reach for BBC News online — domestically and globally — and 17 million people now sign in to their BBC account monthly attest to this.”
In its annual report the BBC notes that the finale of Bodyguard was watched by 17.1 million people, making it the most viewed episode of any drama series since current records began in 2002.
However, in the week beginning 17 June, the BBC had only one programme in the top 10 most viewed in the country. That was Antiques Roadshow, ranked seventh with an audience of 6.16 million, or 6.18 million once another 12,000 viewers watching on computers tablets or phones are taken into account.
The next most popular programme from the BBC was Countryfile, ranked twelfth with 5.93 million viewers, including 4,500 watching on other screens.
The drama Gentleman Jack was the only other BBC programme in the top 15, with an audience of 5.85 million, including 200,000 watching not watching on a television.
If the BBC sees its future in the BBC iPlayer, or its BritBox collaboration with ITV, the signs are not that great.
Even the finale of Bodyguard, which had the biggest non-television audience monitored by BARB in 2018, only saw an uplift of 865,500 viewers watching on computers, tablets or phone, or 7% of the audience. BBC iPlayer figures show a total of 3.04 million requests for that episode, which was actually fewer than the 6.91 million requests for the opening episode.
Furthermore, produced for the BBC by an ITV company and shown on Netflix outside the United Kingdom, Bodyguard is the type of programme that is most suited to subscription services.
That leaves programmes like Antiques Roadshow and Countryfile, which appeal to traditional television audiences, watching on traditional televisions.
In fact, the three programmes the BBC had in the top 15 that week were all on Sunday evening, between 7pm and 10pm.
Television spending has increased to £1.70 billion, up from £1.58 billion. BBC television reaches 78% of people aged over 16 each week, down from 80% the previous year. Among those aged 16-34 the reach has fallen to 56%, down from 60% the year before. That is a higher reach than any competitor, or other channels in general.
However, the reach of other uses of the television set has increased to 58%, up from 55% among those aged over 16, and risen to 676% from 64% among those aged 16-34. That includes subscription video services like Netflix, gaming and playing discs.
Average daily viewing of BBC television among those aged over 16 has declined to an hour and five minutes day, down from an hour and twenty minutes five years previously. That decline is steeper than for other broadcast television channels in general, which are viewed for an average of an hour a day, down from an hour and four minutes over five years.
Although the BBC makes much of efficiencies that have been made, its licence fee income fell by £140 million to £3.7 billion, other income fell by £33 million to £1.2 billion, while operating costs rose by £35 million to just under £5 billion, producing an operating deficit of £52 million and an overall deficit of £15 million, compared to a surplus of £909 million the previous year.
The BBC previously agreed to fund free television licences for any household with someone aged over 75 and from June 2020 has decided to do so only for those that receive pension credits.
There are 25.8 million television licences in force, a number that has declined by 84,500 on the previous year. Around 94% of addresses are correctly licensed. Television licensing enforcement officials visited 2.7 million addresses over the year and “caught” 216,900 people “watching television without a licence”. That is fewer than the 243,700 the previous year, 256,000 the year before, or around 300,000 the year before that.