There has been record usage of the BBC iPlayer during the coronavirus restrictions, with an increase in requests of over 60% since lockdown was announced compared to same period the previous year. April saw a record 564 million requests. The first three months of 2020 saw 1.4 billion requests, up by over a third on the same quarter a year before. Returning drama series were among the most popular programmes.
The highest number of requests so far was on Sunday 10 May, with 22.5 million requests, including 1.10 million for the Prime Ministerial Statement and the same number for the BBC News Special that followed. That was slightly higher than for the initial announcement of the lockdown by the prime minister, which received 900,000 requests.
However, the most popular programme since lockdown was the first episode of the returning drama series Killing Eve, with 5.17 million requests. Episodes from the three series received 146 million requests between 27 April and 3 may.
The first episode of the drama The Nest received 3.63 million requests, while the debut of Normal People received 3.13 million and the series has generated 28 million requests to date.
The BBC reported that there were also more requests for ‘box set’ library programmes, like Doctor Who and Call the Midwife. Requests for Bitesize Daily educational programmes grew tenfold from the day it launched, although the BBC did not provide any figures.
Controller of BBC iPlayer Dan McGolpin said: “This has been a unique period in our history and I’m pleased that BBC iPlayer has been able to make such a positive contribution to what the nation’s watching: delivering the latest news whenever you want it, teaching you something new whatever your age and providing you with a place to escape, whatever your mood.”
The most popular programme on the BBC iPlayer in the first quarter of 2020 was the first episode of Dracula, with 3.26 million requests. The return of The Split had 2.93 million requests for the first episode of series two, rising to 2.96 million for the sixth. The return of Silent Witness produced 2.53 million requests for episode 1 of series 23. Initial episodes of Call the Midwife series 9 and Doctor Who series 12 produced 2.10 million and 2.04 million requests respectively.
The first three months of 2020 generated an average of 467 million requests a month, while in April that rose to 564 million, an increase of over 20%. That is certainly significant, but perhaps less dramatic than one might expect given that a large proportion of the population was confined to home.