There were 5.3 billion requests from the BBC iPlayer in the first 11 months of 2020. That is up by a third on the same period the previous year and up by 850 million on the whole of 2019. The drama Normal People was the most popular programme, with a total of over 62 million requests. The BBC is restructuring the way that it commissions programming, putting former channel management under a single Director of BBC iPlayer and Channels, reporting to the newly expanded role of Chief Content Officer.

Most of the top 10 series, not including continuing serials, sport, or children’s programming, were dramas, with the exceptions being the 16th series of the cooking competition MasterChef, with 22 million requests, and the third series of the mockumentary This Country receiving 15 million, ranking ninth.

The most requested single episode was for the first episode of the third series of Killing Eve, with a total of 7.4 million requests. The first episode of Normal People ranked second, with 6.4 million requests.

That top 10 series accounted for 238 million requests. That leaves over five billion requests for other programmes. It is troubling that the BBC does not provide more transparency about the distribution of the majority of requests for its programming.

5.3 billion is large number, but it represents less than four requests a week per television household across the United Kingdom.

The long-running serial EastEnders received a total of 163 million requests, in spite of a three-month hiatus earlier in the year after a break in filming due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There were 480 million requests for News programmes, up by over 90% on the same period the previous year. There were 5.4 million requests on 31 October, when the second national lockdown was announced. That was more than the 4.6 million when the first lockdown was announced.

It should be noted that the BBC News Special was watched by over 14 million people on television in both March and October.

“It’s been a tough year for so many of us but through two national lockdowns and many difficult months BBC iPlayer has been there to keep us entertained and well informed wherever you are throughout the UK, seeing 5 billion requests for the first time ever,” said Dan McGolpin, the controller of BBC iPlayer.

He will move into a new role of Director of iPlayer and Channels, reporting to Charlotte Moore, in her expanded role as Chief Content Officer. The new structure will continue a radical restructure that will change the way that programming is commissioned to optimise the growth of the BBC iPlayer.

“BBC iPlayer will be at the very heart of our offer, but our channels are what set us apart and will continue to be critical to our success,” said Charlotte Moore, who was controller of BBC One before becoming Director of Content in 2016 and then appointed to the new role of Chief Content Officer in September 2020 by the new Director General, Tim Davie.