The BBC iPlayer had its most usage so far in the first quarter of 2021, up by over a fifth on the same period the previous year. The first week of January produced 163 million streams and the month saw the highest usage so far, with a total of 652 million streams. There were over 1.7 billion streams delivered in the first three months of 2021, compared to 5.8 billion over the course of 2020.

The most requested programme in the first quarter of 2021 was the opening episode of eight-part crime drama The Serpent, which premiered on New Year’s Day, with 5.89 million streams. The consolidated 7-day ratings across all screens for the episode were 6.20 million.

The opening episode of the sixth series of the police procedural drama Line of Duty delivered 3.62 million streams. The consolidated figure was 12.45 million.

These were followed by the first episode of the four-part police drama, Bloodlands, with 3.60 million and Traces, which was originally shown on UKTV channel Alibi, with 3.46 million.

The first programme in the five-part earth science series A Perfect Planet, narrated by David Attenborough, produced 3.32 million streams, compared to its television rating of 6.23 million.

Katie Price: Harvey and Me, a moving documentary about a woman and her disabled son, received 2.83 million requests, making it the sixth most viewed programme on the BBC iPlayer over the period.

Dan McGolpin, the director of BBC iPlayer and Channels attributed the performance to “new must-watch series” and broad range of box sets. He said, “It’s not just the amount to choose from which is improving but the look and feel of iPlayer has also been changing with more innovations coming soon.”

1.7 billion seems like a huge number but it works out less than three programmes per person a week across the United Kingdom. Viewing on demand clearly extends the audience for certain programmes, particularly it seems crime serials, but the vast majority of television is still watched at the time of transmission or recorded for later viewing.