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This article was published on January 24, 2013

BBC iPlayer enjoys a record-breaking 2012: 2.32bn program requests, mobile usage up by 177%

BBC iPlayer enjoys a record-breaking 2012: 2.32bn program requests, mobile usage up by 177%
Paul Sawers
Story by

Paul Sawers

Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.

In the latter half of 2012, the BBC reported a slew of record-breaking numbers regarding iPlayer. So it probably comes with little surprise that last year on the whole broke all previous records for the British broadcaster’s online TV service, notching up 2.32 billion TV and radio programme requests along the way.

Just to backtrack a little bit, the BBC released its iPlayer performance stats for June to August 2012 a few months ago, and it wasn’t surprising that it saw a huge bump in requests over the period, with so many people tuning in to online coverage of the Olympics.

September also saw a record-breaking month for iPlayer, boosted significantly by radio, with just under 200 million programme requests made in total. Then in October, the TV and radio streaming service sailed past 200 million programme requests in a single month for the first time ever.

Now, it seems that a combination of the Olympics, and perennially popular shows such as Top Gear and Sherlock, has cemented 2012 as the year iPlayer really came to the fore as a destination for both live and catch-up content.


Breaking down the 2.32 billion TV and radio programme requests made last year, this equates to 36.5 billion minutes of BBC programmes across all platforms for iPlayer. Interestingly, viewers spent more than a third (34%) more time watching TV in iPlayer than the previous highest, while Danny Boyle’s jaw-dropping Olympic Opening extravaganza topped iPlayer’s viewing events in 2012 with 3,326 million requests, followed by Top Gear with 2,834 million and Sherlock with 2,528 million requests.

With the growth in smartphone and tablet penetration, one of 2012’s biggest trends was requests from mobile devices, with the BBC reporting  a 177% increase year-on-year – it now constitutes more than a quarter of total iPlayer requests.

Indeed, the iPlayer mobile app wad downloaded 14m times last year, with 300,000 downloads on Christmas Day alone, helped perhaps by presents such as the Nexus 7, iPad and Kindle Fire.

You may also remember that the BBC enabled downloads for iOS devices back in September? Well, this led to 10.8 million BBC programmes downloaded to all iOS devices in the following four months. Downloaded programmes now constitute 6% of TV viewing on mobiles and tablets.

Some other interesting nuggets include the fall in iPlayer requests made from PCs, which is clearly related to the rise in requests made from mobile devices. For the first time since iPlayer’s launch more than five years ago, requests from PCs comprised less than half of all requests, as it dropped to 47% in December alone.

As for Live Restart, which launched back in June letting users rewind and restart live TV, this was used at some point by up to 30% of those watching live TV online.

Finally, the most-watched iPlayer shows of 2012 included Top Gear, which constituted eight of the top 20 programmes, and the London 2012 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, Sherlock, The Apprentice, Doctor Who, The Voice UK and BBC One’s comedy, Citizen Khan, made up the rest of the iPlayer top 20.

While December 2012 broke all previous records for iPlayer programme requests, we could already be on course for another record-breaking month in January, with 6,732 million requests made on January 1 alone, the most ever in a 24-hour period.

“Last year, the use of iPlayer shifted from PCs and early-adopter devices like game consoles to screens used by all audiences,” says Daniel Danker, General Manager, Programmes and on Demand. “Mobile, tablet, and connected TV skyrocketed, with a particular emphasis on audiences taking iPlayer on the go. This year, we’re looking forward to turning iPlayer into an entertainment destination, with a relentless focus on making iPlayer as easy and enjoyable as television.”

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