For several years I’ve been tracking the usage of iPlayer as I think it’s a great ‘bellwether’ for consumer behaviour in the TV industry. iPlayer is a unique proposition that has (nearly) ubiquitous device coverage, premium content consumers want to watch and is free (at point of usage). This lets consumers behave as they would naturally do, if you remove commercial pressure like bundling and content rights being split between services.
The BBC historically used to publish an annual report of iPlayer usage but seem to do so intermittently nowadays and publish selected statistics in their annual reports. So I resorted to using Freedom of Information requests. The BBC is subject to them for some areas of it’s offering - in particular technical information (but not creative), so you can request details of things like device usage, but not which content was actually watched.
My most recent request output is shown in a tableau dashboard below
What I take away from this is a few key things
- The big screen is where the action is - we can see a growth from 54% to 70% of viewing occurring on TV devices.
- Live & VOD co-exist and live will remain relevant - for iPlayer (where it’s quite hard to find live) it’s still 20% of viewing. I suspect but due to limitation of FoI hard to prove for big live events which the BBC cover.
- Usage growth is slowing - Jan 21 and Jan 22 are very similar total viewing figures - this may be because almost everyone who will watch online already is. The viewing figures themselves are pretty large!
We’re already seeing online viewing overtaking (measured by minutes watched) traditional cable in the US (https://www.nielsen.com/insights/2022/streaming-claims-largest-piece-of-tv-viewing-pie-in-july/) so we’d expect to start to see similar trends in the UK with iPlayer over time. I know, I for one, no longer have any means to watch BBC except iPlayer (but I may be ahead of the curve on that one).