The BBC’s iPlayer is on a roll, accumulating almost 1.4 billion media requests in the first 11 months of 2010. However, most of the video viewing happens on PC screens. Mobile phones, iPads and connected devices barely contribute a blip to the iPlayer’s overall usage stats.


The BBC’s iPlayer online TV catch-up service is gearing up for another record-breaking year, clocking close to 1.4 billion media requests in the first 11 months of 2010 alone. However, stats from the Beeb also show that the vast majority of all iPlayer usage still happens on the PC. Game consoles, connected TVs and other over-the-top devices only account for seven percent of all media consumption, and the iPad as well as all other mobile phones only make up four percent.

The BBC has always been a kind of Netflix-like force in the U.K., advancing the use of online video as a way to catch up with TV shows on a massive scale. Unlike Netflix, it’s publicly funded, which means it’s reporting a whole lot more usage data, and this data is pretty impressive: Its iPlayer service has clocked 141 million media requests in November alone, 108.7 of which were for video programming, with the rest being attributable to on-demand radio listening. The previous November (2009) the service received a total of 107 million requests for both video and radio programming. Most of this growth can be attributed to video, which has grown by 38 percent, whereas demand for radio shows has only grown by 10 percent.

Each iPlayer user tunes in for 72 minutes per week on average — a number that has remained pretty constant over the years. That means that most of the iPlayer’s growth comes from new users. Many of these seem to be attracted by hit shows like The Apprentice, which nabs close to 900,000 requests for a single episode.

However, there’s one thing missing from the iPlayer success story: connected devices. Almost three-fourths (at 73 percent) of all iPlayer viewing is happening on the PC. Another 16 percent can be attributed to Virgin Media, which offers the iPlayer on its pay TV set-top boxes. Mobile viewing, which includes iPlayer usage on the iPad, only makes up for four percent, which means it’s about as popular as iPlayer use via Sony’s PS3. Nintendo’s Wii accounted for about two percent of all requests, which is surprising given the amount of attention the iPlayer’s Wii roll-out in 2009 got. Devices like various connected TVs only delivered another one percent of all media requests.

One reason for this lack of an impact may be that many device makers are currently only targeting the U.S. market. Roku for example, which gave Netflix an early lead in the connected device space, isn’t available outside the States, and Google hasn’t said when it will roll out its Google TV platform internationally. Apple is selling its Apple TV in the U.K., but it only offers access to YouTube and the iTunes store.

The Boxee Box is one of the few devices in this space available to Brits with an iPlayer app on board, but we’ll have to wait to see whether that will generate any significant impact. The iPlayer is also available on connected TV sets from Samsung and Sony, but it doesn’t look like many viewers are taking advantage of these integrated solutions.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: (subscription required)

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Interesting insight. Maybe the importance of online video + TV convergence is overstated? But I wonder how/if they capture data on people using PC to TV connections.

  2. I think the PC still rules largely because it is easier to navigate with a PC.

    I prefer the experience on my PS3 because the Flash plugin works better on it than my Ubuntu laptop, and the PS3 has sound normalization which forces the ads to behave (there is no CALM Act here in the UK).

    When I have to search for a program however, which means I need to do some typing, I often hop to the computer.

  3. Janko, Another key reason that iPlayer connected devices aren’t big is that that the BBC is leading the Canvas/YouView standard for IP enabled STBs. YouView boxes, which provide OTT content including iPlayer have been promised for a year or so. Many leading retailers and service providers have been waiting for the consortium to provide boxes. This has dragged on, but during this time many see no reason to invest in innovative alternatives. Although YouView is scheduled to come in Q3 (I think), the year or more delay has frozen the market in the UK.

  4. BBC Thinks Global With Doctor Who: Video « Wednesday, December 29, 2010

    [...] crown jewel of British entertainment has, over the last few years, proven itself to be open to innovation and experimentation. That attitude has never been clearer when you consider the network’s [...]

  5. BBC Says ‘No Thanks’ to Smart TV Fragmentation: Online Video News « Thursday, January 13, 2011

    [...] For the BBC’s part, its iPlayer is now available through more than 30 different connected platforms, but most of those implementations are built off its large-screen web experience. With the rise of smart TV platforms, more CE makers are appealing to the broadcaster to build custom versions of the iPlayer. However, as a public broadcaster, the BBC doesn’t have the resources to do so. Not just that, but the broadcaster hasn’t seen a huge demand from connected devices — yet. [...]

  6. How To Get Video Recommendations Right: Online Video News « Monday, January 31, 2011

    [...] iPlayer service has proven to be hugely successful, racking up close to 1.4 billion media requests in the first 11 months of 2010 alone. However, the service doesn’t currently use any personalized recommendation [...]

  7. BBC iPlayer App Coming to the iPad This Week: Online Video News « Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    [...] hasn’t been much of a problem, as the vast majority of iPlayer views happen on a PC. About three-quarters of all iPlayer requests come from a PC, with only about 20 percent coming from connected devices and Virgin Media’s [...]

  8. Can An HD Wii 2 Turn Around Nintendo’s Video Fortunes?: Online Video News « Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    [...] out of fashion. The BBC, which optimized its iPlayer for the Wii, reported earlier this year that only about two percent of the service’s users access it through the game [...]

Comments have been disabled for this post