nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

BBC iPlayer


iPlayer Usage

In June 2016Number of RequestsIncrease over June '15
Monthly TV229 million15%
Monthly Radio60 million18% (data missing)
Daily TV7.6 million13%
Daily Radio2.0 million18% (data missing)
Tables updated 7/26/2016

Commentary: Pokémon Go to be replaced by Olympics in August?

The 2012 London Olympics had a big impact on the behavior of consumers. Live online consumption exploded as did the use of mobile phones to watch. Signs are the 2016 online Olympics could have a similar impact, and shoulder aside Pokémon Go in the process.

Looking at the most recent BBC iPlayer performance pack, it’s clear that sport still has a galvanizing effect on the consumption of online video. iPlayer provides both live TV and shows on-demand. Normally, however, users view it as fundamentally a catch-up service. Between February and May, just 7% of video requests were for live content. In fact, live requests haven’t exceeded 9% in 21 months.

iPlayer live video requests 2012 2016That changed in June, when live requests jumped up to 11%. What happened in June? The European Championship (soccer) tournament took place in France between June 10th and July 10th. A lot of the games, particularly in the early rounds, took place during the working day. This prompted many to turn to the web to allow them to watch while they worked.

The BBC reported that it saw the highest number of unique browsers ever, 19.9M per week, in June.* By far the most popular “show” that month was the “home international” between Wales and England. The game started at 2PM local UK time and attracted 2.8 million requests.

This effect has been seen before with iPlayer. The 2012 European Championship took place in Poland and Ukraine in June of that year. Once again live requests spiked up from 14% (the average between January and May) to 17%. In 2012, however, live requests didn’t return to pre-tournament levels. They grew to an all-time record of 32% in August. Why? The London Olympics took place in July and August of 2012.

The 2012 Olympics had another effect on consumer habits: it prompted many to reach for their phone to watch. Before June 2012, the mobile phone share of video requests had been increasing slowly, a tenth of a percent or so each month. In June, mobile requests share jumped over a percent, and hit almost 15% in August. However, at the conclusion of the Olympics the mobile phone share of iPlayer video requests kept on growing. Today, about 23% of iPlayer online video requests come from mobile phones.

This is an effect we have seen before. During months with major sports events like the Olympics, Adobe saw big increases in the use of TV Everywhere authenticated viewing. Once again, when the event ended usage stayed much higher than it had been before. In both the iPlayer and TV Everywhere cases, sport helped consumers discover a new way of consuming content. Many integrated this new behavior into their regular video viewing lives.

There are some big differences in the viewing environment between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. For example, the penetration of smartphones is far deeper today than it was then. As well, average screen size is much bigger. And many more people are accustomed to using their smartphones for entertainment on the go, as evidenced by the success of Pokémon Go. This could mean smartphones will become the go-to device for individual Olympics viewing during the games.

Whatever the device consumers chose to use during the Olympics, we are sure to see a big increase in online viewing. As it did in 2012, the BBC is live streaming 24 channels of coverage in the UK. In the US, NBC says it will live stream every event. Time zone differences could dampen the effects somewhat in the UK. In the US, however, expect to see a lot of those Pokémon Go players replaced by people cheering wildly at their phones, at least for the month of August.

Why it matters

BBC iPlayer data indicates that the forces driving people to watch online in 2012 are still at work in 2016.

Sport continues to be a forcing function for the movement of viewing to online.

The Olympics will introduce many people to watching on their mobile devices.

*The BBC defines unique browsers as unique devices/web browsers (not individuals) accessing a service.

Tables and graphs on this page are derived from BBC iPlayer Performance Packs which can be found at the media center on the BBC’s website

iPlayer Devices

In Mar 2016Share of online TV requestsYoY change
PC35.8%11.7%
Tablet25.7%-18.6%
Smartphone23.3%-6.8%
Connected TV11.9%+70%
Game Consoles3.4%-24%

(3) Comments

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