Home Analysis BBC iPlayer: viewing ‘telly on the telly’ is falling rapidly

BBC iPlayer: viewing ‘telly on the telly’ is falling rapidly

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Much of the media coverage of the latest batch of BBC iPlayer stats has focused on the dip in overall viewing requests between March and April, which the Corporation has said is probably down to the impact of the Easter holidays and the beginning of British Summer Time.

Whether or not that is the case (and it is true there have been similar blips previously at the same time of year), the more significant issue is the platforms viewers are choosing to watch iPlayer on.

If you take the BBC figures for viewing TV programmes on iPlayer, and aggregate the share of requests that come through TV sets or devices connected to them, the trends over the last year are striking (see Figure 1 below).

It’s not just PC-based iPlayer viewing that is losing out as a result of the boom in tablet and smartphone access, but TV-based viewing as well. On the BBC’s own figures, the share of TV-based requests for TV programming is down by over 25% over the last year.

Figure 1: Requests for programmes across BBC iPlayer by device type – TV programmes only (% of requests, TV line aggregated) Source: BBC, BFC analysis

The question is to what extent this merely reflects the differing rates at which device penetration is growing, or whether it also has to do with better user experiences being provided via some devices than others.

Whatever the explanation (and it’s probably a bit of both), the phenomenon certainly challenges the notion that ultimately, consumers want to ‘watch telly on the telly’.

Break down the TV line into its component parts, and the only ray of light (admittedly, a dim one), is that the Internet TV/connected devices share of TV programme requests is up by 1% over the year (see Figure 2 below). Given the increase in smart TV ownership over the period this is hardly a vote of confidence, and underlines concerns over what proportion of these devices are actually broadband-enabled in practice.

Figure 2: Requests for programmes across BBC iPlayer by TV-connected device type –TV programmes only (% of requests) Source: BBC, BFC analysis

Games console performance aside, the bad news is really for TV platform operators like Virgin and BT Vision, for it means the viewing of iPlayer through their (owned) EPGs is migrating to viewing via (independent) tablets and smartphones.

It is true that some of this may be ‘controlled’ through operators’ own apps (the award-winning Virgin TV Anywhere app is good example), but the nature of the threat OTT presents to pay-TV operators is, on this analysis, very clear.

NB: The BBC’s definitions of TV-based devices are: “Internet TV / connected devices include Freeview and Freesat smart TVs, set-top-boxes and devices like Roku and blu-ray DVD players. TV platform operators include Virgin Media and BT Vision. Games consoles comprise Sony PS3, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft XBox 360.”

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