The BBC has reported that since the UK’s national lockdown was announced on the 23rd of March, BBC iPlayer has seen 927 million requests (including Sky catch-up viewing) – 61% higher than the same seven-week period last year.

The BBC also said that:

  • BBC iPlayer’s biggest ever day was Sunday 10 May, with 22.5 million requests, and 1.1 million requests for the Prime Minister’s statement to the nation.
  • The success of BBC Three’s hit new drama Normal People, which has had over 28m requests to date and the continued popularity of Killing Eve contributed to iPlayer’s most successful week ever, with 146 million requests between 27 April – 3 May.
  • April was the biggest month BBC iPlayer has ever seen, with 564 million requests.
  • In the first three months of 2020, BBC iPlayer saw a record 1.4 billion requests, up 34 per cent on the same quarter in 2019.

Controller of BBC iPlayer Dan McGolpin said: “This has been a unique period in our history and I’m pleased that BBC iPlayer has been able to make such a positive contribution to what the nation’s watching: delivering the latest news whenever you want it, teaching you something new whatever your age and providing you with a place to escape, whatever your mood. From Bitesize Daily to Race Across the World, from Normal People to Killing Eve, people are finding more to watch on BBC iPlayer than ever before.

Initially, growth was driven by people coming to BBC iPlayer for news, particularly the lockdown announcement itself, where the Prime Minister’s address received 900,000 requests. There was also a big increase in requests for children’s shows, including Bing, Hey Duggee and Numberblocks in this initial period. As the lockdown period has gone on, demand for drama and comedy programmes has grown strongly. The new series of Our Girl has also done well, and the escapism of travel entertainment series Race Across the World has proved popular with viewers too.

Viewers flocked to comedies like Gavin And Stacey and Mrs Brown’s Boys during lockdown, and the conclusion of This Country has been the most popular comedy programme. People have also been turning to classic BBC box sets on iPlayer during these times, with series like Waterloo Road, Spooks, Doctor Who and Call the Midwife all performing very well.

Younger viewers have also been able to turn to iPlayer for educational programmes. Requests for Bitesize Daily grew more than tenfold from the day that it launched.


Kauser Kanji has been working in online video for 19 years, formerly at Virgin Media, ITN and NBC Universal, and founded VOD Professional in 2011. He has since completed major OTT projects for, amongst others, A+E Networks, the BBC, BBC Studios, Channel 4, DR (Denmark), Liberty Global, Netflix, Sony Pictures, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation and UKTV. He now writes industry analyses, hosts an online debate show, OTT Question Time, as well as its in-person sister event, OTT Question Time Live

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