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Head of BBC iPlayer defends service after 'misleading headlines'

Monday, June 1st 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The head of BBC iPlayer has defended the service after suggestions its popularity had slumped earlier this year.

Dan Taylor-Watt, in a blog post, said he wanted to “correct some misleading headlines” after a number of articles suggested iPlayer had suffered its first dip in history.

Mr Taylor-Watt referred to stories that appeared after the BBC published iPlayer performance statistics for March.

He said iPlayer usage changes with the seasons. It typically has higher volumes of requests – defined as the number of successful attempts to stream or download a programme – in the autumn and winter months.

The spring and summer months tend to have lower volumes of requests, although certain programmes and sporting events often buck the trend.

Mr Taylor-Watt said changes in performance can also be the result of measurement issues, pointing out that iPlayer is available on more than 1,700 different devices and platforms.

“In March for example, we estimate the volume of missing requests to be around 17m – but it’s not possible to verify this – we don’t include this in the pack we publish,” he added.


“We also don’t include what we call ‘short-form’ and ‘off-schedule’ like our popular iPlayer exclusives including Frankie Boyle’s Election Autopsy and Adam Curtis: Bitter Lake in order to make comparing month-on-month usage more meaningful.”

BBC iPlayer has had more than 14bn requests for TV and radio programmes since the service launched on Christmas Day 2007.

The past 12 months alone have seen a record-breaking 2.6bn requests for TV shows – up 10% on the previous 12 months.

In April, Peter Kay’s Car Share became the most successful series to have premiered on the iPlayer.

The comedy had 2.8m requests in five days – with one episode receiving more than a million requests alone.

Throughout April, there were 271m requests, up year-on-year compared to 268m in April 2014. There was an average of 9m daily requests.

“BBC iPlayer is still seen by many as the leading service of its kind in the world, and I’m really proud of this,” said Mr Taylor-Watt.

'New features'

“We constantly look at feedback and work with our team to make it even better – with the catch-up window extending from seven to 30 days, mobile downloads – as well as a host of new features on their way over the coming months.”

He said iPlayer will continue to grow but not at such a rapid pace as there are a limited number of people comfortable using on demand services.

“The challenge for us now is to get everyone using iPlayer – whether that’s to make the journey to work better, the holiday in the middle of nowhere in the rain more enjoyable or just easily catch-up on what you’ve missed from the comfort of your sofa,” added Mr Taylor-Watt.

“The market has also changed significantly since iPlayer launched, with a host of new video on demand services now available in the UK.

“What’s remarkable is how iPlayer has not just maintained but continued to grow its usage with the increasing number of video on demand services.”

He spoke of his excitement about iPlayer’s future and added that he wants to encourage a “thriving video on demand market” in the UK.

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