nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

BBC iPlayer primetime viewing closely mirrors linear TV

Though the modes of consumption are very different, linear TV and iPlayer online requests closely mirror each other throughout day. Primetime is still when most want to watch, though other data indicates people watch online primarily alone.

In the iPlayer Performance Pack for March 2014, the BBC continues to chronicle the shift from linear broadcast to online on-demand viewing. However, in both cases the hours between 8 PM and 11 PM continue to be the most popular time to watch. The linear broadcast peak viewing occurs at 9PM, with 25.7M viewers tuning in. Online the peak occurs about an hour later, at 10 PM, with 0.67M simultaneous users. Linear channel viewing continues to dominate during primetime; just 3% of the audience can be found online.

In March 2013, the140506 iPlayer usage in 24hrs linear TV peak viewing also occurred at 9 PM with 26.8M viewers, while the online audience also peaked at 10 PM with 0.495M simultaneously viewers. Linear TV viewing and on online streaming seem to be heading in different directions. Over the last year, TV viewing during primetime has declined by 4% while online usage has increased 36%.

Other BBC data indicates that online video is consumed at primetime in a radically different way than linear TV viewing. Though all the linear channels are available to stream through iPlayer, 89% of viewing is on-demand. The ratio between live and on-demand viewing online has changed little over the last year or so, with the exception of during the London Summer Olympics.

Unlike linear television, the TV is not the dominant screen for iPlayer. The iPlayer client is available on popular smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Humax and Toshiba, as well as many Blu-ray players and the Roku Internet set-top box. However, connect TVs and TV devices were responsible for just 4% of requests in March. Game consoles fared a little better with 5% of requests.

The tablet and PC are the most popular platforms to stream iPlayer video. 35% of requests came from PC computers, while 34.5% of requests were made by tablet users. However, the PC is in serious decline as a video streaming platform. Just one year ago, it account for 48.5% of requests and in March 2012, 68%. In March 2012, 9.7% of requests came from tablets and in March 2013 that figure had grown to 23%. By the end of this year, I forecast that the tablet will account for over 40% of online requests, while the PC will have declined to 26%, just ahead of the mobile phone, at 22%.

The top three devices used by consumers to view video via iPlayer (tablet, smartphone and PC) are all primarily personal devices. It’s very likely the video watched on them is also viewed primarily alone. Other European countries are seeing the same effects. At last year’s OTTtv World Summit in London, Stofa’s Thomas Helbo, stated that family viewing was virtually dead in Denmark. While it’s a long way from being dead in the UK, iPlayer data suggests it could be heading that way too.

Why it matters

Just because consumers are switching to online on-demand, doesn’t mean they are jettisoning all the habits developed while watching linear television.

In particular, primetime viewing continues to be important online.

BBC data suggest online viewing differs in at least two important ways from TV viewing: it is dominated by on-demand access, video is viewed primarily alone.


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