nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Can BBC iPlayer replace the DVR?

iPlayer usage by device August 2012 2013 2014

With the BBC now making shows on iPlayer available for a full 30 days after broadcast, is there any need for a UK viewer to own a DVR? According to the BBC’s own data, viewers aren’t yet ready to dump it.

The BBC announced this week that it is lengthening the time TV shows will be available through iPlayer from seven days to 30. Most people watch a show within 24 hours of recording it, or just before the next episode is broadcast live. That means for most BBC viewers iPlayer could take the place of a DVR for most of their normal viewing (absent the other channels, of course.) However, the UK public appears to not be quite ready to make that leap.

As in the US, the vast majority of TV is still viewed live. According to Ofcom, 97% of UK adults watch TV each week for an average of four hours and two minutes a day. 74% of that viewing is live broadcast television, 17% is recorded TV and the remaining 9% a mixture of online and disk viewing.

The 60% of homes in the UK that own a DVR could replace all of their BBC catch-up viewing with iPlayer. After all, 73% of homes now have a broadband connection and almost all of those a connected device upon which iPlayer will run. Further, 12% of homes have a smart TV and another 38% an active Internet enabled set-top box. Yet iPlayer usage from connected televisions remains stubbornly low.

BBC data for August 2014 indicates that less than 11% of all Internet requests to iPlayer came from connected TVs and game consoles. Mobility dominates the picture. 37% of requests came from tablets and 24% from smartphones. The PC, long the streaming platform of choice for many, slumped dramatically in August falling from 34% of requests in July to 28% in August.

Given that consumers have repeatedly stated their preference for watching television content on the big screen, the dominance of mobility with iPlayer shows consumers are not yet ready to trust it with their regular TV viewing.

BBC data confirms that as of yet only a small percentage of UK viewers are watching a lot of content through the Internet. TV peak viewing time occurs at 9 o’clock at night when an average of 23.2 million people tune in to catch their favorite show. iPlayer peak occurs at roughly the same time, but only attracts 461,000 requests.

That said, iPlayer usage continues to steadily increase. August saw growth of 13.7% over the same month last year, reaching 5.8 million requests per day.

It is interesting to speculate on the impact of the BBC extending the window of availability to 30 days. 20 million homes watch free TV, and half of those do not have pay television. All of the major free-to-air broadcasters have apps providing at least seven days catch-up service on their shows. If they all follow the BBC’s lead, and extend availability to 30 days, the case for DVR ownership could become questionable for many.

For now, however, it will be interesting to see if the BBC acting alone can move the needle on catch-up viewing online. To keep tabs on this usage you can always get the latest BBC iPlayer data at the nScreenMedia website under the “Trackers” tab.

Why it matters

Almost all shows recorded on a DVR that are going to be watched at all, are watched within the first two weeks of being recorded.

With the BBC increasing the availability window of shows through iPlayer to 30 days, most BBC viewers never need to DVR a show again.

However, iPlayer data indicates that the average UK viewer is far from ready to abandon their DVR.


(5) Comments

  1. The DVR is quickly becoming obsolete, but not because if iPlayer. These days consumers are getting accustomed to having vast selections of content before them. 30 days worth of episodes of a weekly TV series adds up to about 4 or 5 instances of it tops. Meanwhile Netflix and other online services offer multiple entire seasons of a show, as well as the ability to watch shows from 50 years ago just as easily as you can watch a show that aired yesterday. This is what’s made the latest trend of “binge watching” possible. With more and more consumers turning to the internet as the main conduit through which they consume entertainment, the hard drive of a DVR becomes a limiting factor rather than an added value.

  2. You seem to have completely missed out data for iplayer delivered over TV Platforms (inc Sky, Virgin & BT). This is straight to the big screen and accounts for twice the viewing as game consoles and connected TV combined. Yes mobile and tablet is more (48% of TV views) but the gap is not as large, with big-screen viewing (minus anyone connecting their PC to the TV and unknown devices) is 26% of all TV views. Your calculations just don’t seem to reflect the actual figures reported by the BBC

    • No, I didn’t miss the data. I removed it. The point of the article was to look at the data for those people that use web platforms, not operator. Obviously, for people that rely on free TV the platforms you enumerate are not an option. So, removing that data shows that free TV viewers simply aren’t using iPlayer on a connected television that much.

  3. All of the major UK free-to-air broadcasters are already offering 30 day catch up, in many cases longer. BBC was the exception.

    • Last time I checked it was a bit more spotty than that. Channel 4 has a lot of full series available, but the newer stuff is dependent on licensing and can be anything from 7-30 days. With ITV its the same story. Some of the newer stuff is there, but most of the US series are not available in catchup.

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