I had a chance to process the BBC iPlayer performance pack for November 2013 this weekend. My analysis of the data reveals 3 very interesting behaviors showing that online TV watching is not as far from traditional TV as you might think.
As I looked at the November 2013 iPlayer request data, the first thing I noticed was that seasonality has a big impact on viewing behavior. I graphed the average daily iPlayer TV requests over a 4 year period. There was a pronounced dip in requests around July and August between 2010 and 2013. This dip varied between 15-25% from the peak, which most often occurred in the previous January or February. This mirrors the “summer slump” TV has traditionally suffered.
One other thing to note about this data is that usage continues to grow strongly. Though viewership certainly slumps in the summer, year over year growth from July to July is strong. The past 3 years saw growth between 20-30%.
I have frequently commented on the dramatic growth in mobile device usage for video watching. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the BBC data. In November 2011, the dominant device being used with iPlayer was the PC. 78% of requests came from the device. The tablet, barely 18 months old, represented just 5% of requests, with mobile devices (primarily smartphones) accounting for 8% of requests. Today, the tablet accounts for 31% of TV requests, the smartphone 19%, and the PC has almost halved to just 40%. Between them, tablets and smartphones now account for 50% of all iPlayer video requests.
Finally, I looked at the data the BBC provides on live channel simulcast requests versus on-demand requests. On-demand viewing completely dominated consumption through iPlayer. On-demand viewing outstripped live requests almost 10 to 1 over the last 3 years, with one very interesting exception. The UK hosted the Olympics in July and August of 2012. In those two months, live viewing through iPlayer shot up to 24% and 32% of requests respectively.
Why would audiences turn to iPlayer rather than traditional TV during the Olympics? There are two reasons for this. Firstly, much of the action took place during the normal working day. For key events, particularly those involving British athletes, many people tuned in from work or on the go to watch. The second reason may be specific to the nature of the Olympics. The BBC covered practically all events live online, something the corporation simply couldn’t do over broadcast networks. For the first time, British audiences could see fencing, archery and cycling live, as it happened.
It will be interesting to see how live requests do during the Sochi winter Olympics. Again, the BBC will cover all events, with the aid of 6 online live streams. Without the extra incentive of it being a home event, the peaks in live usage should be much smaller than at the London Olympics. Nonetheless, I would expect to see some increase in usage.
Why it matters
BBC iPlayer data continues to illuminate the changes in consumer TV viewing behavior.
The data reveals that online viewing retains many of the viewing patterns and trends we see in traditional TV watching.