BBC iPlayer figures drop as Netflix and Amazon Prime flourish

The head of iPlayer, though, has a few explanations

Viewing figures on BBC iPlayer have fallen for the third month in a row, suggesting that the UK catch-up service is struggling. The man in charge of iPlayer, however, obviously doesn’t agree. So much, in fact, that he’s posted a blog to jump to its defence.

Things could be going better for BBC iPlayer. April saw 271 million requests to view TV and radio programmes, down on 278 million in March, 299 million in February and the record-setting 343 million in December.

On the surface, it appears that iPlayer usage has come to a halt. However, BBC iPlayer chief Dan Taylor-Watt explains that the popularity of the service has always fluctuated in a seasonal pattern.

The BBC boss posted a blog, in order to correct what he calls “misleading headlines”.

“BBC iPlayer usage changes significantly depending on the season with higher volumes of requests in the autumn and winter months, and lower volumes in the spring and summer,” he said. “Also, as the majority of iPlayer consumption is still catch-up TV, there is a strong link between what’s broadcast on ‘telly’ and programmes requested on iPlayer.”

Taylor-Watt pointed out BBC iPlayer continues to show significant growth year-on-year, going from less than 1 billion TV programme requests in 2009 to over 2.5 billion in the last year.

However, he does acknowledge other players in the video on-demand space have slowed down its growth rate. On the TV front, it must compete alongside Channel 4, ITV and Sky.

It also rivals Amazon and Netflix; the latter continuing to bag new subscribers due to its growing roster of original programming, such as Breaking Bad spin-off Better Caul Saul and Marvel’s Daredevil series.

“Even though the iPlayer continues to grow it won’t be at such a rapid pace,” he says. “The market has also changed significantly since iPlayer launched, with a host of new video-on-demand services now available in the UK. What is remarkable is how the iPlayer has not just maintained but continued to grow its usage with the increasing number of video-on-demand services.”