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The BBC has hailed the transformation of BBC3 into an online-only service as a success after a new show reached similar viewing figures to a broadcast show.
The channel’s drama about the aftermath of an abduction, entitled Thirteen, has been the channel’s biggest hit on iPlayer, with 2.4 million watching since its release at the end of February, according to numbers from the BBC.
BBC3’s highest rated show on the broadcast channel was an episode of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, which reached an audience of 2.5 million including seven day catch-up but not iPlayer, when it was first aired in 2006. The show later drew in larger audiences when it moved first to BBC2 and then BBC1.
The number of people watching Thirteen on iPlayer is also higher than the 2.3 million who watched the Christmas special of Sherlock on iPlayer in January. However, 8.4 million people also tuned into the broadcast on BBC1 on New Year’s Day.
The opening episode of the third series of sitcom Cuckoo was the next most watched programme with 1.2 million requests to the iPlayer since it was released on the day the channel went off air. The figure is slightly more than the 1.15 million people who tuned into the first ever episode on BBC3 in 2012. The show has been commissioned for two further series.
However, the 1 million people tuning into one-off drama Murdered by my Father was significantly behind the 3.5 million who tuned in on iPlayer to watch its predecessor Murdered by my Boyfriend.
The first episodes of factual series Sex in Strange Places and Life and Death Row, have all been requested by iPlayer viewers more than 1m times each.
BBC3 controller Damian Kavanagh wrote in a blog post: “These are early days for BBC3 but I’m overjoyed with what we’ve achieved so far. It’s a marathon not a sprint but so far we’ve exceeded expectations.”