iPlayer: Record-breaking start to 2021


The start of 2021 has seen viewing surge on BBC iPlayer, with the first full week (January 4th– 10th) breaking records as viewers streamed 162 million programmes – as they flocked to watch programmes such as The Serpent, A Perfect Planet, Traces and EastEnders on iPlayer.

That week also saw a record 4.1 million people aged under-35 sign into their BBC Account to watch BBC iPlayer – with Pretty Little Liars, The FA Cup, A Teacher, The Serpent and A Perfect Planet proving popular with them.

This follows a record-breaking 2020 on BBC iPlayer – which saw:

  • 8 billion programmes streamed from January-December – up 31 per cent on 2019
  • Killing Eve, Normal People, Bing, The Nest and Gavin & Stacey top the most-streamed episodes on iPlayer in 2020
  • Normal People, Killing Eve, MasterChef, Strictly Come Dancing and The Split top the list of series box sets in 2020

“More people than ever are using BBC iPlayer and they are using it more often, with a staggering 5.8 billion streams in 2020,” notes Dan McGolpin, controller of BBC iPlayer. “They are finding more boxsets to choose from, a growing Ultra HD offer and a brand-new kids experience for our youngest viewers. The BBC iPlayer experience will keep getting better whatever your age and wherever you’re based, and we are already seeing 2021 breaking new records with viewers flocking to The Serpent, A Perfect Planet, the FA Cup and many more.”

BBC iPlayer’s growth in 2020 was accelerated by an expanded catalogue of drama, comedy, and documentary box sets and longer availability for many films.

Normal People was the biggest box set of the year, with the romantic drama marking 63.7 million streams on iPlayer across 2020, and led a number of strong performances for new dramas, including Sydney-based series The Secrets She Keeps, Mike Bartlett’s Life, Michaela Coel’s extraordinary I May Destroy You and Scottish-set thriller The Nest.

Other big dramas in 2020 included the returning series of spy thriller Killing Eve, divorce drama The Split, forensic crime drama Silent Witness and long running sci-fi drama Doctor Who. Entertainment shows such as MasterChef and Strictly Come Dancing also continued to prove popular with audiences, as the third and fourth most popular series of the year.

This Country was the biggest comedy of the year, as Kerry and Kurtan took a final bow with the third and final series, while the first series of the show also made it into the top 20 series boxsets. And audiences still can’t get enough of Barry’s most famous couple Gavin and Stacey, as the first two series of the classic comedy also made the top 20.

BBC iPlayer’s most popular box sets in 2020 are:

Rank Programme Series Streams
1 Normal People Series 1 63,715,000
2 Killing Eve Series 3 39,655,000
3 MasterChef Series 16 22,206,000
4 Strictly Come Dancing Series 18 20,769,000
5 The Split Series 2 19,058,000
6 Silent Witness Series 23 17,252,000
7 The Secrets She Keeps Series 1 17,037,000
8 Life Series 1 16,131,000
9 I May Destroy You Series 1 16,127,000
10 This Country Series 3 15,788,000
11 MasterChef: The Professionals Series 13 15,290,000
12 The Nest Series 1 14,684,000
13 Doctor Who Series 12 13,422,000
14 Killing Eve Series 1 13,348,000
15 Call the Midwife Series 9 13,227,000
16 Killing Eve Series 2 13,040,000
17 This Country Series 1 12,397,000
18 Gavin & Stacey Series 1 12,254,000
19 Gavin & Stacey Series 2 11,937,000
20 Celebrity MasterChef Series 15 11,241,000

The return of Killing Eve saw BBC iPlayer’s biggest single episode in 2020, with 7.4 million streams for Villanelle’s return. Normal People’s first episode was the second-most popular episode of the year, and there were strong performances for the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special, Hugh Laurie political thriller Roadkill, the first episode of Dracula and fact-based drama The Salisbury Poisonings.

BBC iPlayer’s top episodes per series in 2020 are:

Rank Programme Series Episode Streams
1 Killing Eve Series 3 Episode 1 7,442,000
2 Normal People Series 1 Episode 1 6,506,000
3 Bing Series 1 Fireworks 4,278,000
4 The Nest Series 1 Episode 1 4,105,000
5 Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special 2019 4,011,000
6 Dracula Series 1 Episode 1 3,518,000
7 The Split Series 2 Episode 1 3,480,000
8 The Gruffalo The Gruffalo 3,469,000
9 The Secrets She Keeps Series 1 Episode 1 3,394,000
10 Bing Series 2 Fossil 3,334,000
11 The Snail and the Whale The Snail and the Whale 3,246,000
12 Roadkill Series 1 Episode 1 3,155,000
13 This Country Series 3 Episode 1 3,135,000
14 Stick Man Stick Man 3,099,000
15 Hey Duggee Series 1 The Drawing Badge 3,051,000
16 Zog Zog 2,987,000
17 Life Series 1 Episode 1 2,946,000
18 This Country Series 1 Episode 1 2,817,000
19 Room on the Broom Room on the Broom 2,721,000
20 The Salisbury Poisonings Series 1 Episode 1 2,700,000



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