BBC’s iPlayer popularity drops for the first time since launching

BBC iPlayer has seen a shock drop in usage, the first fall in popularity since the video streaming site was set up in 2007.

BBC’s iPlayer popularity drops for the first time since launching

Viewer numbers fell 7% in March to around 230 million unique requests, compared to the same month the year before. The surprising drop comes in the wake of news that the BBC plans to close its subscription-based Global iPlayer app next month, which has been available in Western Europe, Australia and Canada.

The fall in popularity of iPlayer over the past year marks a stark contrast to the general increase in the use of streaming services. There are rumours that Spotify is planning to launch a video service and in April Netflix announced that it had reached 60 million subscribers, 20 million of which are from overseas.

The drop in numbers will no doubt raise questions about the BBC’s ability to maintain a dominant position in the online video market, as well as throwing fuel on the argument that closing BBC Three as a broadcast channel and making it online-only wouldn’t provide enough of an audience.

The news also comes a week after the EU ruled that the BBC should legally open up its services to nationals that want to access the service from anywhere in Europe.

BBC iPlayer to lift international restrictions

Holiday makers weary of finding something good to watch in their hotels rooms are in for a treat as the European Comission is looking to lift the restrictions of access to catch-up sites such as BBC iPlayer.

A report by the BBC delivers relief to the frustrations of on-demand services stoutly denying us watching our favourite shows because we’re abroad. Forget using a VPN to see the latest episode of Masterchef because it could all change thanks to the Commission driving towards a “digital single market” that helps break down the differences in international copyright laws.


The pledge to disband “unjustified geo-blocking” means internet catch-up websites or services would therefore be accessible to viewers when out of their native country and the BBC confirmed it would “look into the possibility of easing its iPlayer restrictions”. It comes as good news as there’s only so much BBC World one can watch (no offence, BBC). 

The Commission would like to see BBC iPlayer available to foreign territories just as it is in the UK. However, as far as iPlayer goes, it seems logical it would only be available to UK citizens abroad as they are licence fee payers. It’s unlikely non-UK residents could simply gain access to the service as that would surely mean a subsidy from UK licence payers, which we can’t see happening.

The move comes as part of a 16-part single digital market strategy set to be in place for 2016 that also looks to tackle other issues such as e-commerce, copyright laws and online trade across EU countries. 

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