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November 16, 2015
iPlayer Mostly Used to Supplement TV Viewing, Not Replace It
Posted by KMontgomery

iPlayer Mostly Used to Supplement TV Viewing, Not Replace It

Which device an iPlayer user prefers to use remains in flux. Last year the tablet was the dominant device used for online playback. It had steadily gained on PC usage over the previous two years, but this year the PC has reversed that trend. In August, usage of the PC and tablet stand about even at 30%. The smartphone’s share of iPlayer requests remained at 24% over the last year.

Connected TVs finally seem to be getting traction in the UK market. While game consoles have remained at 5.5% of request over the last year, other connected devices (principally smart TVs and streaming media players) have doubled in usage, from 4.9% in August 2014 to 9.9% in the same month this year. What is driving this change? In the last year, streaming media players have become more widely, and cheaply, available in the UK market. Sky released the NowTV player, a white labelled Roku set-top box, and Amazon released the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, all of which include the iPlayer. Apple TV is also available.

Looking at the age profile of iPlayer users, it remains skewed heavily toward the young. 45% of iPlayer users are in the age range 16-34. 31% of TV viewers are in this age range. 35% of 35-54 year olds are iPlayer users, and 34% of TV viewers are in this age range.

It’s interesting to compare device usage with US consumers. A new study from Clearleap shows that iPlayer users have a quite different device profile than US SVOD users. For the US under 30s, the dominant devices used are the laptop (58%), the smartphone (39%), and the connected TV (30%.) The 30-44 year olds conform more closely to the iPlayer user. 33% use a tablet, 32% a laptop, and 32% a smartphone.

Given the heavy age bias of iPlayer users toward the younger age group, BBC data suggests UK millennials have a stronger preference for the tablet than their US counterparts.

Growth in online requests to iPlayer has moderated a lot over the last 3 years. In the year August 2011 to 2012 monthly requests increased an average of 29%. The following year average monthly requests increased 16% and in the year ending this August requests grew 13%. Over the same period, TV peak usage has declined by 1.5M, but iPlayer peak usage has only increased 100,000. This suggests people are not replacing regular TV viewing with iPlayer usage, at least not during prime time. Instead, iPlayer viewing appears to be a supplement to TV viewing.

I speculated that iPlayer could replace a DVR for some consumers. The convenience of not having to remember to record a show means a DVR is not really required for all the BBC channels. At least for now, that doesn’t seem to be happening. The majority of UK inhabitants have yet to make iPlayer a regular part of their television diet. And with growth slowing, it could be that in its current form iPlayer will never reach the usage level and penetration of the DVR.*

Why it matters

PC and tablet are the preferred devices for online iPlayer viewing.

Connected TV usage, led by streaming media players, is growing strongly.

Overall growth in iPlayer online usage is slowing.

Few UK citizens have made iPlayer a core part of their TV lives.

*64% of UK TV homes now have DVR, according to OfCom.

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