« Previous | Main | Next »

BBC iPlayer: Meet The Audience

Post categories:

Anthony Rose Anthony Rose | 12:41 UK time, Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The audience feedback presented here was kindly supplied by Alison Button, Research Manager in our Marketing, Communications & Audiences group. Many thanks, Alison for your help in preparing this.

We've just got the results back from our first major piece of audience research among BBC iPlayer users. It's great to have some solid evidence to back up our ideas on how people were using the service, and I've been delighted to see how positive people are about it.

Obviously, since BBC iPlayer launched, we've had internal server stats to tell us about levels of use and the most popular programme titles, and we have a number of tracking surveys set up to regularly measure topline opinions (as all BBC services do) from members of the public.

We also monitor our message boards to keep an eye on any problems that people are encountering, and we scan articles and blogs posts about BBC iPlayer which give us a lot of ideas and feature requests to go into upcoming site updates.

But we wanted to know more detail about the majority of our users and their habits, things that these sources can't tell us, such as:

  • Do most people use BBC iPlayer alone, or do they watch with their family?
  • Are parents using the parental guidance feature?
  • Where are people using BBC iPlayer - at home, at work, at school, on the train?
  • How did they find BBC iPlayer in the first place?
  • Why did they (or didn't they) go back again?

Image by Jon Jacobs on Flickr

So we asked a representative group of people (* detail at the end if you're interested) to answer a list of questions that we drew up together across the BBC iPlayer team. From their answers, we can make a picture of what the typical BBC iPlayer user is like. Here's a snapshot:

  • The typical BBC iPlayer user is a man aged about 40, in a full-time job, with a partner but no kids. He uses BBC iPlayer at home over a fast broadband connection, and accesses it on a desktop PC in the evenings - usually on his own, though sometimes his girlfriend watches something with him.
  • He found it through the BBC homepage, and was prompted to try it for the first time when he missed something specific on TV. He still tends to go there looking for a particular programme, rather than just to browse what's available. He gets there through the bbc.co.uk homepage.
  • When he's found the right programme, he streams it in full-screen mode (he hasn't connected his PC to a TV set), although sometimes he watches within the webpage when he wants to do something else on his PC at the same time. He has downloaded BBC iPlayer programmes before, but is usually too impatient to wait. He's never had any problems with his ISP because of BBC iPlayer, though. He's never used the BBC iPlayer on a portable device, or on Wii.
  • Sometimes, he won't bother watching something on linear TV since he knows he can watch it on BBC iPlayer later. He thinks the rules about what's on BBC iPlayer are fairly clear, but still finds that the programme he wants isn't there sometimes. He'd love the seven-day limit to be longer.
  • People really like the BBC iPlayer - they find it easy to use, like the way it looks, and have recommended it to their friends. When asked, people usually couldn't think of anything that could improve it; they like it just the way it is.

I know that many of the BBC iPlayer users reading this blog won't fit into this profile - some are likely to be ahead of the curve, and more likely to have tried BBC iPlayer on their iPhone or Wii, or to have connected their PC or Mac to a TV screen.

While the research said that the "typical BBC iPlayer user was a male aged 40", only 25% of BBC iPlayer users are actually aged 35-44. We were really happy to find that older people, as well as younger ones, are using BBC iPlayer, so we're not just attracting the stereotypical younger early adopters who will generally pick up on new technologies and gadgets before the mainstream. The BBC iPlayer age profile is actually right in line with the profile of the general broadband UK population. But 35-44 is the most commonly selected age range from this survey, with smaller proportions of users in the other age bands.

Outside of the most common behaviour, here are some other facts that I thought were interesting:

  • Levels of repeat use of BBC iPlayer are good - only 13% had only used it once, and 17% had watched more than 20 programmes
  • 32% always access it on a laptop; 51% always on a desktop computer
  • 5% of people were using BBC iPlayer on a Mac, and 1% on a Linux system
  • 18% said they had "ever" connected their computer to a TV screen; 5% "always" do this to watch programmes on BBC iPlayer
  • A lot of people stream and download on different occasions - only 18% never stream, 42% never download
  • Only 1% had never used BBC iPlayer at home, but 84% had never used it at work
  • Most people were using BBC iPlayer on a computer they share with other members of their household
  • However 60% only ever use BBC iPlayer on their own - 34% have used with other adults, and 13% have watched with children
  • 49% of BBC iPlayer (TV) users have also listened to radio on the BBC website

These results are helping to guide decisions going forward for the BBC iPlayer service, both developing it as a product, and planning how best we can encourage new people to try it out. We plan to repeat this kind of research in future every so often.

Read all our posts about the BBC iPlayerObviously, this research is only part of the picture, and we continue to read all the other feedback we get directly from users too. For example, I start and end each day checking recent blog posts and Twitter comments about BBC iPlayer - it's great way to get instant feedback on what people like or early warning of any technical or usability problems. It's all invaluable in helping us make BBC iPlayer your favourite video and audio destination.

* The sample in this survey was 2027 UK adults, selected from an online market research survey panel to be representative of the UK adult online population in terms of age, gender and UK nation. 901 of them had used BBC iPlayer, and 794 of these people went on to answer more detailed questions about the service. The survey was conducted independently for the BBC by Dipsticks Research Limited in May of this year.

Anthony Rose is Head of Digital Media, BBC Future Media & Technology.


  • Comment number 1.

    No mention at all of the Virgin Media option - I use that a lot to timeshift BBC programs - and, yes, I am a male in my 40s with no children.

  • Comment number 2.

    Please can you change your audio streams to use AAC or AAC+ codecs. These are supported by the Flash player you use and will give the best audio quality at the low bit rates you use.

  • Comment number 3.

    trevor, I believe there's big changes coming to radio within the next month or so...

  • Comment number 4.

    Very interesting.

    Just to make things clear - for qualitative values (like age) are you going with the most common response, or an average of all response?

    Ta :)

  • Comment number 5.

    Nice question saxsux

    Pity you didnt get an answer

    Maybe they are too busy with:

    ‘tracking surveys’

    ‘monitoring message boards’

    ‘scanning articles and blogs’ (but obviously not this blog)

    to answer your question, maybe they don’t know or possibly the figures you requested don’t reflect the positive nature of this research that the BBC want to promote

  • Comment number 6.

    The answer to saxsus' question is we've selected the most common response.

    Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC internet blog)

  • Comment number 7.

    I definitely fall into some of the most common categories...

    One thing, though - I've had to replace my router to use iPlayer because of the BT HomeHub rebooting problem on the Macintosh. Has there been any progress on solving this? Switching the router has lost me my internet phone line.

  • Comment number 8.

    Any results from the survey about the number of people overseas that would like to use iPlayer?

    The issue of overseas rights has to be solved.

  • Comment number 9.

    Well, this does answer the question of whether you discussed iPlayer with any radio users. It looks like you focused on TV viewers and threw radio in as an afterthought. If you are monitoring BBC Radio messageboards you will notice that most posters are unimpressed by the victory of style over substance. At least, here in Canada, Radio 4 has been basically unavailable on iPlayer since Friday, Aug. 8, as 'Listen Again' - and for much of the time 'Listen Live" also returns the message "Audio not available at this time" Chunks of BBC7 and Radio 3 are also 'Audio not available at this time' on BBC iPlayer.
    The iPlayer is glitzy, glamourous even. However, these first few weeks it's slow to load, cumbersome to navigate, unstable, and unreliable. With the old Radio Player it was possible to launch a program and continue to work in other applications. Not with iPlayer. In other words, iPlayer is everything the old Radio Player was not. Just compare the two for ease of use and stability. The Radio Player is still attached to the International Version of the BBC Radio's Home Page and offers the World Service and a few other stations. The difficulties start with the fact that you have to switch to the UK Version of the Home Page just to access BBC iPlayer.

    The whole thing seems geared to UK television viewers, which is fine, but radio is a different medium. Radio listeners don't need a photo of a young woman in bed reading a book - they want to listen to 'Book At Bedtime'. The different mediums really need different players, particularly for those who listen via the internet.

  • Comment number 10.

    Thank you for the great post.. https://www.birsesver.com


More from this blog...

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.