Keeping Faith helps BBC Wales big online impact

Eve Myles in Keeping Faith
Image caption Eve Myles in Keeping Faith had 17 million BBC iPlayer requests alone

Hit drama series Keeping Faith and Hidden have helped BBC Wales almost treble its performance on BBC iPlayer.

Requests on iPlayer rose to 45m last year, compared with 14m in 2017, according to new figures.

BBC Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies told staff: "It's crystal clear that the £10m of new investment in BBC Wales services has had an instant impact."

It was also a record year for BBC Wales News Online, with weekly unique browsers up by more than 19% to 3.2m.

Image caption The crime drama Hidden, along with Keeping Faith, helped drive a big rise in iPlayer traffic

In 2017, investment was announced to include 40 new jobs at the broadcaster, including 25 additional journalist posts.

There was also a commitment for £8.5m a year in English language television programmes for Wales.

"I'm delighted that audiences have responded so positively to Keeping Faith, Hidden and Requiem," said Mr Talfan Davies.

"In news and sport, we're determined to deliver an online service that's relevant, authoritative and engaging for audiences of all ages."

Image caption That yellow coat again - this time on BBC Breakfast with Dan Walker and Louise Minchin

Keeping Faith starred Eve Myles, playing a small town solicitor Faith Howells investigating the mystery surrounding her missing husband.

It saw 17m iPlayer requests to view the series.

Its first episode was the fifth biggest programme of the year on the on-demand service.

Faith's trademark yellow coat also became a hit with viewers and it had its own spoof Twitter account.

A second series is being filmed, which will be broadcast first in Welsh as Un Bore Mercher in May, and then on BBC One across the network later in the year.

Over the past 12 months, BBC Wales said all the key online measures have increased to record levels:

  • On BBC iPlayer, requests for BBC Wales programmes saw a 214% growth. Other popular series included Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience, Young, Welsh and Pretty Minted and The Crash Detectives.
  • BBC Wales News Online had a record year with an average of 3.2m unique browsers each week.
  • An average of 4.8m unique browsers accessed BBC Wales' online services each week - up 13% from 4.2m in 2017. As well as news and sport, that included iPlayer, radio, Bitesize and Cymru Fyw.
  • There were 1.8m downloads of BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru podcasts - up 50% compared with 2017.
  • There were 3.5m requests on BBC iPlayer Radio to catch up on-demand with BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and Radio Cymru 2 programmes - up almost 200%.
Image caption The six-part supernatural drama Requiem with Lydia Wilson as cellist Matilda Grey was set in Wales

Analysis from Huw Thomas, BBC Wales arts and media correspondent

The iPlayer figures underline the continued popularity of viewing on-demand.

The boost for BBC Wales programmes highlights the potential reach of shows that would historically have only been available to audiences watching a TV this side of the Severn Bridge.

But the huge success of Keeping Faith is also politically important for BBC Wales, as it lobbied for additional investment from bosses in London to spend on Welsh dramas that it said would also appeal to audiences around the UK.

As for BBC Wales' overall online performance, it would be a much bigger story had there been little to no growth. Given the investment that has been made in digital journalism, and the sustained demand from audiences eager to consume more, the numbers had to go up.

But what's harder to interpret is BBC Wales' success in reaching under-served parts of the audiences, especially those under 35. It's a huge focus for all media companies, and a particularly pressing issue for public service and more traditional broadcasters like the BBC.

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