Market Insight

BBC iPlayer consumption sees tablets edge ahead of smartphones, both categories remain key

April 23, 2013

Irina Kornilova Irina Kornilova Manager, Research and Analysis, Broadband Media

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BBC iPlayer usage in the UK via tablets was higher than it was via mobile phones for the first time ever in March 2013. Collectively, tablets and mobile devices made up around 30 per cent of all iPlayer requests, with tablets attracting marginally higher viewership - 200,000 more requests, giving tablets a 0.002 per cent lead.

BBC iPlayer is available on a range of devices, including iOS and Android tablets and smartphones. In March 2013, BBC expanded its iPlayer device coverage by adding support for Windows Phone 8.

Tablet and mobile TV and radio requests continue to grow relative to consumption via PCs, while other categories - Internet TVs, TV platform operators (Virgin, BT Vision etc.) and games consoles - remain relatively stable. The BBC's Internet TV category -- which includes Smart TVs, Blu Ray Disc (BD) players and connected set-top boxes -- traditionally produces the lowest number of requests at roughly 5m per month, accounting for 2 per cent of total requests for TV and radio programs.

Despite the top line proximity in levels of consumption across mobile phones and tablets, there are underlying and significant differences:

•TV shows: Tablets now outperform mobile phones for TV shows, generating 38m requests for TV shows in March 2013, compared with 33m on mobile over the same period. This is a continuation of the trend seen in prior months, and sees consumption up on the 35m tablet requests versus 33m mobile seen in February 2013.

•Radio: Mobile continues to outperform tablets in terms of radio show requests. March 2013 saw 3m tablet requests for radio shows compared to 7m via mobile phones, while January and February saw 2m tablet and 6m mobile requests. Nonetheless, tablet consumption of radio shows continues to grow relative to consumption via mobile phones.

At the end of 2012 there were over 10m active installed iOS and Android tablets in the UK, which implies a little under four TV and radio requests per active installed tablet per month in 2013. Excluding radio shows, the view-rate was roughly 3.5 per tablet per month. By contrast, comparable requests via mobile devices for TV and radio combined stood at roughly 1.2, with the TV-show only view-rate at just over 1 request per installed smartphone per month.

In just one year, tablet share of iPlayer video requests grew by 11 percentage points, from 8 per cent (March 2012) to 19 per cent (March 2013). Combined, mobile and tablet views accounted for 36 per cent of all TV requests in March 2013, which was just below March's PC-based consumption of 79m requests - 39 per cent of all TV requests in the period.

These higher per-device view-rates cement the concept that larger screen devices such as tablets are more appropriate devices from a consumer perspective for video consumption than smartphones. As the tablet installed base continues to grow, driven primarily by uptake of iOS and Android devices, we expect tablets' share of video viewing to increase still further.

Similarly, despite the slowdown in phone-based access to iPlayer in February and March, we expect that smartphone accesses to iPlayer will return to growth as a consequence of the adoption of larger screen smartphone models, which will become a more significant part of the overall growing smartphone installed base. As a result, support for smartphone remains critical for over-the-top (OTT) video players. Although the tablet as a category now outperforms smartphones for total video total requests, the mobile phone category remains the third largest iPlayer viewing segment. The main loser in the years ahead will be the PC, as the mobile/tablet device category's importance as a video consumption platform increases still further.

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