The BBC’s portfolio of television channels remain the most viewed in the UK in an increasingly competitive environment for public service broadcasters, according to the British pubcaster’s 2016/2017 annual report.
The UK pubcaster’s total weekly global audience rose to 372 million people for the year, “reaching nearly 79% of individuals each week and attracting 32% of all television set viewing,” the pubcaster said in a statement.
“Our overall audience share for the BBC held steady year-on-year at 32%, with a strong performance from BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4 collectively overcoming the lost BBC3 linear share,” the company added.
The numbers were bolstered by BBC1′s share of viewing reaching 10-year highs, driven primarily by factual programming. Love Production’s culinary competition The Great British Bake Off held a successful final year with the BBC (before moving to Channel 4 next year), with its finale attracting 13.6 million viewers, including 3.4 million 16-to-34 year-olds and one million “black and minority ethnic audiences” (BAME).
Also leading the charge was natural history juggernaut Planet Earth II, which, over the span of the six-part series, reached 30.3 million viewers and had 20 million requests on digital catchup service BBC iPlayer.
BAFTA-winning documentary Exodus: Our Journey to Europe, which revealed the grueling journeys of people smuggling themselves into Europe, “was particularly popular with BAME audiences,” the BBC stated, while The Real Marigold On Tour won BBC2 audiences as the biggest factual program of the year on the channel. The return of Robot Wars, meanwhile, served as the pubcaster’s youngest skewing overall program, grabbing a 33% share of audiences aged 16-34.
BBC iPlayer, which introduces younger demographics (16 to 34 years old) to BBC content, held its biggest year with an average 246 million monthly requests and grew its weekly reach of unique browsers 12% year-over-year.
“Of course, we are already on great creative form, but we know that we can never stand still. We always need to generate new ideas, innovate further and take greater risks. This is what has to motivate us constantly in all our traditionally-delivered services, but we now also need to look again to the online space – where competition is high, new audiences are most present, and where we can serve them in brilliant new ways,” said BBC director general Tony Hall in a statement.
He continued: “That means reinventing iPlayer. It was the biggest revolution of the last Charter, and it has been the number one video-on-demand service in the UK, reaching more people than any other. Now we need it to make the leap from a catch-up service to a must-visit destination in its own right.”
To do so, Hall and the BBC are hoping to double the digital VOD service’s reach by 2020, while quadrupling the time each individual person spends on iPlayer every week by tailoring content to reach the younger 16-to-34 age demographic.
On the commercial front, BBC Worldwide posted £210.5 million in cash returns over the course of the year, which was below the £222.2 million posted in 2015/2016. Profits, meanwhile, were up 17.6% year-on-year, at £157.3 million.