Irish romantic drama Normal People was the most-watched programme by a distance on BBC iPlayer, with 62,706,000 streams between January and November.
The series starred Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in a beautifully-realised tale of the ebb and flow of younger lovers Marianne and Connell, based on Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel of the same name.
As a measure of its success, the next most popular programme to the BBC Three production was season three of Killing Eve, which has been streamed just under 40 million times.
The two programmes helped iPlayer record its biggest ever day in May, with 22.5 million requests made in one 24-hour period.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown are obvious in the figures: there were 5.3 billion requests to stream content on iPlayer across January to November, 33 per cent ahead of the same period last year, which was already 850 million requests higher than the whole of 2019.
Most requested series on BBC iPlayer in 2020
- Normal People, Series 1 – 62,706,000
- Killing Eve, Series 3 – 39,344,000
- MasterChef, Series 16 – 22,206,000
- The Split, Series 2 – 18,939,000
- Silent Witness, Series 23 – 17,181,000
- The Secrets She Keeps, Series 1 – 16,866,000
- Life, Series 1 – 15,838,000
- I May Destroy You, Series 1 – 15,735,000
- This Country, Series 3 – 15,341,000
- The Nest, Series 1 – 14,684,000
The cat-and-mouse spy thriller Killing Eve scored the biggest single episode of 2020, with the premiere of season three receiving 7.4 million requests. Normal People’s debut episode held second spot, with more than 6.3 million requests.
Most requested single episodes on BBC iPlayer in 2020
- Killing Eve, Series 3 Episode 1 – Slowly Slowly Catchy Monkey – 7,398,000
- Normal People, Series 1 Episode 1 – 6,378,000
- The Nest, Series 1 Episode 1 – 4,105,000
- Dracula, Series 1 Episode 1 – The Rules of the Beast – 3,489,000
- The Split, Series 2 Episode 1 – 3,458,000
- The Secrets She Keeps, Series 1 Episode 1 – 3,336,000
- This Country, Series 3 Episode 1 – A Letter from Slugs – 3,072,000
- Roadkill, Series 1 Episode 1 – 2,998,000
- Life, Series 1 Episode 1 – 2,891,000
- The Salisbury Poisonings, Series 1 Episode 1 – 2,670,000
EastEnders also performed well despite the three months it was off air because of the industry shutdown. It has received 163 million requests in 2020 and its return was also strong, with 62 million requests between September and November.
Dan McGolpin, controller of BBC iPlayer, said the streaming channel had received more than five billion requests for the first time: “It’s been a tough year for so many of us but through two national lockdowns and many difficult months BBC iPlayer has been there to keep us entertained and well informed wherever you are throughout the UK.”
McGolpin teased new content to look forward to on iPlayer over the festive season, including new series and new films such as the return of ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and the debut of US teen drama Pretty Little Liars.