iPlayer records for BBC Three fuelled by older viewers

BBC Three's target audience of 16-34 year olds make up less than third of streamers for new hit drama from the online channel.

Normal People, adapted from Sally Rooney’s novel of the same name has received over 16.2 million iPlayer requests for the series in its first week of availability, making it the most requested BBC Three series in a seven day period.

But less than a third of those requests came from BBC Three's target age group, despite being the biggest streamers, according to BBC numbers released today covering the first week of availability, which indicated the series had nearly five million requests from 16-34 year olds.

All episodes of the drama have been made available on the BBC iPlayer. Additionally, 60 minute versions of the drama are being shown on BBC One every Monday in the prime 9pm slot.

Normal People accounted for over 70% of all BBC Three programme requests on the BBC iPlayer during the week starting Sunday 26th April 2020. Overall, BBC Three programmes clocked up over 21 million iPlayer requests that week.

It's the highest performing BBC Three show on the iPlayer since the debut of Killing Eve on the service in 2018.

However, critics are concerned that the BBC is using such high profile shows, which also get a primetime showing on BBC One, to inflate BBC Three statistics. The BBC has been desperate to maintain viewers under the age of 35, with Ofcom warning last October it was risking losing a generation of viewers.

Earlier last year, the BBC reinstated a strand of programmes from BBC Three on weeknights after the BBC News at Ten, with BBC Three's Fleabag among the shows getting an outing on BBC One. But the BBC continues to face stiff competition from online rivals such as Netflix, Amazon Prime video and YouTube in capturing the interest of under 35s.

Speaking of the success of the drama, Fiona Campbell, Controller, BBC Three, said:

We’re delighted that Normal People has been such a success and so many people have come to iPlayer to watch it.
From the initial read-through, the phenomenal thought and preparation the directors put into everything from the aesthetics and locations through to the costumes, we felt this incredible piece would always be unique, and it's clear the audience thinks so too. It’s a modern masterpiece which has helped in catapulting the careers of two brilliant young actors, and we’re looking forward to bringing more drama to BBC Three in the future.