19 May 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Normal People obliterates BBC's most-streamed series record as iPlayer enjoys landmark year
08 Dec 2020 : Nathan Griffin
Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones in Normal People.
In a year that has seen most of us spending our downtime in front of our TV and laptop screens, one major benefactor of the time spent indoors has been the BBC and its iPlayer, which has already announced a record year of 5.3 billion requests.

As it stands, this figure is currently 33% ahead of the same period last year. With Christmas around the corner, this figure will likely see another significant boost before the year is out as the current figures only account for viewership up until the end of November.

More startling than this news, is the fact that Element Pictures' adaption of Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel Normal People has become the BBC’s most-streamed series of all-time, earning 62.7m views since it launched in April of this year.

Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson, who helmed the first six episodes of the show described the streaming numbers as “hard to take in” when speaking with IFTN.  

“We knew when we were making the show that it was very strong but we thought, perhaps because we were working in a fairy low key style, that it might have a relatively specific audience,” Abrahamson continued. “It’s success is a testament to the brilliant talent that worked behind and in front of the camera.”

To contextualise the significance of the Irish drama’s success, the three nearest competitors on the BBC iPlayer in 2020 were action drama Killing Eve (39.3m), culinary series Masterchef (22.2m), and legal drama The Split (18.9m).

By May of this year, Normal People had already broken the BBC Three viewing record on the iPlayer racking up 16.2m requests, driving BBC Three to its best-ever week for programme requests, and more than doubling the previous record set by Killing Eve (10.8m) in 2018.

Starring Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Connell and Marianne, the 12-part relationship drama has been a hit with audiences and critics alike, with the best performing episode generating 6.4m requests from viewers in the UK.

Although it is difficult to compare Normal People’s success to competing limited series’ available on other streaming platforms, one must only be reminded that the BBC iPlayer is geo-blocked unlike most flagship series on international SVOD platforms.

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