BBC iPlayer scores its best Christmas week yet

By Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter

The director-general of the BBC has revealed the iPlayer had its most watched Christmas week yet.

The catch-up service received more than 100 million requests in the week of Christmas.

In a new year message to BBC employees, Lord Tony Hall said the figure was up by a third on last year’s number.

He wrote in an internal email: “We are also starting to give people the iPlayer they want and deserve – with our best ever Christmas week, breaking 100 million requests, up by well over a third on last year’s figures.

Lord Tony Hall (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“We’ve wanted to improve iPlayer for a long time but have been held up by regulation. We’ve now got past that and are offering more box sets as well as making programmes available for longer.

“The verdict from audiences is clear: 2019 has been a record year with programme requests topping four billion for the first time. We must now go even further.”

However, Lord Hall also appeared to suggest the BBC will move to cut costs, saying the corporation faces “financial constraints” and will “have to make savings”.

He said he would be making an announcement on the matter during a livestream on January 15 from the new BBC Wales headquarters in Cardiff.

Lord Hall also said the broadcaster should “embrace” increased scrutiny following accusations of bias.

The corporation was accused of political bias by both the left and the right in the weeks leading up to the general election.

Lord Hall urged employees to respond to scrutiny “with confidence and without complacency”.

The BBC has been accused of bias (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He wrote: “Finally a word about some of the recent debate around the BBC.

“As the country’s national broadcaster we know the BBC will always be the subject of legitimate scrutiny. We also know this can at times arouse strong passions.

“We work for an institution people genuinely care about.

“We should embrace this scrutiny – as indeed we always have – with confidence and without complacency.

“I profoundly believe the BBC’s values and our output have never mattered more to Britain at this point in its history and that we have never been more relevant to the times we are living through.”

Questions over the BBC’s future have been raised by political figures since the general election.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reported to be looking into consulting on whether people who do not pay the licence fee for watching television or iPlayer should be prosecuted.

Lord Hall said doing more outside of London was a “personal priority” and that it was something the BBC had been “actively working on” in recent months.

He also highlighted the “need to continue to take the fight to fake news” and the importance of attracting more young viewers.