A recent report by GlobalWebIndex (GWI) has revealed that the publicly-funded BBC iPlayer service has a huge global audience which is using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or Proxy Servers to gain access to content from abroad.
The BBC iPlayer report uses figures drawn from the GWIQ1 2015 wave of research among over 47,000 internet users. The report states that at a global level, a quarter of online adults are using VPNs, which translates to over 375 million people across GWI’s 33 countries. Over half of users, it continues, are deploying them for the purpose of accessing better entertainment.
In every single country surveyed by GWI, one to eight per cent of online adults are using VPNs and accessing the BBC iPlayer. Globally, almost 65 million non-UK users are using VPNs to access content from the on-demand platform, which is publicly funded by the license fee. The highest percentage of VPN users accessing the iPlayer was in China (27 per cent), followed by India and Ireland. USA also ranks in the top ten, alongside predominantly Asian countries.
Yet the report points out that this is not all bad news for the BBC, as 75 per cent of these individuals are paying for TV subscriptions, with the figure rising beyond this in the USA, China and India. This means, the report continues, that international iPlayer users are 34 per cent more likely than the average internet user to be paying for such content. This provides an opportunity for the BBC to open up iPlayer to an international audience, which could provide much-needed additional funding streams.
The relative percentage of iPlayer users in the UK who pay for a subscription TV service, in comparison with other countries globally, can also be read as a positive. In the UK, only 58 per cent subscribe to a pay-TV service, compared to 82 per cent in the USA and a high of 95 per cent in Brazil. This could suggest a high level of satisfaction with the BBC channels and iPlayer service in the UK, meaning there is less desire for users to pay for additional services from other providers and thus giving credence to the broadcaster.
The report also looks at BBC iPlayer user numbers by demographics, second screening behaviours, and usage of other on-demand services.