Tablets nab BBC iPlayer viewing crown off smartphones for first time

New data from the BBC indicates that tablets have overtaken smartphones as the device of choice for the UK's mobile viewing masses.

According to the Beeb's latest performance report, slate devices accessed iPlayer 200,000 more times than phones in March - the first time that the handset has failed to top the pile.

Mobile requests as a whole continue to grow at a staggering rate and now total 30 per cent of total iPlayer usage.

"It's a huge moment for us," said Dave Price, the head of BBC iPlayer.

"Whether it's in bed, in the bath or on the train, tablets have opened up use cases for iPlayer that just weren't there before," he added.

In all, iPlayer was accessed 272 million times in March, with the BBC attributing the high viewing figures in part to the prolonged cold spell that has affected the UK, but mostly to consumer adoption of mobile technology.

"The weather and a strong schedule have been a part of it but by far the biggest factor is the sales of devices in the run up to Christmas and the January sales," Mr Price commented.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the BBC's study indicates that the typical iPlayer viewer is a relatively youthful specimen - research indicates its core market is "strongly under-55," in Beeb parlance.

Daytime and late-night viewing fared especially well on iPlayer compared to normal television, the report noted, with Top Gear's Africa special the most popular programme across all BBC services, topping radio drama Neverwhere and annual charity chuckle bonanza Comic Relief.

The BBC is expected to continue to invest heavily in its iPlayer VoD platform. At the beginning of March, Britain's national broadcaster launched a Windows Phone app. The BBC has also confirmed it will be launching Peter Kay's new sitcom, Car Share, on the iPlayer ahead of a debut on terrestrial TV.