Dramas including Line Of Duty, The Serpent and Time helped drive the BBC iPlayer to a record-breaking first half of 2021.

Programmes were streamed more than 3.3 billion times between January and June – up 8% on the same period last year and 59% on the same period in 2019 following significant growth in early 2020.

The first episode of the sixth series of Jed Mercurio’s Line Of Duty was the most popular episode on the on-demand service during that period with 8,745,000 streams.

BBC iPlayer stock
(Philip Toscano/PA)

This was more than any single episode across the whole of last year.

Viewers also revisited the previous five series of the hit BBC One police procedural, with the show streamed a total of 127 million times in the first six months of 2021.

Line Of Duty is now the second most popular programme of the year behind EastEnders, which is enjoying its best year on iPlayer with 140 million streams in the first half.

The first episode of BBC One thriller The Serpent, about Charles Sobhraj, one of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century, was the second most streamed episode with 6,092,000.

New prison drama – BBC One
Stephen Graham and Sean Bean in Time (Matt Squire/PA)

In third was the first episode of Time, Jimmy McGovern’s critically acclaimed BBC One prison drama starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham, with 5,572,000.

Sporting events have seen iPlayer get off to a strong second-half start.

The Euro 2020 final between England and Italy set a new live viewing record on iPlayer with 5.8 million streams, while the Wimbledon men’s singles final drew 1.7 million live streams as Novak Djokovic beat Matteo Berrettini.

Dan McGolpin, director of BBC iPlayer and channels, said: “There’s been a step-change in the popularity of BBC iPlayer over the last two years and during the first half of 2021 we’ve seen further growth including some incredible numbers for Line Of Duty, the best half-year on record for EastEnders and a spectacular performance for Euro 2020.

“It’s also fantastic to see so many brand new series attracting large audiences with The Serpent, Time, Bloodlands, The Pact and A Perfect Planet all featuring episodes in the iPlayer top 10.”

Most popular episodes per series on iPlayer between January and June 2021:

1. Line Of Duty – Series 6, episode 1 – 8,745,000 streams
2. The Serpent – Series 1, episode 1 – 6,092,000 streams
3. Time – Series 1 , episode 1 – 5,572,000 streams
4. Line Of Duty – Series 1, episode 1 – 5,190,000 streams
5. Euro 2020 – Round of 16: England v Germany – 5,113,000 streams
6. Bloodlands – Series 1, episode 1 – 4,638,000 streams
7. The Pact – Series 1, episode 1 – 4,201,000 streams
8. Traces -Series 1, episode 1 – 4,078,000 streams
9. Line Of Duty – Series 2, episode 1 – 3,541,000 streams
10. A Perfect Planet – Episode 1, Volcano – 3,484,000 streams