BBC pulls its stations from Radioplayer, and the RAJAR figures

In a potential act of oblivion (see above), the BBC has pulled its stations off Radioplayer, the cross-app platform that it helped fund. UK listeners now have to download the BBC Sounds app.

Radioplayer was the thing I spent my last few months at the BBC occasionally working on, and I remember presenting to the heads of commercial radio, demonstrating how the player might look (it was only a web player at the time), and how it might all work. Run very successfully by Michael Hill, the much-admired service is now in a number of different countries, with integrations with car manufacturers, smart-speaker platforms as well as apps. It’s just launched in Finland.

The BBC has pulled some of its podcasts from general release (for the first 30 days), in a “trial” that was announced more than twelve months ago and which, a BBC press person tells me, is on-going with no public end-date. It pulled all of its podcasts from Google Podcasts when that launched, complaining that it didn’t want Google’s player to appear in the results instead of its own. I also hear from podcast producers that any success on third-party platforms like Apple Podcasts or Spotify don’t matter when the BBC is judging the success of shows.

After all this, in Q4/22, 188mn plays within BBC Sounds were to on-demand content, excluding music mixes. The corporation also saw 259mn podcast downloads on third-party platforms. In other words, podcasts don’t perform nearly as well on BBC Sounds: that 188mn figure is made up of both podcasts and catch-up radio, after all.

The reason for this requirement to use BBC Sounds is, of course, data. After I worked out the arcane anti-pattern of actually requesting it, I examined the BBC’s data that it had collected on me to discover that it gets data every second I’m using the app: even collecting data for ten minutes after I stop using it.

To force listeners to download an app is understandable if you’re a commercial radio station, where you’d like to monetise the visit as much as possible. I’m not sure it’s the right strategy, but commercial radio can do what it likes, since it lives or dies by the revenue it makes.

The BBC is different, though. Its funding is guaranteed through a legally-mandated TV licence fee: one that gets single mums threatened with prosecution for not paying and was responsible for 50,000 prosecutions for non-payment in 2021 alone. If nothing else, that should mean that its output is made available to the UK public in whatever form the UK public want to listen: rather than forcing a download of a specific app. That, truly, would be a public service.

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It was the quarterly radio figures in the UK earlier this month. Matt Deegan has written a long post looking at the numbers. So, too, has Adam Bowie.

What I get out of the data is a continuing fall for BBC Local Radio (in England, down by 15.3% in y/y reach, and down by 11.9% in y/y hours). This is ahead of the programming sharing that they’re about to start doing.

What I also see is Boom Radio (oldies) more than doubling their total reach (up 119% y/y), and doing even better in terms of hours (up 137% y/y). Normally these don’t go up that way - newer listeners tend to be less committed. Of course the heritage presenters are a major part of the offering, but I also wonder whether the music mix for the station is “un-Spotifyable”; that is, it’s difficult for any algorithm to quite match the kind of service that Boom is. I wonder whether it’s a relatively unique format in that case.

And LBC (talkback), the station of choice when I was in the car recently in the UK, continues to do excellently. I do think there’s a big difference between the future prospects for speech radio when compared to music-intensive formats; but the RAJARs don’t seem to agree, with Heart (AC) doing well.


  • Fun Radio in France has been fined more than €11mn (US $12mn) for encouraging listeners to tell audience researchers that they listen to Fun Radio. Some “fun” facts:

    • All this happened in 2016, which shows the speed of this sort of thing
    • They did mention this more than a hundred times (!)
    • Their audience increased “in a very unusual fashion” as a result
    • Competitor NRJ will get €10mn in damages
    • Fun Radio is now owned by M6 who claim they had nothing to do with it anyway
    • M6 will appeal
  • After ceasing programming on 1215kHz AM with some beautifully-produced audio, Absolute Radio turned their transmitters off, one by one, on 25th January. Here’s a recording of Moorside Edge being turned off - I used to live just over the valley from these transmitters. (I also notice, with some satisfaction, that the switch was thrown at the end of the looped announcement, not during it.)

  • A rebrand for KPCC. The station will now be known as LAist 89.3, the same (slightly unwieldy) brand that is used for the company’s podcast and online services. Call-signs seem very anachronistic in 2023; though one benefit is, at least, that they form a unique ID for any station that uses one. At least that’s useful for a smart speaker.

  • Hot on the heels of their signing of Ken Bruce, Bauer’s Greatest Hits Radio has fallen back on tried and tested biscuit content.

  • Dee Ford, the head of the UK’s Bauer radio group, is leaving the company after 35 years. In the mid 1990s, she was my managing director for a short while, and was one of those people you admired greatly and wanted to do your best for.

  • Fun fact: twice as many people use teletext in Norway than use Twitter.

  • And another fun fact: YouTuber MrBeast has comparable hours of viewing across his videos to a top 5 Netflix show.

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