In response the global growth of podcasting, BBC Radio is transitioning some of its program production from BBC Radio to BBC Studios. The move is part of continuing efforts by the broadcast to evolve its in-house speech audio production model to meet changing listening habits.
The proposal will see select factual, entertainment, and drama programming move to BBC Studios, the broadcaster’s commercial content production arm. The programming moved makes up about 8% of BBC Radio Network spending on speech content. The proposal is the result of a year-long review of BBC speech audio production with an eye on how the BBC could better tap into growing global demand for podcasts and other audio productions.
Worldwide, the number of podcast listeners worldwide has increased 69% from 2019 to 464.7 million people as of April 2023, according to Market.us. Currently the global podcasting market size is estimated to be worth about US$27.3 billion, but by 2032 it is forecasted to grow to about $233.9 billion.
stated: “Our plan allows the BBC to benefit from the fast-growing global audio market, enabling our distinctive audio content to reach wider audiences, open up more creative opportunities and bring more investment back into the BBC,” stated BBC Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore. “We’ve seen how world-class BBC programming that’s hugely popular with our UK audiences can go on to do great things with BBC Studios’ backing, so I’m excited to see what can be achieved by this plan, helping to put British podcasting on a global stage.”
According to the announcement, no cost savings or staff reductions are planned to accompany the move, which will happen on April 1, 2024.
“There’s real international appetite for content that is rooted in the BBC’s public service values and we’re excited by the prospect of growing our team and supporting their creative ambitions. We already deliver world class content to everyone from Radio 4 and BBC Sounds to Audible and Spotify and want to invest in more British audio IP,” stated Tom Fussell, chief executive officer of BBC Studios.
AudioUK, the trade body for independent audio production companies, noted that when BBC Television similarly shifted production to BBC Studios the government required the broadcaster to open all of its TV program commissioning to external competition. For radio programming, only 60% of “relevant hours” are open to external competition.
“The BBC’s decision to move some speech audio production teams into BBC Studios represent a step change in its approach, with it moving production capacity to provide further competition to the independent sector. As most independent audio production businesses specialize in entertainment, factual and drama, they will now face additional competition from the BBC in the wider market,” stated AudioUK Managing Director Chloe Straw.
“The BBC has assured us that it is committed to continuing to make 60% of all non-news network radio open to competition and it has also assured us that 100% of new speech commissions will be competed for, however there remain large parts of BBC radio and audio commissioning which are not open to competition from indie producers,” Shaw stated.
Under the proposal, journalistic, topical, and live audio speech programming will remain with BBC Radio, along with the long-running drama series The Archers. BBC Studios will produce radio content that has global appeal, such as “Desert Island Discs,” along with most dramas and documentaries. BBC Studios already produces most of BBC Radio 4’s comedy content.