Series catch-up for speech-based radio programmes is here

Ever since 2002, when we started offering listeners the chance to hear radio programmes on demand via the original Radio Player, listeners have consistently asked to be able to catch up on all the episodes of series whilst that series is on air. There is nothing more frustrating, they told us, than getting interested in a serial in the third week and not being able to catch up on the first two parts which disappear after 7 days. In fact we became quite concerned that people might not even start listening to a serial if they felt they would not be able to keep up.

Well, today we have had good news. The BBC Trust has approved plans to introduce 'series catch-up' for radio and we will introduce it over the coming weeks. This means all episodes of a selected range of series will be available on our websites and via the BBC iPlayer until 7 days after the final instalment has gone out. The first series to offer this is the magnificent Classic Chandler on Radio 4.

Series catch-up covers speech-based programmes where we have the rights in place and where there is a clear narrative that progresses from one episode to the next. On Radio 4 look out in particular for future Classic Serial dramas such as Patrick O'Brien's The Mauritius Command and The History of Titus Groan as well as Agatha Christie dramatisations. Some of our big factual series such as The Reith Lectures or The Story of Economics or other long-running history series will benefit too as will comedy serials such as Ed Reardon and Clare in the Community. Series catch-up will be possible for landmark series on all of the BBC's radio networks.

We conducted a trial of this offer last year. One of the projects featured was the Complete Smiley. The results from the audience were very encouraging. 7000 people responded to our survey and the headlines were:

  • 90% of users surveyed claimed they listened to more radio online as a consequence of series catch-up being available.
  • More than half listened to programmes they otherwise wouldn't have listened to.
  • More than half listened to more BBC radio online due to series catch-up.
  • 37% said they had listened to episodes of series they would otherwise have missed without series catch-up.

We are working hard to make it easier for our audiences to hear more of our programmes online and this has been a good couple of weeks. The Series Catch up approval comes hot on the heels of the Radio 3 and Radio 4 service licence reviews in which the BBC Trust encouraged us to increase the amount of archive content we make available on our sites. As an example of this we have just launched a collection of interviews with the authors whose books are being featured on World Book Night on March 5th. There will be much more of this kind of activity and I will update you on our progress in the coming months.

Andrew Caspari is Head of Speech Radio and Classical Music, Interactive at the BBC


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