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How our podcasts are doing

James Purnell

Director, Radio & Education

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Last June, I said we were going to be doing more podcasts.

Here’s an update on how it’s going. Overall, pretty well.

In September, in the UK, there were nearly 26.5 million downloads of BBC podcasts. That’s the highest number we’ve seen since August 2015 when we started recording downloads as we do now and an increase of around 10 million since then too. The previous record was 23.4 million.

There were 14.6 million Radio 4 downloads in the last month, more than we’ve ever had before and up from around 11m three years ago. Brilliant new podcasts such as The Ratline, our investigation into the mysterious disappearance of a senior Nazi, and comedy podcast Flip have contributed to the record as well as ones which regularly top the charts such as Friday Night Comedy and Desert Island Discs - not to mention the award-winning Fortunately.

For Radio 5 live there were around 4.7m downloads, the first time there have been more than 4m and up 60% from around 3m on the previous month. New podcasts such as That Peter Crouch Podcast as well as Football Daily and the return of Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy are drawing in loyal listeners in big numbers.

Radio 1 also had its highest number of podcast downloads - over 750,000 and up 30% since the previous month with popular podcasts like The Greg James Podcast and Scott Mills Daily doing particularly well.

Around the world, there were nearly 63m downloads - also a record - with over 24.5m for BBC World Service podcasts.

We can see how listening habits are changing. Live broadcasting accounts for 88% of listening among the over 55s but that falls to 48% among 15-24 year olds (according to this RAJAR Midas research).

Six million of us listen to podcasts every week - that’s almost doubled over the last five years. It’s gone up by around a third in the last twelve months.

Contrary to what is sometimes said, younger listeners are listening to speech and music - but in the way that they want.

Audiences are passionate about the BBC and nowhere is that more true than radio. When a much loved presenter decides to move on, they are quick to tell us what they think and who should replace them. Long may that continue. It shows that we are doing something that really connects, that people love.

We want to build on that to help grow the sector for all audiences. Even though these numbers are rising, still only 11% of the country listen to podcasts each week.

Growing the market for everyone is one of the roles of our new app - BBC Sounds. We’ve been testing it with audiences and they’re already telling us that it’s helping them discover a much wider range of content. Introducing them to podcasts. Helping them find new music. Widening their interests.

It’s just the start - watch this space…

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