Commercial Radio to Join iPlayer?

News in the MediaGuardian today about the BBC’s olive-branch to commercial radio with the potential creation of Listen Again for all of UK radio (commercial and BBC).

At first glance this seems a good thing. Listeners do love the BBC’s Listen Again/iPlayer for Radio services and are keen for commercial radio to provide the same (yes, I know some stations already do). However it does raise some interesting questions, and i’d counsel both sides to think about some of the issues this will create.

Consumers love on-demand listening, it suits them, and is absolutely something all radio stations should do. At the moment consumers come through radio station websites to do this. For commercial stations this generates lots of banner impressions and allows the showcasing of other content, both commercial and non-commercial to listeners. Indeed, it’s this premium content that pulls in listeners so they see some of the the er, less premium content, that we put online.

If however you create a new space where they go to consume this content, they no loner need to come to your station’s website – they’ll go directly to the portal. My hunch would be the BBC’s radio station websites have seen their usage drop since the emergence of iPlayer.

If there is a portal, will it be co-branded with the BBC? Will the BBC want to limit the commercial messaging within it, they are paying for it after all. Maybe you’ll get a pre-roll ad away, but what about integrations? Will you be able to brand the whole player? Will you be able to run a video-pre-roll instead? Will there be room for data capture? Can you run an MPU or an expandable?

For me the interesting things about the BBC being invovled is that they get to donate:

  • Bandwidth
  • Underlying Technology
  • Cross-Promotion

Personally I wouldn’t want to make the de facto place you consume my content on someone elses website. Whatever the good intentions.

What I would like is the UK radio industry to operate something (on their own sites) that has similar functionality and design values so that UK consumers could easily find and use it. How it’s dressed and integrated should be left to the broadcasters.

I’d also like integration for opt-in cross-promotion.

I’d like anywhere that the BBC suggests other content to include commercial radio, if relevant, as well. A funk show on Radio 2 should cross-promote a funk show on Jazz FM – if there’s value to licence fee payers. I’d also hope that commercial radio station could use it to cross-promote other inter-brand content, so Global could promote Galaxy programming next to Capital’s Dance Anthems.

I think some commercial stations would even cross-refer back to the BBC. I know for us at Fun Kids, we’d like our station to be the tap you turn for when you want children’s radio content. To that degree i’d probably be happy to link to the BBC’s excellent children’s content as well – especially if they were linking back.

There’s a great opportunity to work together for the good of UK radio, lets just not lose sight of how both sides’ organisations operate.

3 thoughts on “Commercial Radio to Join iPlayer?”

  1. Consumers love on-demand listening, it suits them, and is absolutely something all radio stations should do

    Not so for music stations, a small issue of music royalty payments gets in the ways for On-Demand use. The popular BBC radio downloads are usually speech based. It doesn’t mean other stations, who don’t produce speech programming should now do something similar.

    I might want to listen to the Archers outside of the schedule – it is a one off event, but we, the consumer, generally love to listen to the radio by simply switching it on. It is a station we choose to listen to, not a show, and at a time that suits us. It is up to the station to provide programming (content) suitable for the time.

    As music radio programming (content) is entirely based around the time of day, why would I download anything from the morning, say, and listen to it in the evening, a time is wasn’t designed for?

    And the general trend is moving away from Do-It-Myself to Do-It-For-Me as far as the Web and Internet is concerned. Anyway, live listening is On-Demand, if you think about it.

    Listening to radio on the Internet is only going to get more popular, even though the commercial industry side denies it is at all, doesn’t really want it or can afford it.

    The problem is that commercial radio does not understand the reality of the Internet, and how to monetize streaming based on that reality, hence the attitude of focusing on the website, not the stream.

    The answer is to get the stream to earn money. That will take more innovative thinking than sticking up a download link for the daily “highlights” of the “John and Jeff breakfast show”.

  2. Matt – perceptive points about the BBC hijacking commercial listening portals. So commercial radio ought to hijack back with DAB visual radio.
    When “Profile 2” receivers with slideshow start to appear, just make sure you can control screen real estate even when listeners have tuned to BBC R4. Imagine showing S&P slides during Woman’s Hour, or at 8:10 after the Today programme’s news bulletin and just before the boring political interview, show a slide of the music now playing on Classic FM. All possible with RadioDNS…..
    Now THAT’S visual radio!

  3. Now THAT’S visual radio!
    The fact that radio does not require pictures is its greatest strength. What this says turns it into something it is not which also destroys it as a medium. Radio is the most powerful medium of the Internet, but radio people seem not to understand why that is – so a clue here, there is no visual element required.

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