BBC boasts huge take-up of radio downloads

BBC Radio today announced that a trial of an MP3 downloading service, which saw 70,000 downloads of Radio 4’s In Our Time programme in November, had been a massive success.

Episodes of the Melvyn Bragg-fronted discussion show, which looks at the history of ideas ranging from the theory of thermodynamics to Goethe’s drama Faust, were made available to download in full in MP3 format for seven days after the broadcast date.

This “podcasting” service allowed the shows to be saved to a computer or a personal player such as an iPod, enabling the user to listen to the show even if they are not logged on to the BBC Radio website.

Using download applications such as iPodder, In Our Time could be “tagged” and automatically downloaded as soon as the latest edition of the show was made available online.

At present BBC radio shows can be listened to live over the net, or “on demand” after the date of original broadcast, with the user required to be logged on to the relevant BBC Radio site.

Simon Nelson, controller of BBC Radio and Music Interactive, said: “We’ve been surprised and delighted by the demand for downloads of what is one of our most challenging programmes.

“It demonstrates the public’s appetite for new ways of listening.

“Of course we recognise that we can’t offer all programmes in this way but we look forward to working with rights holders to explore ways we could learn from developments like this to drive radio listening forward.”

This is the second of the BBC’s radio download trials, with Nobel prize-winning poet and playwright Wole Soyinka’s 2004 Reith Lecture series on the Climate of Fear on Radio 4 receiving 50,000 downloads in April and May this year.

BBC Radio’s online services have received a boost recently with the news that Radio 4’s production of sci-fi comedy Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has had over 1 million on demand listens, and that an unprecedented 6.2 million users visited BBC Radio websites last month – an increase of 55% on the November 2003 figure.

Forty-eight per cent of visitors to BBC Radio sites also made use of online listening services, with Chris Moyle’s Radio 1 breakfast show overtaking The Archers as the most popular on demand BBC show, the self-styled saviour of Radio 1 getting 395,000 listens in November.

By Martin Hemming

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