BBC Wants to Create Worldwide Netflix for Radio

Janko Roettgers
Variety

The BBC wants to go worldwide with its radio programming, and is apparently looking to Netflix as a model for its global expansion: BBC Director-General Tony Hall said during a speech at the Voice of the Listener and Viewer Conference Wednesday that the broadcaster is looking to create a “Netflix of the spoken word.”

“One of my goals in the years ahead is to strengthen and expand those areas in which we really lead the way globally,” Hall said during that speech. “News, natural history and drama, yes. But also education, science and the arts. And audio.”

Hale went on to say that the BBC hasn’t done enough to make its radio programming available to a global audience. “The BBC makes the best radio in the world,” he said. “With our world-class content, we could use our current output and the richness of our archive to create a Netflix of the spoken word. It’s one of the things that will help the BBC carry the full weight of Britain’s culture and values, knowledge and know-how to the world in the years ahead.”

Hale didn’t say whether the reference to Netflix was any indication that the BBC was going to charge listeners abroad for BBC content, but it’s certainly a possibility: The broadcaster is being financed through a licensing fee in the U.K., but it has long pursued commercial opportunities in other markets, most notably through its BBC Worldwide subsidiary.

That subsidiary rolled out a global paid version of the BBC’s popular iPlayer video service on Apple devices in 2010, but shuttered the service last year. At the time, BBC Worldwide said that it was “developing plans to launch new digital services across multiple devices.”

 

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