I have no desire to sit back and manage decline: BBC Radio’s Bob Shennan #RDE17

Saturday 25 March, 2017
“Radio is resilient and adaptable… but streaming has transformed the economics of the industry,” the new Director of BBC Radio told the RadioDays Europe conference.

Radio’s reach is at its second highest level in the UK since surveys began, so those who say radio is doomed should think again, but there are challenges, according to Bob Shennan.

“Whilst radio seems like it is doing well, it is also under immense threat. Media is being transformed, audience habits have shifted. We’re now part of a global market with many new entrants,” he said.

“At BBC radio we are responding with ambition to reinvent the radio experience, growing our linear and our new digital offerings and making them available to all audiences… creating world class radio.

“We need to be brilliant at linear radio which is the core of what we do (90% of consumption), but we also need to connect with audiences in the places they want to be… It’s easy to assume young people don't listen to the radio, they do, but they don’t listen to as much and they also do other things while listening.”

Shennan wants to transform the BBC’s digital offerings to reach new younger audiences.

The BBC is the most listened to podcast broadcaster in the UK, with two and a half million people consuming podcasts every week.

BBC Radio also has successfully added visuals to its audio output. The iPlayer radio app has been downloaded by 12 million users, 100,000 hours of Radio One visual content is viewed every day.

“The future of BBC Radio will always rely on our ability to create great content in speech and music, accessed in the most convenient way. As the BBC approaches its 100th anniversary, we will remain as relevant as ever,” said Shennan

Building on its success so far, he wants to push further:

“There’s more we can do in the podcast space… creating personalised services for people to go on an audio journey of discovery, perhaps aggregating other people’s content… It will be more than just consuming our linear brands, it will enable people to dive deep into audio content in a friction-less way.

“Listen, look and share is the strategy.”

Dropping a bombshell in the way BBC Radio will be produced in the future, Sheenan said that, as a result of a recent review of the BBC, about 60% of radio and podcast content will be contracted out to deliver “the best ideas and best value for money from external suppliers of content.”

News and current affairs content will not be outsourced, but other content production will be progressively contracted to the private audio production sector.

Bob Shennan is looking to the future in his new job as Director of BBC Radio:

“I have no desire to sit back and manager decline. This is a time when we need to maintain a future for radio in the next 100 years.

“All radio broadcasters must act together… we’re in this together, divided we will fail but if we work together we will succeed.”

View Bob Shennan's conference presentation and discussion below.

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