Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Tangled web

I'm sure there's a strategy - James Purnell is involved, after all - but the BBC seems to be in a muddle over Sounds.

The BBC Sounds Twitter account, meant to highlight the myriad joys on offer, is spending too much time banging out standard responses to grumpy punters. There are sufficient grumpy punters to challenge the Purnell assertion that Sounds does everything the Radio iPlayer did and more.

For example, no-one in the Purnell Bright Boys team seems to have recognised that a radio alarm clock is a popular concept, and with iPlayer Radio, you could just have one device on your bedside table, a mobile phone, charging gently and waking you up with live radio.  Or, if you'd gone all modern, you could have a bedside voice-assisted device, and, with the TuneIn function, achieve the same end. 'Cept the BBC has spurned TuneIn. The BBC keeps promising it'll work out how to fix an alarm alongside its Alexa 'skill', but it's not arrived yet.

(Below, an entertaining work round, using a mobile to talk to Alexa).

The BBC has taken its radio streams away from TuneIn, because it says it wants more data. It gets plenty of data from TuneIn in terms of numbers listening, but its clear it wants maximum downloads of BBC Sounds (to prove its a triumph), and the consequent commitment from users to 'sign in'.

Here some more circular thinking.  The BBC argues its cheaper to support just one audio app, so wants to drop the Radio iPlayer.  But it has to keep the Radio iPlayer working abroad, because

a) it can't really demand international sign-in - no competitor does, and radio listening counts quite a lot towards Lord Hall's target of a 500m global audience.
b) BBC Sounds is intentionally music-heavy, to attract yoof, but international music rights are tricky and expensive. If an international version carried ads, that might be even trickier.

Either way, it looks like a two-app future for some time.

Another challenge for the BBC: It argues, like commercial competitors, that it can't keep the Radio iPlayer working for those on old operating systems.  This offends a cohort for whom an iPad is a major expense, perhaps the only piece of new technology they've mastered, and public service is public service. There's already a request for the BBC to provide its Equality Analysis on the TuneIn closedown; expect one soon on the Radio iPlayer closure (especially if it's still going outside the UK).

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