BBC Radio 1 dials up on-demand programming to become the "Netflix of music"

The station boss says it will produce 25 hours of weekly content available for listeners whenever they want

BBC Radio 1

BBC Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw [BBC]

The head of BBC Radio 1 has announced that the station will launch a new strategy that will see it commissioning 25 hours of à la carte programming available to listeners on demand in an effort to become the “Netflix of music radio.”

Ben Cooper said his aim is for the flagship station in the British broadcaster’s radio network to ape the Netflix model and make content available to listeners on mobile devices whenever they want it, regardless of the broadcast schedule.

“We have 25 hours of programming that is made for your phone,” Cooper told The Guardian, adding “The reason for this is I believe going forward Radio 1 should have curated on-demand programming on a par with live on-air programming.”

Cooper plans to launch the project in the coming months, with the output set to stretch beyond the initial 25 hours a week by next year. Among the programme options expected to kick off the on-demand plan include Radio 1’s Top 10 Most Played Tracks of the Week, New Music Friday, and playlists of specialist songs that proved popular during the week.

“The reason I am doing this is because of what I see happening in the TV industry with Netflix,” Cooper said. “Netflix are investing something like $30m an episode in [their forthcoming Queen Elizabeth II drama] The Crown. On House of Cards, they spent perhaps $6m an episode. If you look at that have a choice of giving yourself an hour of TV, what are you going to choose? You are going to choose the one that looks the best and has the biggest stars and money invested in it. I think the same is happening with audio.”

The BBC’s radio department has several prominent members of staff poached by subscription music services in the past, including Zane Lowe’s high-profile defection to Apple Music. Apple also counts the rapper Dr Dre and singer/songwriter Elton John among its roster of presenting talent, and Spotify also poached Radio 1’s former head of music George Ergatoudis.

“Spotify and Apple are trying to take our crown of being the place to discover new music,” Cooper said. “I have to keep one step ahead of the game. As a radio station, we have to think phone first. The globalisation of media and the amount you can invest in an hour of content, I think that is coming to audio next.”

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