BBC Shows Off Radio Player Deals; But It May Not Be That Easy

The BBC may have been barred, for now, from sharing its iPlayer with TV broadcasters – but it’s still offering to pump radio stations through the service.

Tim Davie’s audio and music division, which has, for some time, been wanting to create an industry-wide player to host streams from both BBC and commercial stations, now says it’s got the signatures of Global Radio, Guardian Media Group and industry body RadioCentre for the initiative, allowing it to stream over 400 stations plus some on-demand shows. Release.

As the mock-up video, for what’s called UK Radioplayer, shows, it’s essentially a technology project that offers access to the channels through a postcode-sensitive search box inside a pop-up web player. It’s an olive branch to a commercial radio industry beaten by the ad downturn and scared of BBC dominance. But there may be several sticking points with UK Radioplayer…

Light scrutiny?: While the BBC Trust blocked the proposal to share iPlayer this month (albeit on a silly technicality), the BBC isn’t yet submitting UK Radioplayer to formal trust approval, believing it’s not a new service but a marrying of existing technology backends. That would avoid scrutiny for public value and market impact. A spokesperson answers paidContent:UK: “The approvals path is still to be confirmed and we are in ongoing discussions with the BBC Trust.”

Ducking the block: The UK Radioplayer apparently is a variant of that same iPlayer that has been blocked from sharing. BBC Radio online is already iPlayer-powered and, as the mock-up video shows, the UK Radioplayer, too, will be badged “iPlayer”. So why isn’t it, too, blocked along with the trust’s recent decision? A spokesperson says: “iPlayer infrastructure will be used only for BBC networks and iPlayer branding will only be used only for these stations. ”

Advertising a big feature: The UK Radioplayer pop-up will afford commercial radio stations’ advertisers “sponsor takeovers or MPU (mid-page unit) ad serving”, and boasts “synchronous visuals for powerful advertising”, “local targeting” and advertising widgets. “Stations are free to innovate commercially”, the demo says. All this is on top, of course, of stations’ in-stream audio ads. Does supporting advertising sit with the BBC’s core mission, especially when, as the mock-up shows, all these commercial messages can be popped open from

I don’t think this one is a done deal yet. But there now seems sufficient will amongst commercial radio operators for the BBC to help it out that UK Radioplayer wouldn’t fail on a market impact assessment, at least..