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BBC adds live show restart and autoplay to the BBC Sounds app

By | Published on Tuesday 26 March 2019


The BBC has rolled out what it is calling a “major update” to its BBC Sounds set-up, the app that launched last year offering interactive access to the Corporation’s radio programmes and other audio treats.

The two main new developments are the ability to restart live programmes and an autoplay feature that will line-up follow-on programmes or – where there aren’t any additional editions of what the user is listening to – other recommended shows. The latter, of course, makes using the app more like the Spotify, Apple Music or Netflix experience.

The live restart functionality is already available to people listening to stations via the BBC website, but it is not a feature of the BBC iPlayer Radio app, which BBC Sounds is intended to replace. It means listeners can tune into a current live programme, but then restart or rewind it. They can also pause the live show and resume listening later.

The Head Of BBC Sounds, Dan Taylor-Watt, says of the upgrade: “We’ve been listening to feedback and heard that being able to pause, rewind and restart live radio was a key feature listeners wanted to see added to the BBC Sounds app, giving them more control over their live listening experience”.

“Additionally”, he adds, “autoplay will enable listeners to enjoy an uninterrupted on-demand listening experience, making it easier to listen to back-to-back episodes of a podcast or radio series and discover brilliant new audio without lifting a finger – something our live radio schedules have been doing for years”.

There’s been something of a mixed reaction to BBC Sounds, which is seen as part of the Beeb’s efforts to make its radio output more attractive to a younger online audience. Plans to switch off the aforementioned iPlayer Radio app have reportedly been put on hold, given some listeners have said they much prefer the older app to the new one.

Meanwhile, from a music industry perspective, the BBC making its radio and music services ever more interactive on mobile devices has thrown up some interesting licensing questions. The record industry licenses the BBC via its collecting society PPL with artists receiving 50% of any royalties paid as Performer Equitable Remuneration.

However, as radio becomes more interactive, especially where mixes or playlists are provided rather than conventional radio programmes, some labels argue that that moves beyond the reach of the PPL licences, which would pose challenges for the BBC as it seeks to further enhance the functionality of the Sounds app. And also impact how artists get paid.