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THE BEEB
BITES BACK

Heads are being scratched within BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra over how to remain ahead of the curve when faced with competition from streaming services when it comes to spotting and breaking new talent, while delivering engaging content that rivals Beats and Carpool. So what’s the plan?

The station’s next challenge is to shift sole focus from live radio to “on-demand phone-first” programming. Controller Ben Cooper told The Guardian his youth station plans to become the “Netflix of music radio” by commissioning 25 hours of on-demand programming that’s made for the phone. The scheme will launch in autumn and go beyond 25 hours next year.

According to an internal memo, Head of Music Chris Price is currently recruiting two senior editors who can help manage the growing schedule of on-demand curation in order to “future proof the way we work” and “respond to significantly increased competition in the digital music market.”

In Q2 2016, Radio 1 recorded its lowest reach in 13 years, with 9.4m listeners each week, according to Rajar figures. However, Cooper says that's only part of the picture as its audience on digital platforms grows (Radio 1's YouTube channel stands at 1bn views and its social media platforms boast over 8.5m users). 

Spotify has recently tempted two BBC Radio execs away with former BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s playlist boss, George Ergatoudis, who joined in December as Head of Content Programming, and Austin Daboh, former 1Xtra Music Manager and an expert in grime, garage and urban genres, has joined the streaming service as Senior Editor, Content Programming U.K. The moves have a whiff of the “Apple crumble” that took place at the Beeb in 2015, when Zane Lowe and four producers exited BBC for roles at the soon to be launched Apple Music.

Some musings: What kind of original content will get the younger generation excited about new music? How will Radio 1 revive its position as a tastemaker by finding and breaking interesting new music as streaming playlists get smarter? Who will they tap to help them do that? Stayed tuned.  

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