BBC boss: we will create a Netflix of the spoken word

Director general Tony Hall says the BBC could do far more with its audio content - and lays down the gauntlet to the streaming giant

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BBC director general Tony Hall is to reveal he wants to turn the Corporation into a “Netflix of the spoken word”.

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The editor-in-chief is to deliver a speech today [Wednesday] in which he will set out his ambition to do more globally with the BBC’s audio output and production.

He will tell lobby group The Voice of the Listener and Viewer at their autumn conference that Britain produces the very best radio in the world, but that the BBC can do more to make use of its world class audio content and huge archive.

While he is not expected to offer a large amount of detail, Hall will point to the way the BBC reinvented the way people consume the Corporation’s video content via iPlayer and will say that the BBC will now aim to do this globally for audio to create a “Netflix of the spoken word”.

This, he will say, will help promote the full weight of Britain’s culture and values, knowledge and know-how to the world. 

It is not yet clear whether the BBC will create a new platform for this venture, but a senior source revealed that Hall has appointed his “very best boffins” with the task of exploiting the BBC’s audio content across the world.

“We were not saying yet how, but we do believe that our content, especially our drama and speech, is world class and we could be doing more. We’re not saying you can’t access BBC radio content around the world, but there is vast potential here which we can tap.”

RadioTimes.com has been given an advance sighting of sections of Hall’s speech in which he says: “One of my goals in the years ahead is to strengthen and expand those areas in which we really lead the way globally. News, natural history and drama, yes. But also education, science and the arts. And audio.

“In fact, one of the big challenges I have set my teams is just that: to enhance our global audio offer. The BBC makes the best radio in the world. It is one of our crown jewels, and we have an extraordinary wealth of audio riches at our disposal.

“But, with the level of excellence we have, are we doing enough to push the fantastic drama, arts, comedy and entertainment we deliver on the world stage?

“With our world-class content, we could use our current output and the richness of our archive to create a Netflix of the spoken word.

“It’s one of the things that will help the BBC carry the full weight of Britain’s culture and values, knowledge and know-how to the world in the years ahead. And say something really important about modern Britain.”

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According to sources, work is at the early stages, and the BBC expects to reveal more detail in the spring.