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BBC Studios plans to sell adverts on podcasts on commercial sites

The Traitor Uncloaked
The BBC's Traitors podcast ran parallel to this year's TV series

The BBC is planning to sell adverts on some of its podcasts, for UK listeners on sites such as Apple and Spotify.

"Adverts are the norm" on commercial platforms, BBC Studios said, and would "generate more revenue to support the BBC, licence-fee payers our suppliers and rights holders".

But listeners on BBC Sounds would still hear the same content uninterrupted.

In December, the licence fee increased by a smaller amount than expected, leaving an estimated £90m funding gap.

And with more BBC critics suggesting a universal fee no longer makes sense in a digital era of abundant choice, there has been speculation its funding model could change.

Streaming services

The BBC's smaller drama, comedy and factual podcasts will carry ads from late 2024.

And if this succeeds, they will start to appear on higher-profile podcasts such as Desert Island Discs and The Archers.

News and current-affairs podcasts will not carry ads, however.

And the plans are subject to regulatory assessment.

'Wreaking havoc'

But News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith said they were "very alarming".

"Such an intervention will profoundly distort competition, wreaking havoc on commercial players right across the media and advertising sector," he added.

Måns Ulvestam, co-founder of podcasting company Acast also worried the adverts "will cannibalise every other podcast's revenue, because it will be very easy to sell BBC ads in the UK".

BBC Studios already sells ads on BBC podcasts outside the UK.

It also sells audiobooks - but last year, 75% of its revenue came from streaming services such as Amazon's Prime Video and Netflix.

Meanwhile, BBC Sounds generated 1.6 billion plays last year.