In 2023 (January to November) there were over 2 billion plays of radio, music and podcasts on BBC Sounds, as listeners continue to enjoy a wide range of audio content from across the BBC.
Podcast listening saw an uplift of 34% on BBC Sounds compared to the same period last year. New and popular returning podcast titles helped drive listeners to BBC Sounds with something for everyone and a wide range of topics from history, comedy, current affairs, drama and true crime.
The top ten most popular podcasts of 2023 in the UK (based on BBC Sounds plays between January and November):
Jonathan Wall, Director of BBC Sounds says:
“It’s fantastic to see the continued growth and popularity of BBC Sounds. Our aim has always been to provide easy access to brilliant live and on-demand audio, whenever and however our audiences choose to listen. From news, investigations, live sport and music mixes for every occasion, BBC Sounds is the destination for top quality content.
"2023 has been a great year for BBC Sounds and we look forward to continuing to work with the industry to continue delivering knock-out content for our audiences.”
Mohit Bakaya, BBC Director of Speech says:
“It’s been a remarkable year for our speech titles, winning a record number of awards in 2023, across all genres from news, science and investigations though to drama, comedy and factual storytelling. This is reflected in the wonderful range of podcasts and programmes, commissioned by Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live, that have dominated listening on BBC Sounds and ensured that our digital offer for audiences goes from strength to strength.”
The top five titles on BBC Sounds by genre (includes podcasts and on-demand radio programmes)
News & Current Affairs
With another year dominated by the news agenda, Newscast and Americast ranked among the top five most popular news and current affairs podcasts on BBC Sounds, helping listeners make sense of the headlines on both sides of the pond. A Very British Cult and Ukrainecast also made the top five alongside the award-winning I’m Not a Monster with their hotly anticipated second series, The Shamima Begum Story.
Science and Consumer
BBC Radio 4’s Just One Thing – with Michael Mosley was the most popular science and consumer title on BBC Sounds this year, listeners enjoyed learning simple but effective tips such as eating turmeric and lifting weights. This was followed by Greg Foot’s Sliced Bread which delved into consumer fads like ice baths and weighted blankets to find out if they’re really worth it. The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry returned with a new series investigating listeners’ everyday mysteries. The Life Scientific and CrowdScience gave listeners some insightful conversations from leaders in their field, and answered questions about life, Earth and the universe.
Greg Jenner’s You’re Dead To Me was the most listened to history programme on BBC Sounds this year, with listeners tuning in for episodes exploring the lives of icons such as Agatha Christie, as well as a live special on Leonardo Da Vinci. A new title from BBC Radio 4, History’s Secret Heroes, narrated by Helena Bonham Carter also ranked highly among history programmes on BBC Sounds, with audiences captivated by extraordinary stories of some of the most fascinating unsung heroes from the Second World War. Witness History, followed by The Rest is History and Real Dictators were also in the top five most listened to history podcasts on BBC Sounds.
Desert Island Discs was the top entertainment programme on BBC Sounds with highlight castaways including actor and writer Adrian Edmondson and Stanley Tucci, both of which were among the most listened to episodes for all speech programmes on BBC Sounds this year. Danny Robins’ haunting adventures into the world of the supernatural continued to attract listeners this year making Uncanny the most popular entertainment podcast, so popular it launched as a TV series on BBC Two. Other top entertainment titles in the top five include Elis James and John Robins, Life Changing and Bad People.
The Archers was once again the most popular audio drama for listeners, with fans glued to the riveting rural excitement from Ambridge. Drama strand Limelight also proved hugely popular with titles including Bitter Pill and Spores. Conversations From A Long Marriage with Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam continued to entertain listeners while new drama People Who Knew Me starring Rosamund Pike and Hugh Laurie had listeners gripped. Other dramas in the top five include The Lovecraft Investigations.
Comedy continued to bring the laughs on BBC Sounds for listeners in 2023 topped by The Infinite Monkey Cage, which provides a witty look at the world through scientists’ eyes. Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4, Mark Steel’s in Town, It’s a Fair Cop and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue made up the rest of the top five most listened to comedies on the platform this year. Also hugely popular with listeners was Call Jonathan pie, brand new to BBC Radio 4 this year.
Gangster: The Story of John Palmer was the most popular true crime podcast, coinciding with BBC One’s drama about the infamous Brinks Mat robbery The Gold, followed by Lady Killers with Lucy Worsley, which returned with a new series investigating the crimes of women from the 19th and 20th Century. Other titles in the top five include Assume Nothing, Sport’s Strangest Crimes and season 2 of The Lazarus Heist.
In another bumper year of spectacular sport, listeners turned to BBC Sounds to follow all the action. With standout moments like the Lionesses’ inspiring journey to the World Cup Final, and Manchester City’s treble winning season, Football Daily was the most popular sport podcast this year, followed by Rugby Union Weekly who gave rugby fans their weekly fix, especially during Men’s World Cup in autumn. Test Match Special was the third most listened to sport programme on BBC Sounds last year, as listeners tuned in to hear latest from another dramatic Ashes contest as it unfolded. Match of the Day: Top 10 and Tailenders were also among the top five sport programmes last year.
With music to suit every occasion, there were a total of 47.6 million plays for music mixes on BBC Sounds. Helping listeners drift off with soothing sleepscapes, The Sleeping Forecast was the most popular music mix on BBC Sounds this year. Sounds of the 90s with Fearne Cotton was second, followed by Mindful Mix and Sophie Ellis Bextor’s Kitchen Disco. Soundtracking listeners’ workouts, Pace Setter was the fifth most listened to music mix this year.
The BBC’s Sounds annual figures includes smart speaker data for the first time, since April 2023.