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Exclusive: BBC Music boss tells PSNE how the Beeb drew a record-high Glastonbury audience

Daniel Gumble 28 June 2017
Exclusive: BBC Music boss tells PSNE how the Beeb drew a record-high Glastonbury audience

BBC Music and Radio director Bob Shennan has told Pro Sound News Europe how the network managed to up Glastonbury viewing figures by 12% to score its highest ever TV audience for the festival.

Some 20.9 million people tuned in to watch the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage this year, the highest audience in its history. And, according to Shennan, the Beeb’s record-breaking performance was down to a combination of diverse artists and a major push on social media to draw its audience.

“There were a lot of artists with huge fanbases such as Ed Sheeran and Foo Fighters, as well as artists with ageless, universal appeal that have been successful for decades, including Chic, Kris Kristofferson and Barry Gibb,” Shennan told PSNE. “There was also a lot of anticipation for the Radiohead set as it was 20 years since they had performed at the festival.”

He continued: “Social media is incredibly important in letting audiences know what is happening right now, to ensure that no one misses out on what’s available. Our social media offering for Glastonbury 2017 was the biggest to date. We had a team of expert editors and producers authoring six accounts across three platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

“These social platforms allow us to bring the right parts of the festival to our different audiences – so music lovers were getting the best parts of the festival for them, and likewise across all of our music brands. Using content produced both onsite and offsite we can bring the right content to the right audiences at the right time. We saw huge engagement across all of our accounts, a big increase on 2016. Our team created over 400 gifs, over 100 social videos, posted 100s of photos and worked with our colleagues across the BBC from News, Entertainment News, Television, and iPlayer.”

It was Ed Sheeran who delivered the highest ever average audience for a Glastonbury programme, with 2.9m – and a record 1m peak audience of 4.1m – viewers tuning in for his Sunday night headline set.

BBC Two’s 6pm programme with Barry Gibb’s Sunday teatime legends slot scored an average audience of 2.48m (peak 1min audience of 3.7m); another record for the programme broadcasting the legends set.

Meanwhile, BBC Two’s headline sets with Radiohead on Friday and the Foo Fighters on Saturday also performed well, with average audiences of 811,000 (1min peak 1.32m) and 1.6m (1min peak 2.5m) respectively, which, says the BBC, is well above their slot averages.

On BBC Four, a surprise appearance by Elbow on Friday drew the biggest audience to Glastonbury content on the channel this year with an average audience of 784,000 – that’s a share of 4.1% and a 1min peak of 1.03m at 21:56.

BBC Four also achieved its highest ever reach for Glastonbury coverage with a record 5.7m viewers watching for 3min or more, up 8% year on year.

Online, fans could watch Glastonbury performances on the BBC Glastonbury website and BBC iPlayer, with over 100 performances across six stages streamed live. The BBC saw 4.5m requests for live streams on BBC iPlayer and the BBC’s Glastonbury website throughout the weekend increased by 84% compared to 2016 – with 3.5m unique browsers to the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage online in the UK (up 23% on 2016).

Both Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage and Other Stage experienced technical difficulties over the course of the weekend, with Liam Gallagher and Katy Perry each enduring audio issues throughout their sets.

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