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BBC claims weekly global audience of 308m after adding in Facebook, Youtube and ‘entertainment’

By William Turvill

The BBC claims to reach a record 308m people a week across the world after changing the way it counts its audience.

The corporation now includes entertainment content, Facebook and Youtube views as well as BBC News usage in its estimate.

Its public aim is to have a global reach of 500m people by 2022.

On this day last year, a report commissioned by head of BBC News James Harding and written by Sir Howard Stringer suggested that the corporation was “punching well below its weight in the digital world” and said it should look to the success of Buzzfeed for inspiration.

Last year, the BBC’s annual "Global Audience Estimate" was 265m. The corporation claims today that this figure – which measured "news" audience and not "entertainment" – is now 283m. This is up from 234m in 2007.

A spokesperson said that the new "Global Audience Measure" (not "Estimate") figure, currently 308m, will be the one it aims to increase to 500m by 2022.

The BBC said that this count includes “BBC World Service, BBC World News, and BBC Media Action” as well as “the majority of BBC Worldwide’s BBC-branded direct to consumer services, where measurable and obtainable”. 

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It does not include audiences for programmes made or sold by BBC Worldwide to third party broadcasters and other platforms. The BBC also said that the figure counts combined figures so individuals will not be counted twice.

The BBC said: “Today’s figures include Facebook and YouTube reach for the first time (measuring engaged reach on Facebook which means counting people who interact with our news content.”

The BBC said in a press release that, for the first time, television (148m a week) overtook radio (133m a week). Online attracted 55m a week.

It said the World Service’s audience has increased by 10 per cent to 210m, with BBC World Service English recording a weekly reach of 52m, up 25 per cent.

Fran Unsworth, director of the BBC World Service, said: “These amazing figures demonstrate the importance and impact of the BBC around the world.  

“In times of crisis and in countries lacking media freedom, people around the world turn to the BBC for trusted and accurate information. Thanks to our digital innovation we now have more ways than ever before of reaching our audience – from the Whatsapp Service we set up during the West Africa Ebola outbreak to our pop-up Thai news stream on Facebook following the military coup.”

Tim Davie, director, global and chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said: “Today’s audience numbers show the global reach of the BBC to be strong and growing.  The consumption of branded BBC services across TV, radio and digital platforms speaks to the international appetite for premium content across all the genres for which we are best known – primarily news, but increasingly for drama, factual and entertainment.

“Having a robust but prudent measurement system in place also helps increase our understanding of our audiences, enabling us to serve them to the very best of our ability in the future.”

Today programme editor Jamie Angus revealed earlier this year that the BBC News website attacted a then-record 23m unique users on 26 March. He cited the departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction and the Germanwings Alps crash as the biggest news stories of that day.

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