BBC launches voice service for smart speakers

The BBC has launched its first voice app for voice-controlled smart speakers and an Amazon Alexa skill for Echo devices.

Listeners will be able to hear any of the BBC’s live radio stations, including local, national and international radio. The BBC’s range of podcasts are also available. With episodes of The Archers, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review and Woman’s Hour among the corporation’s 240 million podcast downloads last year, the BBC is the second-largest podcast producer in the world.

To use the skill, smart speaker owners need to ask for the BBC radio station or podcast they would like to listen to. They will be taken to the live show or the latest episode of a podcast. Commands to play, pause and resume will also work.

Other smart speakers will be supported in the future. New “voice experiences” exclusively for smart speakers will also be launched in the future.

Matthew Postgate, Chief Technology and Product Officer, BBC, says: “Smart speakers are an exciting new way of interacting with audio content. They’re a natural fit for the BBC as millions of people enjoy and rely on our audio programmes every day. Today we’re making sure audiences can find what they love from the BBC on any device they use through a single, easy-to-use service. But there’s potential to do more and we’re just scratching the surface.”

The new service from the BBC adds to existing content, such as the news briefing on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Many radio stations are already available on Amazon devices with Alexa. Jazz FM recently announced their own Amazon Alexa skill, which can be enabled by saying “Alexa – enable Jazz FM skill”. Once enabled, listeners can say “Alexa – play Jazz FM” to hear the station.

Other UK radio stations can also be streamed with the Radioplayer skill by saying “Alexa, ask Radioplayer to play Classic FM”, for example.