Podcast boom continues as BBC Sounds reports 1.3bn plays

bbc sounds podcast report - Image by Csaba Nagy from Pixabay

In 2021 (January to November) there have been 1.3 billion plays of radio, music and podcast on BBC Sounds, an increase of 8% over a similar period in 2020, as listeners enjoy more BBC audio on their devices.

The latest figures also show there were 558 million plays of podcasts and on demand radio programmes on BBC Sounds in the UK in 2021, with a nearly 25% increase in podcast listening compared to the same period last year. 

On demand listening for music mixes on BBC Sounds also increased, up by 24% compared with the previous year.

BBC Sounds top ten podcasts

The top ten most popular podcasts of 2021 in the UK (based on BBC Sounds plays between January and November) were:

  1. Newscast
  2. You’re Dead To Me
  3. Fortunately… with Fi and Jane
  4. That Peter Crouch Podcast
  5. Americast
  6. Grounded with Louis Theroux
  7. Just One Thing with Michael Mosley
  8. Nuremberg: The Trial of the Nazi War Criminals
  9. The Battersea Poltergeist
  10. Match of the Day: Top 10

Jonathan Wall, Controller of BBC Sounds, said: “Listening to podcasts and music mixes has really grown again this year, with new music and podcast tabs on BBC Sounds making it even easier for listeners to find audio to suit what they’re looking for.

“It’s great to see our firm favourites and brilliant big name talent continuing to delight the audience, as well as new titles prove to be really popular this year.”


Listeners regularly turn to BBC Sounds for digestible information on significant events, with Newscast the most popular podcast on the platform this year. 

Americast also appeared in the top ten, with the episode on the storming of the US Capitol its most listened to. 

You’re Dead To Me’s episode on Ivan The Terrible was its most popular as the podcast continued to provide knowledge on a range of historical topics with a side of funny, whilst Fortunately… with Fi and Jane offered some familiar and great company in a time of uncertainty. 

That Peter Crouch Podcast and Match of the Day: Top 10 also remained hugely popular for people looking to get their sporting and chat fix.

bbc sounds - mediashotz
Sounds of success: BBC Sounds reports 8% rise in podcast listens.

Podcast episodes

Audiences enjoyed a wide range of content on BBC Sounds across the year which is reflected in the various podcast episodes proving most popular. 

The opening of Gangster which introduced Paul Massey and his rise in the criminal underworld was the most listened to podcast episode on BBC Sounds in 2021. 

Battersea Poltergeist captured the attention of many listeners this year with its immersive storytelling, episodes from the thrilling re-investigation into a paranormal cold case appeared multiple times in the list of most listened to. 

Continuing favourite, Grounded with Louis Theroux also featured with several episodes, his chat in which Frankie Boyle revealed candid anecdotes and confessions was the third most popular podcast episode of the year. 

Nearly 75 years on from the sentencing, Nuremberg’s – The Hunt performed strongly, offering a comprehensive insight into lesser-heard perspectives through compelling audio-drama. 

Michael Mosley’s Just One Thing provided wellbeing tips and the Early Morning Walk episode was the sixth most listened to as people looked at ways to help them through the pandemic. 

Our Obsessed With… strand became increasingly popular with fans who couldn’t get enough of their favourite TV dramas. 

This year’s Obsessed With… Line of Duty episode featuring Vicky McClure and hosted by Craig Parkinson charted highly in the most listened to podcast episodes on BBC Sounds in 2021.

On demand radio programmes

On demand radio continues to grow with changing listening habits, giving people the ability to listen to their favourite radio programmes on BBC Sounds whenever they choose. 

The Archers was the most popular on demand programme, with audiences also indulging in other much loved long-running series such as Desert Island Discs, In Our Time, Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. 

Under the helm of Emma Barnett and Anita Rani, Woman’s Hour also appeared in the top on demand radio programmes this year.


More listeners came to BBC Sounds for a range of music mixes to soundtrack their year, from the soothing sounds of our Mindful Mix, to reinvigorating workouts with the Pace Setter mix. 

Nostalgic tunes continue to delight as Sounds of the 90s with Fearne Cotton holds the top spot for a consecutive year. 

Glastonbury sets brought the magic of live music to homes around the UK, with Summer Sounds and The Happy Hour from Radio 1 continuing to lift spirits throughout an unpredictable year.