Richard Castle, 35, of London, is a project manager in the aerospace industry, whose thirst for a creative outlet away from his day job coincided with the release of Windows Phone in late 2010. He also wanted to listen to the BBC’s radio shows on his Nokia Lumia.
Richard, who had done some coding many years ago, downloaded the development tools and started learning C#. Before too long, he had created several apps that provided live streams of the BBC’s national radio stations to Windows Phone devices.
Terms of Business
Mid-way through 2012, Richard added the BBC Podcast Lounge to his stable of apps.
This was, and is, a rather wonderful app that lets you browse, search and download from a 20,000-strong library of podcasts directly from your smartphone.
It was then that a letter from the BBC arrived. More letters were exchanged and Richard also had a lengthy face-to-face meeting with senior management within the BBC’s Future Media division.
Richard spoke to Conversations about the ensuing negotiations with the BBC, why it has actually ended up making his apps better and his plans for the future.
Did you get any reaction from the BBC when you published your first apps?
None at all. I always knew I was treading a thin line with them. I was hoping that they would be pleased with what I had done and would leave me to get on with it.
When did they eventually contact you?
It was in the middle of 2012 and their main objection was that I was using the BBC name and logo in the title, which was fair enough.
Plus, while they are happy for people to use their APIs, the app cannot solely feature BBC content; it needs to be augmented with content of a similar nature from other providers. The BBC cannot be given undue prominence within the app either.
They had every right to tell me to cease and desist and have Microsoft remove the apps. They didn’t do that, which gave me a bit of confidence that they were willing to work with me to make things right.
Did they have an issue with you charging for the apps?
Funnily enough, they didn’t have any issue with that. Their business terms allow it.
If I had been charging per radio show, for example, then that would have been an issue. But they had no issue with me charging a small amount to cover my development costs.
Has everything been settled now?
I reached an agreement with the BBC in the first week of January 2013, which said they would allow me to retain the apps as long as I made modifications to them.
I had to put forward a transition plan, which was to move away from solely using BBC content.
What’s the latest on the apps?
BBC Radio Player has been renamed to Radio Lounge and while it is still only offering BBC content at the moment, over the next couple of months we’ll be turning it into something that offers a broader range of radio content like TuneIn.
What about Podcast Lounge?
For me the silver lining was that without the dealings with the BBC, then this app would forever be a very small and niche player.
The new release beings a catalogue of over 20,000 podcasts from around the world. It is the largest and most accessible collection on Windows Phone. It uses the same interface that everyone likes and it’s become a better product as a result.
You can also add your own podcast feeds in there and one thing we do that no one else does is that when you plug in your handset to it charge up, Podcast Lounge will wake up in the background, sync your podcasts and then shut down again.
What else have you been working on?
I have 2-year-old daughter and we used to put Fun Kids on, which is a London digital radio station on the computer.
I contacted them and said I’d love to do your Windows Phone app. We had a couple of meetings and they made their API available. They published it themselves because they wanted control, which didn’t bother us.
I would love to do a National Trust app and I have contacted them on several occasions but I’ve struggled to get them engaged.
There are many other ideas I have in the labs, however Podcast Lounge is my main focus today. There’s a gap that Microsoft has left for podcasts that I’ve been going hammer and tongs to try and fill. I think it’s a great opportunity to do something big there.