The BBC today announced a range of impressive digital product updates today that cement its reputation as one of the world’s leading broadcasters when it comes to digital product innovation.
Director-general Tony Hall unveiled the changes and an ambitious global strategy at his first major speech after re-joining the Beeb in April. Here’s the full speech and here are the highlights:
— The iPlayer VOD service will get a 30-day catchup window, increasing from the current seven days, with added personalisation, seamless cross-device viewing, more exclusive non-TV content and the ability to create a “schedule”. iPlayer served 234 million requests in August, 30 percent from mobile and tablet. Details.
— Playlister is a new digital music product that links all the music you might hear on TV and radio with services including Spotify, Deexer and YouTube. So you hear something you like, you look it up, save it and take it with you using Playlister. BBC DJs will be getting involved with creating and curating lists. Details.
— BBC Store: Not much detail on this yet, but the Beeb will launch a new ecommerce platform for people to “buy, watch and keep” BBC programmes.
Update: My former colleague Robert Andrews points out that he reported on this in March 2012. “Project Barcelona” should be seen as an iTunes competitor and perhaps the most radical departure for the Beeb’s digital business model so far. As he put it: “Even new shows from the public service window, not just old classics, would be available for paid download immediately after transmission”
— News targets: Not a product launch, but a bold announcement nonetheless – Tony Hall wants BBC News to double its global audience by to 500 million people a week by 2022, its centenary year, through creating more global content and a renewed video push on the international-facing and (advertising-funded) bbc.com.
See a roundup of the rest of the changes from the BBC’s army of press officers here.
This is also he first sign of a concerted fightback from the Beeb’s senior management after a torrid 12 months.
Among other things, the corporation has been accused of failing to expose the fact it employed a paedophile (and spending £5 million investigating itself), of giving exorbitant payoffs to senior managers and wasting nearly £100 million on a five-year archive digitisation project.
As Hall puts it:
“I want a BBC that everyone can be proud of, whose best days lie ahead of it… I want the BBC of the future to have a much closer relationship with audiences. We should be treating them like owners, not just as licence-fee payers. People should not be saying ‘the BBC’, but ‘my BBC’, ‘our BBC.’”
the added personalisation is not just a way to improve UX but to increase public perception of the licence fee package.
His use of the word “future” is loaded with significance: for the BBC it is not certain. The BBC’s current Royal Charter and licence fee deal runs out in 2016 and horse trading will already be underway between power brokers in Number 10 and Broadcasting House.
As Steve Hewlett puts it, the Government always gets something it wants in these talks – whether it’s help with digital switchover, using licence fee money to fund broadband rollout or whatever.
Commercial publishers – with their strong lobbying powers and front page polemic – will look on jealously at such functionality and diversity in Auntie’s product mix and the debate will continue over what role it could and should play in a modern media economy.
The BBC remains an institutionally paranoid organisation. But its obsession with public opinion – or, more specifically, what the Daily Mail says about it – is borne of a very tangible existential threat. People love it. But it might not be around forever.
Here are what some smart tweeters are saying:
@psmith Not necessarily. It’s a good hedge against future Royal Charter negotiations + licence fee falling in real terms yoy.
— Paul Squires (@paulsq) October 8, 2013
Tony Hall’s speech on BBC future exhibits tension between more on-demand services and the licence fee. 1st draft of future subscription plan
— anne mcelvoy (@annemcelvoy) October 8, 2013
@psmith Playlister very smart move. Pushing radio as a discovery and recommendation mechanism is very canny – plays to its trad strengths.
— Tom Phillips (@flashboy) October 8, 2013
— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) October 8, 2013
Interesting thing about the new BBC iPlayer plans is how they relate to a Licence Free predicated on live viewing.
— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) October 8, 2013