“Broadcasters should be promiscuous”


SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Joanna Sterkowicz reports from IBC in Amsterdam… One of the key points to be made at the opening session of the International Broadcast Convention (IBC) conference held on 8 September at Amsterdam RAI was that broadcasters should be promiscuous in their business strategies so as to survive the challenges of today’s multiple platform new media world.

So said John Smith of BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC. “We don’t regard the digital revolution as a threat to our business – rather it’s a world of exciting opportunities. However, that is not to deny that there are lots of storms ahead for broadcasters. But to deal with the changes in the global industry you have to be imaginative and brave. You won’t know upfront whether a venture will work or not but you have to be prepared to take chances. Nothing in the new technological world stops the BBC from growing its audiences and businesses.”

Smith has Post-it notes stuck to his desk to remind him of the four prongs of BBC Worldwide’s business strategy – Great content, Build brands, Try everything and Be everywhere. “Ïn 2005 the BBC set out to build a global business and we now have 24 offices in the major cities in the world. Sixty-two percent of our profit is generated outside the UK.

“The important thing to remember is that quality content remains key to any broadcaster’s business, no matter how popular user generated content (UGS) is or how many different types of screens you deliver content to. The method of delivery is second. It’s interesting to note that average televisison viewing across linear channels globally went up over the last year.”

Smith talked about how the BBC today operates like a brand manager rather than a broadcasters. “We’ve become an “and, and, and’ business and have physical and virtual products to support our programmes. To give an example of one of our top brands, Top Gear; years ago we produced the show and the only byproduct was books around the show and its presenters. Now we have local versions of Top Gear in five countries and clips on YouTube and iTunes. Social media is a hugely important marketing tool so we have added legitimate Top Gear clips on Facebook and the show now has 14 million Facebook friends.

“The advent of apps has opened up new marketing and distribution possibilities for us. So broadcasters have to have courage and find new ways to get their content to audiences. Our strategy in this era of constant technological change is to be promiscuous – to get into bed with as many partners as we can to try out new business ventures and new ways of delivering our top quality content. I believe British television is in a golden age with the likes of Downton Abbey, Top Gear, Dr Who, Torchwood, Sherlock and Dancing With the Stars.”

To find out what else Smith and his high level co-speakers from MTV and Channel 4 had to say read the October issue of Screen Africa.


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