Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Future of the BBC - takeaways from Danny Cohen's interview at RTS

I sat in on an interview with Danny Cohen at the RTS last night. The topic was the future of the BBC and there were a few nuggets on channels, iPlayer and the BBC online that I felt like sharing. Here goes:

Channels still have relevance

In general, channels are still important - people are launching them rather than shutting them down. The BBC will also be using iPlayer to create permanent channels for their big brands, like Radio 1 and pop-up channels for big events like Wimbledon, Glastonbury and the Proms.

Program moves will continue to occur - for example Great British Bake Off is moving from BBC 2 to BBC 1 - even though it regularly hits a 7 million audience on the former, Danny believes that the shift to 1 will boost that audience even further. Even in a digital, multi-platform world the channel brand and EPG position is an important factor in people's decisions about what to watch. He gave the example of Andy Murray tennis matches, which sometimes start on 2 and move to 1, where audiences suddenly jump up.

Although unpopular with channel controllers, this benefits the portfolio as a whole and can be done without changing the look and feel of the show.

iPlayer will now be a TV channel

Danny announced that he's going to appoint a Controller of iPlayer and start to operate the online video service as a fifth channel. Strategy for the iPlayer product will stay with TV, with a heavy influence from Future Media. (We'll see how that pans out - the iPlayer technology platform seems to be getting bigger and bigger, with My BBC and direct selling coming down the track)

£100 million of investment will be freed up to invest in the iPlayer-first content portfolio and to create an "online programming space" that will encourage the YouTube generation to experience the BBC. It was unclear what this means: I suspect it'll be some kind of sandbox environment where people can assemble BBC content into short form mash-ups and then put them on an iPlayer channel... but we shall see.

The divisive effects of personalisation

iPlayer personalisation is a slightly contraversial issue as the greater the emphasis placed on that connected platform, the greater the difference in experience enjoyed by the affluent, connected South East and the rest of the country.

The BBC will be working with Martha Lane-Fox's go-on initiative to promote broadband. Their view is that in the ten year+ time horizon TV is likely to be more broadband than broadcast and therefore this is a must. (I'm not sure I agree with this view, although I remain skeptical about the long term future of terrestrial broadcast).

The UK is still a Drama innovator

There is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the UK creative industry about the sustainability of British drama. The cool running in the genre appears to be coming from Denmark!

Danny's view was that there's things we can learn, but in fact UK drama remains popular in the US, just as 2 or 3 of the c.150 US dramas their networks fund are popular in the UK.

The idea that a 13 or a 26 part series is good and everything else is passe is faintly ridiculous as stories should be given the length they deserve rather than an arbitrary number of episodes to get them to the 100 episode lower limit for syndication.

Basic and raw - the YouTube generation

In one of those brilliant moves by old-skool TV executives trying to understand the yoof of today, the RTS invited "Finn and Jack" to represent the views of the YouTube Generation (only "Finn" turned up, looking like a generikit outcast from Made in Chelsea). It was amazing how imbecilic and out of touch they were.

Apparently, kids don't watch any TV. They don't like it. YouTube is much cooler because it allows people to engage with audiences on a "basic, raw level". They can interact. Tell you how l33t you are, or how epically you fail.

For example, the infamous Chantel Meyers suggests: "your not a nob is that how you spell it? well ur not just your not bye have a nice day". Almost Keatsian, and precisely my sentiments.

This is all crap. Finn and Jack are the offspring of Andy Harries, who's an experienced independent producer and owns Left Bank Pictures. They're rich, technologically well equipped and well educated. In other words, they're totally unrepresentative and too arrogant to realise.

Oh, and when asked what next, they said that they wanted to make TV programmes. Why? Because that's where the money is.

Where did I put my facepalm meme? I thought the yoof didn't watch TV, Finn. Tool.

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