We’re lucky to have Claude London, Digital Director, BBC Worldwide & Kangaroo JV, as our leadoff keynote speaker at Streaming Media Europe on Thursday, 16 October. Eileen Broch was able to conduct this Q&A with Claude for the new European edition of Streaming Media magazine, and we reprint it here as a sneak preview of what Claude will be speaking on at the show.
Can you give our readers a brief description of the charter of BBC Worldwide and how it fits into the rest of the BBC?
BBC Worldwide is the wholly owned commercial subsidiary of the BBC. Its role is to maximise the value of the BBC’s assets after the public service window, for the benefit of the licence payer – essentially we commercialise BBC content with all of our profits being returned into the public service business.
BBC Worldwide has seven core businesses – Global Channels, Global TV Sales, Magazines, Content & Production, Home Entertainment, Global Brands and Digital Media. We generated sales of over £900 million in 2007-2008.
As Digital Media we oversee a stable of commercial websites such as BBC.com (the BBC website outside of the UK), TopGear.com and GardenersWorld.com; we syndicate digital content via outlets such as YouTube and MySpace as well as mobile operators; and we’re also a founder of Kangaroo, a VOD JV with UK broadcasters ITV and Channel 4.
What’s your role and focus at the BBC Worldwide?
I’m Director for Kangaroo, BBC Worldwide’s joint venture with ITV and Channel 4 to launch an on-demand service for the UK. I’m leading Kangaroo for BBC Worldwide, which means I have responsibility for the commercial strategy, product development, and brand building of the venture, as well as ongoing business development – from a BBC Worldwide point of view.
What do you think is the most important goal for BBC Worldwide over the next 1-2 years? What do you think are the greatest challenges facing BBC Worldwide in this same time period?
One of the key targets for BBC Worldwide is to expand its digital revenues from 1% of total to 10% of total over a five year period. This is a big ask but its one we’re answering with a range of revenue-focused digital projects.
The most obvious of these has been a very pro-active syndication programme – getting our content onto the web via some major partners in revenue generating deals. We were the first major broadcaster to sign up for a channel on YouTube, we were the first global broadcaster to sign a deal with MySpace and we were also the first UK broadcaster to sell full length content on iTunes.
Under the partnership, the best BBC video content will be made available online globally via MySpaceTV, the social networking site’s popular new video platform.
As well as syndication, branded sites are an important part of our digital strategy. We take brands based around BBC content and create connected commercial web presences. Sites like TopGear.com and GardenersWorld.com are building on established magazine operations.
We’re also looking overseas for revenues and one of our major activities here is BBC.com, the international expression of the BBC online. With BBC.com we’re essentially looking to monetise the millions of non-license-fee-paying overseas users of BBC.co.uk. BBC.com is ad-funded and acts as a global window to BBC Worldwide content on the web and therefore is an important cross marketing tool as well as a straightforward destination media site.
Obviously Kangaroo is a major business objective for us. By coming together with two of the other major broadcasters in the UK to create a VOD platform we’re helping build the wider market for online video content in the UK. Kangaroo is potentially a huge opportunity for us to generate revenues from our content archives whilst giving users access to a huge library of content that hasn’t been available online before.
In terms of challenges, we face that same as any other media owner online. It’s a hugely competitive and fast moving market and its not simply a matter of translating what we’ve done on traditional channels into new media formats. We, like all media owners, have had a steep learning curve in terms of what does and doesn’t work online or on mobile and we’re continuing to pick up new data and examples every day that help us optimise our digital activities.
How do you feel streaming media and online (or mobile) video fit into these areas of focus and emphasis?
Given our broadcasting background the video world is at the very core of what we’re about and so online video is a massively important part of our future. Where it’s really important for us already today is in reaching brand-new audiences – part of our mission is to target audiences who might not see our content on traditional outlets and delivering video online or on mobile is the only way to reach these populations.
Clearly new forms of video delivery have been at the heart of our syndication efforts, whether short form content on YouTube or full-length programming on iTunes. Similarly, online content is central to our international ambitions. We have channels in territories across the world, but online, streaming content is still an important way of getting our content out there.
How involved is BBC Worldwide with mobile efforts?
We’ve been actively involved with mobile for some time now and have content deals in place with a number of operators in the UK and overseas – people like O2 and 3 to name a couple. It’s definitely an area we see growing in the future but I think we all need to recognise that, in revenue terms, mobile video is still at a very early stage. There is undeniable potential however, with mobile internet specifically.
How does BBC Worldwide factor in revenue generation (monetisation) either for its partners or itself in these syndication deals?
Revenue generation is what we’re about. Our role is to generate profits that go back to the BBC, so if there’s no compelling commercial logic for a deal then it just won’t go ahead.
We’re flexible on how monetisation occurs – for example pay per view has been dominant on mobile for a while now, but in online environments ad-funded viewing tends to work better for short form content. It’s all about what gives the best consumer experience and, in the end, the best returns.
What does BBC Worldwide see as the future of monetising (or building a sustainable future for) online or mobile video?
In the longer term media outlets seem to tend towards an ad-funded model, with profitable pockets of pay customers, as we’ve all seen from the satellite television world. However, at the moment we’re in a hybrid content economy with a general mix oscillating between pay per view and free to air ad funded content. For the foreseeable future I would expect that mix to stay in place.
How do the BBC iPlayer and Kangaroo fit together?
iPlayer is the BBC’s seven day, free, on-demand catch up service whilst Kangaroo is a joint venture between BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4 to offer tens of thousands of hours of paid for or ad-funded programme content. Whereas iPlayer is about displaying content within the public service ‘window’ – i.e. today seven days after broadcast – Kangaroo is about making huge swathes of great content available on demand, including BBC archive material.
The two platforms are different but are definitely complementary. Ashley Highfield, the new CEO of Kangaroo, summed it up well when he was at the BBC – if iPlayer is like BBC1 through BBC4, then Kangaroo is like the UKTV channels, part of BBC Worldwide’s joint venture with Virgin Media