BBC reboots to base TV future on online, personalised services

Parent Category: News | 09-10-2013

Attempting to put the pain of its recent past behind it, the BBC Director General Tony Hall has outlined a future for the corporation where licence-fee payers are in control of personalised services that they wish to receive.

In a far-reaching speech, Hall described a future BBC that was "renewed, bolder and much more confident about the mission Lord Reith gave us a hundred years before. Still confidently informing, educating and entertaining, but in a much more personalised way. I want a BBC that everyone can be proud of, whose best days lie ahead of it". Hall said he wanted the corporation to have a much closer relationship with audiences. "We should be treating them like owners, not just as licence-fee payers," he commented.

"People should not be saying 'the BBC', but 'my BBC', 'our BBC.'"
At the heart of these plans would be a much-enhanced version of the iPlayer, a new +1 service for BBC One and new ways of accessing live events.

Fundamentally, the iPlayer will transition from a broadcast TV catch-up service to the BBC's primary digital entertainment destination. It will in future feature functionality designed to give a more bespoke experience for every user with an iPlayer-only curated content and channels, and the chance for users to be the scheduler by accessing content before broadcast at times that suit them.

"The new generation of BBC iPlayer is set to transform our relationship with audiences," Hall explained. "For many people, BBC iPlayer is going to be the front door to our programming and the experience they have is going to be a world away from that of a traditional 'one to many' broadcaster. It will be a relationship where we provide our audiences with what they want, when and how they want it. And crucially through enhanced interactivity, they will also be able to tell us what they think of these programmes and services too. That conversation excites me hugely as it means our audiences won't just receive the programmes we make, they will contribute to how we make them as well."

The BBC's vision for new iPlayer focuses on three key areas, namely a greater range of content, new ways of watching BBC TV shows and innovative new features. It will, says the BBC, 'experiment', with pop-up channels around specific events or festivals such as Glastonbury, curated by key talent; online channels such as Radio 1 TV, arts or science; more exclusive content and the ability for users to create their own schedule with access to more content before it is on TV. It will also aim to offer the ability to pause and resume TV viewing from one screen to another with more relevant and personalised recommendations.

The current seven-day catch-up window will be extended to 30 days. In demonstrations of the new service, the BBC hinted that as well as watching in high definition, the new iPlayer would provide a toggle to view streams in UltraHD/4KTV format. It may well be the case that the new iPlayer will be supporting 4K before regular BBC broadcasts do.

Building on the lessons of the Olympics, the BBC will in future deliver live experiences to audiences made up of the best video, audio, text and stats, across four screens TV, computer, mobile and tablet. From 2014 the multi-layered service will complement coverage of the Winter Olympics, the World Cup, the FA Cup and Commonwealth Games, alongside major festivals like the Proms, the Edinburgh Festival and Glastonbury. It will also support big television events and major news events such as Election Night.

Yet on a more down to earth note, Hall also conceded that achieving these aims would also see the BBC continue its policy of cuts. He put a number of 100 million in savings as being required to drive through the transition. In addition to savings, Hall also revealed the opening of the BBC Store, a new service which will offer people in the UK the chance to buy, watch, and keep a selection of BBC programmes.