Ovum: emphasis on personalisation could be a mistake for BBC

DetailsJoseph O'Halloran | 06 March 2015

As it looks to stake out its future, the BBC could be making a strategic mistake in pinning its hopes on personalised content, says analyst Ovum.

In a speech setting out the future direction of the corporation, Director General Tony Hall said that the BBC would in future be based on three basic axioms: that it had embraced the Internet age; that the Internet strengthens the case for the BBC; that the Internet gives the corporation tools to make public service broadcasting even better. This would see new services for a modern BBC including personalised recommendations on the iPlayer and BBC website homepage and a personalised BBC app.

Yet offering a review of the speech, Ovum Digital media practice leader Nick Thomas warned that by putting personalised content experiences at the core this may be overestimating the demand for these services, and underestimating the continued appeal of linear TV.

BBC"Even for those of us who consider ourselves digital evangelists, this thesis feels a little off. Are we really on a road towards a fully personalised media landscape? Is that what most consumers want, and does it underplay the BBC's great strength in curating great content for a mass audience?" Thomas postulated. "Is it not the case that linear TV still has a huge role to play, even with young viewers? As Hall acknowledges, the BBC last week saw record audiences for its flagship soap, EastEnders, which was broadcast live. One million tweets around the programme's transmission suggested that live, linear broadcasting, shared by millions, is still central to the proposition of a mainstream broadcaster, even in especially in? the age of social media."

Thomas also questioned whether the BBC has exaggerated its existential threat and if it is in danger of overplaying the decline in linear TV viewing. Moreover he wondered whether the big play that Hall was making on recommendations could unlock the untapped value of their expensively created content both linear and on-demand.

"The fact is that, as Hall acknowledges, no broadcaster or content provider has got the formula right yet, or moved beyond Amazon's deceptively simple "other customers bought this" model. Could it be that content recommendation is whisper it a solution in search of a problem? (Not to mention a potential money-pit.) Consumers are happy to recommend and share via social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook that exist already. And while it may be unthinkable for some in the industry, it could also be the case that most consumers don't care enough about most of the content that is available to them."

Concluding his argument, Thomas said that the BBC had a number of major advantages when compared with the digital native players such as Google, Netflix and Amazon, with what he noted was notably daily engagement with millions of consumers in the UK and beyond, and "an unrivalled track record" for creating and curating '"great" content.