Digital relationships beyond the BBC
When I took on the role of Head of External Relationships in September last year, I was really keen to understand how the BBC was perceived by its online creative partners, and how we could use that insight to add value to our audience offerings and to the market as a whole. I knew we were on track in terms of delivering on our service licence requirements to externally source 25% of our eligible content and services, but I felt this was only half the story. I wanted to find a way to really turn the conversation around and highlight some of the real benefits the BBC's digital presence might have to offer.
So I asked Digital Public to carry out some market survey work, and to market test some ideas that we'd been working on in BBC Online, in collaboration with our online working group made up of industry representatives - the BBC Online Advisory Group. I also asked Digital Public to build a map of services across the UK, and to create a picture of the digital content and services market as a whole, so we could begin to fine tune our approach and engagement in this space. I wanted to know what digital agencies really thought about working with the BBC, and what we could do to build on and improve our creative relationships with them.
What came back was a rich tapestry of views from both agencies and our own commissioners, but with a number of common themes emerging loud and clear. One of those themes highlights a real desire for agencies to work with the BBC - recognition of our values, reputation and brand is a strong positive factor in this. But there's also a clear call for the BBC to stand shoulder to shoulder with its creative digital partners, and to facilitate new opportunities for collaboration outside BBC Online. This is an important insight that deserves some reflection. It's a recognition of the BBC's important but relatively mid-sized presence as a buyer in the digital economy, set apart from its much bigger role in the traditional broadcast media. I think it helps to form a more nuanced view that the BBC is by no means the most important partner of choice for creative agencies as a whole, both in financial terms and in the sometimes mysterious way in which the BBC is seen to engage creatively with the sector as a whole.
So what are we doing now to help digital indies go beyond their relationships with the BBC? One of the ways we're doing this is to provide showcasing opportunities for the wide range of talent we work with, helping them gain wider exposure both in the UK and internationally, whilst fairly crediting those whose efforts help us build one of the most respected and well loved websites in the world. In February, we hosted a showcasing event focusing on design, facilitating discussions with BBC teams and between the 30 digital indies that took part. Today, in Cannes, we're showcasing six of the best digital content producers at MIPTV, providing opportunities for content buyers and others to gain unique insights into both BBC and indie perspectives, as each commissioner and producer unravels the concept and innovation behind each of their projects. We hope to be able to share some of the showcase presentations with you here in the next week or so.
I think this is a great way the BBC can add value to the online marketplace above and beyond its financial contribution. We're working through analysing and addressing all of the feedback we've had from the research we've conducted so far, and we're hoping to implement some important changes over the next few months in collaboration with you (more on that in a future blog). In the meantime, I'd be happy to hear your ideas about how the BBC can do more to add value to its relationships in this space.
Brij Sharma is Head of External Relationships, BBC FM&T.