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Connected Studio: Launching Phase One

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Adrian Woolard | 16:40 UK time, Wednesday, 11 April 2012

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Servers for BBC Redux, an innovative research project around serving on-demand audio and video

Late last year Ralph Rivera, Director BBC Future Media, unveiled his vision for the Connected Studio. As the person responsible for delivering the first phase of the Connected Studio, I’d like to give you a sense of what we aim to deliver over the next 12 months, and why.

Connected Studio enables the creative community and BBC staff to work in partnership to develop new features for BBC Online. Today we’re launching phase one of that initiative, a 12 month series of events where external and internal creatives can get together in a room with BBC tools and assets, and brainstorm and pilot new formats and functionality.

Focused on the ten BBC Online products, the programme will make available up to £2m of investment to fund pilot projects which audiences will be able to trial.

The first set of Studio events will be based around the Homepage, Search and Navigation Products running their first Creative Studio event in MediaCityUK. Check out the call for ideas and sign-up at bbc.co.uk/rd/connectedstudio to join us at these events starting on May 4th. Once you’ve registered interest, you’ll also be kept up to date about all forthcoming Connected Studio events.

The majority of new BBC Online features are built according to established product roadmaps and the published commissioning process. However, we believe there’s room here for more disruptive thinking – that is, more experimental ideas that can be pitched, built and delivered to audiences in a faster, smarter way. To achieve this sort of disruption, we are going to be opening up existing and emerging BBC Online tools, a wider range of our data sources, and latest audience research (both user and market insight) for people to work with.

We want to inspire a steady flow of these sorts of disruptive ideas, which is why we’re opening this up to everyone, both within and outside the BBC. Our initial plan is to offer up to one million pounds of investment in 2012/13 to fund external creativity, and enable at least the same level of BBC staff time, resources and expertise to be made available for internal development. If you want to get involved or find out more of the specifics around our Creative and Build Studio events, please visit our site.

Storytelling and Technology Meet in the Studio

1930s cameraman outside a Victorian building on a hill

Douglas Birkinshaw with the Marconi E.M.I Instantaneous Television 'Camera' Transmitting The View From Alexandra Palace

Ralph Rivera articulates the vision far better than I can, but put simply the ‘Studio’ (for radio, television and film) has been, and remains, a dynamic and innovative place where storytelling and technology come together to create great experiences for BBC audiences. This has been happening successfully for over 80 years. (As an interesting aside the first BBC Television Studio opened in 1932).

Now in 2012, just ahead of a major point in BBC’s history with our plans for the first truly digital Olympics, we are looking to re-envisage what the ‘studio’ means in this highly digital and highly connected world. The BBC still wants and demands ‘places’ to host storytellers, designers and technologists who bring their smart new thinking together with the latest technology and tools to inspire better experiences for our audiences. However we know these places may not be like the facilities of previous generations – in fact many of the most disruptive start-ups in 2012 operate in ‘the cloud’ working virtually with data, tools and code.

Simply, this is what we believe the Connected Studio could be - a mix of virtual open resources and real-world facilities – with a rolling programme of events and funding calls designed to inspire and deliver great ideas for BBC Online and its partners.

How the Connected Studio will work

We will start on May 4th with the Homepage, Search and Navigation Products running their first Creative Studio event in MediaCityUK. Check out the call for ideas at the Connected Studio site.

In June we are working with the Weather Product to run Studio events in London, and in July we will be back in Salford with CBBC looking for more disruptive ideas. Further ahead, we are already planning a few special Build Studio sessions over the Olympic summer looking at our future user experience and how to make the BBC a more open platform before launching more exciting funding calls later in year.

Through these studio events and funding of pilots we want to engage the UK tech community, from start-ups to successful digital businesses to freelance creatives, as well as staff within the BBC, and give them opportunities to develop pilot projects both separately and collaboratively.

The ambition of Ralph Rivera, Future Media, and our colleagues across the corporation is to evolve the BBC into a faster, smarter and more open organisation. Connected Studio represents another step towards that goal.

So if this feels like something you want to be involved in then please register your interest and follow us on Twitter at @BBC_Connected. I look forward to coming back to share the developments during the year.

Adrian Woolard, Project Director, North Lab, BBC Research and Development responsible for Phase 1 of the Connected Studio programme

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