Whenever, wherever: London 2012
There's been a flurry again recently about how the Internet is changing the way we think - and whether it's making us better informed or actually more stupid. Whatever your conclusion on that debate, there's zero doubt about one thing: the way we consume media is changing. The old certainties have gone.
I know myself that being able to watch the BBC iPlayer on my main television at home has meant I now watch a lot more TV on-demand than I do live; and it's a trend that's growing fast. We can also see the massive growth in video consumption on this website: from being text-based a decade ago, people now expect to be able to consume audio-video action, interviews and reporting. And it's because of the changing behaviour of our audiences in the UK that we set out our ambitions for London 2012 - that you'll be able to watch and listen whenever and wherever you want to.
Now, none of this is saying that traditional programmes don't matter anymore. They clearly do - hence the success this summer of Sherlock and Rev, or the weekly journalism in Panorama; and special sports shows like the Alex Higgins programme this week which was watched by almost three million people. Those formats are still highly valued.
So what I'm setting out here is not either/or but it's certainly both/and: we need the classic crafted longer-duration programmes but we also have to deliver content in ways that suit the technology and audience needs of the 21st century. That's why we created World Olympic Dreams not in the first instance as a programme but as something that could play across all our platforms as shorter films and reports. It has still proved puzzling to one or two people that it's not a "programme" slotted in to BBC One - and yet we're now getting the evidence that this approach is working even better than we anticipated.
You may have caught the extraordinary World Olympic Dreams film in which Luol Deng, one of the world's highest paid sports stars, returned to his native Sudan. If not, you can watch it here (see what I mean about whenever and wherever...) And here is how it was played across our established broadcasting services in just one day:
0500 - BBC World News tv
0600 - BBC World News tv
0740 - Radio 5 Live UK
0800 - BBC World News tv
1000 - BBC World News tv
1100 - BBC World News tv
1100 - BBC World Service radio
1200 - BBC World News tv including a live correspondent report
1200 - BBC World Service radio
1300 - BBC World News tv
1400 - BBC World News tv
1500 - BBC World Service radio
1600 - BBC World Service radio
1700 - BBC News Channel UK
1700 - BBC World News tv
1800 - The Six O'Clock News on BBC One
1930 - BBC News Channel
2100 - BBC World Service Newshour
2100 - BBC World News tv
2200 - The Ten O'Clock News on BBC One
2200 - The World Tonight, Radio 4
2230 - Newsnight, BBC Two
2300 - BBC World News tv
2400 - World News America
And it was also a special 30 minute programme for Crossing Continents on Radio 4 and for BBC World Service - as well as being online as text. The overall result: tens of millions of people at home and abroad have seen or heard a story about a basketball player who's hoping to be part of London 2012 - and his is just one of the couple of dozen stories that we'll return to in the next two years. This "News-based approach", as one gently critical person called it, gets far more consumption than any long-form programme ever would.
What this also does is give more audience access than ever before to a wider range of events. The recent World Paralympic Swimming Championships are a good example, with another long list of BBC reporting courtesy of our Disability Sport Executive Tony Garrett:
- Seven daily online video packages - apart from the obvious top stories from the day there was a daily editorial angle (which included some pre-filming items) to talk about the personalities and stories of the sport.
- Footage on Breakfast Sport and the BBC News channel Sport 24
- Exclusive interview about Natalie Du Toit's decision to retire from Olympic/Paralympic competition after 2012 which ran on BBC World News, the News Channel in the UK and 5 Live
- Three 5 Live Sports Extra programmes totalling seven hours of output
- Daily sports news for the 5 Live sports desks
- Daily TV/Radio items fed to BBC Nations and Regions
- Daily written online reports
- Items for Radio 4
- Additional stories covering the new swimming star American Mallory Weggeman (eight gold medals), interviews with six top international swimmers to watch out for as we move forward towards 2012 for the Website and World Service and ones with swimmers on Two Years to the Paralympics
So we believe we can show massive benefits already from changing the way we deliver content - and it reflects our commitments to London 2012 being the biggest-ever digital experience for the UK and, within the limits of our rights agreements, the wider world. Just to reiterate: programmes matter too, and we have some fascinating ones in production - not least the Twenty Twelve sitcom. However, we'd be limiting our ambitions if we stuck to older formats alone; and this way we're confident we can involve and enthuse millions more people.