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Whenever, wherever: London 2012

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Roger Mosey | 15:22 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

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.

Sports programming available on BBC iPlayer

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    So, given that the London Olympics are now less than two years away, to what extent are the various options you have available for broadcasting such a large-scale event going to be tested out during the forthcoming Commonwealth Games from Dehli?

    I would have thought that it would be an ideal time to be trialling various options in a multi-sports environment to see whcih ones work out the best.

    So far, the BBC Sport webpages have very little content in terms of how the BBC's coverage of the Commonwealth Games will be handled, something that's rather disappointing given that we are barely a month from the opening Ceremony!

  • Comment number 2.

    Dave, the BBC are still way ahead of the Indian organisers though aren't they, I'm still not sure if any of the arenas will be ready for the Commonwealth Games.

    Personally I think that the BBC still delivers far and away the best coverage of major sporting events, some of the memories from Vancouver and South Africa will stay with me for a very long time and I was very glad of the extra resources available here on site.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thanks, freddawlanen.

    Dave - fair question, though. I'm not personally involved in the Commonwealth Games but I sit alongside Dave Gordon who's overseeing them for BBC Sport; and I know there's a lot of activity going on. It will include, as you suggest, some multi-platform broadcasting that's another staging post towards London. I'd expect to see the coverage plans being announced later this month.

  • Comment number 4.

    Interesting how virtually anything can be spun to suit a pre-formed opinion. Not disagreeing with you Roger (well, I am actually!), but I would say that list you posted of the broadcasts of "World Olympic Dreams" just proves that what could be a flagship series building up to the games has been demoted to little more than a news report - a news report many people interested in the Olympics - but who rarely watch BBC News - will never see.

    At the moment the BBC seem in some ways ashamed to be the Olympic Broadcaster - I think so far we've only had a couple of "Olympic Dreams" episodes and that series a year or two ago about "Building the Dream". This weekend we had yet another Saturday afternoon with no live sport on BBC1 - and surely commissioning a regular series counting down to 2012 would be ideal to air in these slots which are otherwise given over to Murder She Wrote!

    And if the Commonwealth Games is anything like the Winter Olympics, I'm dreading the limited options us Freeview folk will have. The iPlayer took the BBC's eye off the ball and although an important aspect of the 2012 broadcast, it is no substitute for multiple live streams via television - and since the axing of the second stream nearly a year ago there has been no sign of any willingness from the BBC to work towards reinstating it in time for London 2012 to enable a half-decent interactive service on the nations biggest broadcasting platform.

  • Comment number 5.

    Brekkie - my argument is that "flagship programmes/series" of the kind you describe get vastly smaller audiences than playing content across a range of platforms and services. So actually it's a promotion to have a film about a basketball star on the BBC News at Ten (audience four million for that one showing with many millions more on the other outlets I mentioned) as against Saturday afternoon where it might be well under a million. Our ambition as the Olympic broadcaster is to win over all the BBC's audiences and not just stick within the traditional comfort zones.

    On Freeview - simmply to reiterate that the aim is to offer more choice in 2012 even though it won't be possible for the Commonwealths. I'll post more on this when things start firming up.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think like Grandstand we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Considering the BBC isn't supposed to be about ratings, a question whether such content should air to 1m people who are actually interested in it or to a wider audience who may largely not be interested.

    Personally I think a bit of both is the answer - reports on the news should point to something in more detail within the schedules.


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