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Victoria Jaye: Commissioning for TV & iPlayer content

Victoria JayeBackground

In January 2011, as the first step in the delivery of Putting Quality First, Mark Thompson outlined new plans for a much clearer digital agenda for the BBC.

These plans detailed how BBC Online would transform from a myriad of organically grown sites into 10 distinctive products: News, Sport, Weather, CBeebies, CBBC, Knowledge & Learning, Radio & Music, Homepage, Search and TV & iPlayer. You can read more about this in Reshaping BBC Online.

In March 2011, I was appointed Head of IPTV and TV Online Content for Vision. Working alongside Daniel Danker, General Manager, Future Media, I’m charged with editorially bringing together all TV related activity across BBC Online into a single, coherent audience experience - ‘TV&iPlayer’. (It’s fair to say this is not what we’ll call the final audience offer.)

BBC iPlayer has already established a huge audience and played a significant role in shaping the video on-demand landscape in the UK. We need to build on this success, introducing even more of our viewers to the benefits of on-demand by building on what we know works for audiences and tapping into the unrivalled creative talents of the television industry in the UK.

In practical terms, TV&iPlayer means unifying the currently disparate sites of BBC iPlayer, with TV channel homepages, programme information and web original content, genre and archive collections to create a single television experience, that really is greater than the sum of its parts.

And we want this experience to appeal to mainstream TV viewers, not just early adopters, so integral to our ambition is ensuring audiences can enjoy TV&iPlayer, not just via their desktop, but also via their TV, tablet or mobile device.

Over the last 3 months, myself and the senior team have been working on a new team structure to deliver TV&iPlayer and a new process for how we commission content for it.

The new structure

It’s an obvious point, but TV&iPlayer is all about TV, making it even better for our audience, (whatever the device). So wherever possible, we’ve integrated  TV&iPlayer editorial management within the day to day running of TV.

The core TV&iPlayer editorial team within Vision looks like this:

Executive Editor, TV & iPlayer: Dan Taylor is already in position and is responsible for driving the overall editorial development of TV&iPlayer i.e. the new features and tools we’re going to introduce to enable producers to bring their content to life within the product. He also manages the product day to day - how it interfaces with other BBC Online Products and monitors overall performance. Dan works extremely closely with Future Media, the Channel and Genre Commissioning teams, as well as Vision Productions.

Dan is supported by teams that oversee the day to day running of the channel presences within TV&iPlayer, ensuring the quality and coherence of TV programme pages, their ongoing development and enrichment. Also in Dan’s team, are social media experts that advise both in house and indies on best practice approaches to audience engagement around their content. Further expertise that sits in Dan’s team helps increase the discovery of BBC TV content beyond its public service availability, through interlinking with third party sites.

Development Editor, IPTV and Red Button – This role leads the editorial development of the TV&iPlayer product across platforms (including mobile/dual screen, and IPTV), as well as overseeing our traditional broadcast Red Button service i.e. the highly popular playalong, karaoke and multiscreen services that enhance much of our entertainment and event output – Lottery shows – In It To Win It,  1 v 100, Eurovision and Glastonbury. Red button is crucial to how audiences will access TV&iPlayer in the future as more homes have internet connected TVs. This role works with teams in Future Media, Vision Productions and Channel teams and is supported by a Producer, Red Button who will manage the red button slate day to day, supporting indies and in house teams in terms of delivery.

Editorial Exec, Indies: This role works directly with linear TV Commissioners in Drama and Entertainment, developing and delivering indie content for TV&iPlayer and broadcast Red Button, working closely with Channel and Marketing teams. Examples of the kind of content we mean are here are the highly successful fictional extensions we’ve launched like Becoming Human (RDF/Touchpaper) or Waterloo Road Reunited (Shed) or format extensions like Only Connect quizzes (Presentable)

In Comedy, the TV Genre Commissioning team have already integrated the function of investing in online and Red Button content within the core commissioning team, examples of content here include Misery Bear (Roughcut) -the comedy web sensation with millions of fans on You Tube or Special 1TV (Caboom), the highly popular, topical sports show. Nick Astor is the Editor for indie comedy ideas for TV&iPlayer .

Senior Adviser, TV&iPlayer – This is a brand new role providing expertise in shaping Vision's position around emerging commercial challenges – third party syndication and public service/commercial activity, providing guidance to indies on the scale of opportunity around their shows. It works closely with Marketing and Audiences, Rights and Business Affairs, as well as with Future Media, Business Development and Policy and Strategy teams across the BBC.

Budget and what we're looking for

The amount of funding available for TV&iPlayer in 2012/13 is 5.1 million - 25% of this is committed to external suppliers.

This budget covers funding for additional content in Comedy, Drama and Entertainment. (Factual is covered separately through Saul Nasse’s budget in Knowledge and Learning)

The type of content we’re looking to invest in is either directly related to TV shows we’re commissioning (and is beyond standard production deliverables) or is standalone content that supports a specific TV channel’s ambitions e.g. as part of the move to TV&iPlayer, all web original comedy will come under BBC Three to support the channel’s new talent and comedy agenda.

I'm incredibly proud of Vision’s creative achievements over the past year as they have shown there’s a real audience for high quality and distinctive online and Red Button enhancements around our TV shows. Our Eastenders’ narrative extensions over the Christmas period reached 2.55 million on Red Button. Becoming Human (our fictional extension of BBC Three’s TV series, Being Human) reached over 1.7 million viewers online and Red Button. Eurovision this year had nearly 2 million people singing along on Red Button and double the BBC Online reach of last year. This is the kind of content we want to invest in going forward.

We’re no longer looking to commission standalone websites, apps, or programme bespoke software. Essentially, we’re investing in additional content to enrich the TV&iPlayer, which itself will evolve over time to introduce new features and functionality.

By TV standards, the budget we have is not huge, so we don’t want to over engineer the creative decision making process. Therefore Indies’ points of contact are TV commissioners in the relevant genre who will be supported by the expertise within the TV&iPlayer editorial team.

All creative discussions are had as part of the existing TV Channel/Genre process and there is no longer any separate online or Multiplatform commissioning/ commissioners in Vision.

We’ll be much more directional and clear with Indies in terms of what we are looking for, communicating specific opportunities on the commissioning website. So it’s much less about indies sending in loads of ideas and more about Channel Controllers and Genre Commissioning teams working with the TV&iPlayer editorial team planning what they want to invest in and effectively discussing these opportunities with suppliers.

A focus on quality and distinctiveness

We’re looking for ideas that genuinely increase the quality of the audiences’ engagement with a TV show or Channel, or significantly raise the creative benchmark for the genre. The majority of our output can be supported by the programme information we generate automatically about our shows, which is getting richer all the time, so ideas for specific investment need to deliver real value add beyond this for the audience.

We will make about a dozen content investments per year for TV&iPlayer, (including titles like Doctor Who and Eastenders), so if you want to pitch for one of these, then your point of contact is your TV Genre Commissioner. However, as outlined above, the TV&iPlayer editorial team are supporting this process with the necessary expertise.

Whilst we acknowledge the scale of change we’re introducing and the effects this will have on BBC staff and the indies we work with, we firmly believe these changes need to be made if we are to deliver public value in a fully digital age - in the case of TV&iPlayer, a BBC television service that our audience both want and deserve.

Victoria Jaye, Head of Content, BBC iPlayer 

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