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24 September 2014
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Andy Duncan

Director of Marketing & Communications

DTT - The People's Choice

Tuesday 4 March 2003
Printable version

Delivered at the FT New Media Broadcasting Conference

Press release

Good Morning.

It is almost a year since ITV Digital collapsed.

If this conference had taken place in early November last year, not even the optimists amongst us - including me - would have predicted that sales of Freeview adaptors in the UK would be so good.

They are already approaching 500,000 units in just over four months since its launch.

Indeed probably none of us would have predicted that in the Barb panel for March the estimated number of live 'Freeview homes' would be nearly 1.4m.

Overall this now leaves Freeview bigger than the highest ever level reached by ITV digital.

Moreover, with no churn on the platform and with sales still going strong, this figure can only keep going up!

I think I have been asked to speak today as the person who happened to join the BBC just before the busiest launch programme in its history. By chance of timing, I’ve been involved at some level in every single BBC digital launch of the last year. Unexpectedly, I also found myself leading the launch of Freeview for the BBC last Autumn.

Against the above background I want to briefly cover four areas.

Firstly, a perspective on the new TV and Radio services that the BBC has launched in the last year, and why we do not plan any more launches in the foreseeable future.

Secondly, why Freeview really is 'the people's choice' - for a major section of the UK population.

Thirdly, why we think launching Freeview was probably the most important thing that the BBC did last year - and why it provides a key missing piece of the jigsaw in moving to a fully digital Britain.

And finally, why I think that the use of marketing is more important than ever before for the BBC in a world of digital broadcasting.

So then:

Firstly - The nine BBC launches of the last year

The launch of BBC THREE on the 9 February, was a day of huge significance in the BBC. This was the last of an unprecedented nine TV and Radio launches, which had started with the launch of 5Live Sports Extra on 2 February 2002. In just over one year, we introduced almost as many services as the BBC had launched in its entire history.

This was not the BBC going mad - although doing so much in such a short space of time did sometimes feel like it. Even in my busiest periods in nearly 17 years at Unilever, both in a variety of Marketing and General Management roles, I had never been involved in such an intense launch programme.

It was not about 'empire building' and expanding for the sake of it. Rather it was an organisation making a critical but one-off transition. We were adjusting from a portfolio which was suitable for the old 'analogue world' of relative scarcity, to an appropriate public service broadcasting portfolio for a new 'digital world' of relative plenty.

The services we launched are the implementation of the vision that Greg Dyke had laid out in his MacTaggart lecture at Edinburgh a few years ago. Each service had been based on careful analysis and understanding of the audiences at which they were targeted.

After all, we had the responsibility to provide distinctive, high quality and ambitious programmes in a digital world that the public had come to expect from us in the old analogue world.

These new services have included:

- Children's TV – in true BBC tradition, advertising free, with a high British and educational content;

- Radio for both Black and Asian audiences;

- drama and comedy speech radio;

- the arts, culture and ideas of BBC FOUR;

- the new talent and British production we are supporting with BBC THREE.

This one-off transition in our portfolio is now complete. We now have the right line-up, and there will be no more new services for the foreseeable future.

Our attention is now firmly on making sure these services 'bed down' quickly and are as strong as possible. Critically, we also want to make sure that as many people in the UK can get our full range of services at the earliest opportunity.

In the words of Lord Reith, the BBC is here to do what it has always done - 'To bring the best of everything to the greatest number of homes'.

That brings me to my second point - Why Freeview really is 'the People's choice'

Freeview has become central to the BBC's digital strategy.
There is no point in having these new services if not enough people can see them. However we very nearly didn’t get to where we are today.

This time last year, digital TV was in trouble.

Digital penetration was stalling, and millions of consumers were either confused or quite clear that digital was not for them.

To make matters worse, in March 2002, we had the collapse of ITV digital. Its eventual demise, after a long and painful death, could have destroyed consumer confidence for good. The problems caused by this, including widespread consumer confusion and apathy, made the prospects for digital development look worse than ever. There was a real chance that DTT would not survive in this country.

Clearly it was time for some fresh thinking.

We felt it was critical to reach an understanding as to why people had not yet gone digital. We did several major pieces of research to really 'get underneath the skin' of what the 15 million households (over 35 million people) who were still in analogue only homes really felt.

Out of all the work we did, we found that the 15 million households split into three groups:

Firstly there were five million or so 'positives' - people who broadly liked the idea of pay digital.

They liked the idea of premium sports and movies, and didn't mind the thought of paying for them along with the many other channels and choices.

Typically this section of the audience was younger, male, and just hadn't got round to going digital yet. Over time though, many in this group will go towards pay digital.

Sky, cable and ITV digital had all been competing primarily for this group. With hindsight, we now know that three pay platforms have not worked anywhere in the world, and there’s no reason to believe that Britain could have or would have been an exception to that rule.

The second group we found were people who were simply 'unsure' or confused about digital.

The third group were plain 'negative'.

I now want to show you a video of some ordinary consumers who were in these two groups – the 'unsures' and then the 'negatives'.

We found that there were around four million 'unsures'. The sort of people you saw on the video. A mix of ages and social grades, but with one thing in common - they were confused.

Finally we found there were around six million 'negatives'. Again this group covered a wide range, but were older, slightly more upmarket, heavy TV viewers with a significant minority living alone.

From our work, we found that for many in these last 2 groups - the 'unsures' and the 'negatives' - what they wanted was something clear and simple which would cut through the apathy and negativity.

Out of this insight - and counter to prevailing wisdom at the time, came the real breakthrough - THE BIRTH OF FREEVIEW.

This was a completely fresh start for DTT. For a one off payment of less than £100, you could now get a range of up to 30 TV channels (importantly, not too many), including interactive content, and a range of Radio networks, free forever!

We also were addressing the significant technical issues the platform had suffered, and promising a robust and improved quality of service.

Instead of four - five channels in your 'old analogue world', this represented a compelling alternative, especially as it followed the 'old model' that this audience had grown up with.

Once you had bought the equipment, just like a TV or radio, you would never have to pay again. Suddenly with Freeview we had a proposition which really could become the people's choice - certainly for many of these 'unsures' and 'negatives'.

We won the bid for the ex-ITV digital licences on the 4 July.

We launched the Freeview service on the 30 October - less than four months later.

Despite what the cynics said, the three companies, BBC, Crown Castle and Sky worked very well and closely together throughout the period and, to this day, we continue to work in a way which harnesses the different strengths of each player. We believe this is a world record for the launch of any digital platform.

As well as the basic simplicity and appeal of the consumer proposition, there were other crucial things which were achieved in this period.

These included fixing the technology problems, working out how to deal with the coverage issues, making sure all the channels were up and ready in time. We also had to liaise with the all important retailers and manufacturers who would be selling and making the adapters and iDTVs.

Above all we believed we had created something which had responded to the market failure of ITV digital and which could truly meet a big consumer need.

This brings me to my third point, which is why launching Freeview, along with our partners Crown Castle and Sky, was probably the most important thing we did at the BBC last year, and why it provides a key missing piece of the jigsaw in moving to a fully digital Britain.

There was now a major new way for millions of our licence fee payers to receive all our services, and the Freeview format meant it appealed to the very audiences that had previously been least likely to go digital.

The initial response has surprised us all. In just over four months, we have had well over two million inquiries in our call centre and on our website.

More importantly, as I mentioned earlier sales of adaptors since launch are around 500,000 units.

As one retailer put it, "Freeview adapters are selling like hot cakes".

This has also surprised retailers and manufacturers, and this sales level has been achieved despite widespread out of stocks. In total 1.4 million homes (over three million people are already enjoying Freeview).

There are two other broadly encouraging pieces of information.

Firstly return levels have been lower than expected - in line with the normal level for electrical goods, and substantially below the old ITV Digital levels.

This suggests that the technology improvements and discipline about selling to households in coverage are both working.

Secondly, the profile of people contacting our call centre do have a different profile to the average pay subscriber eg. they are typically older, and more upmarket. This is a sure sign that Freeview is appealing to a different profile of audience.

This is a crucial point.

Freeview does appeal to a different audience. It is entirely complementary to pay digital. It may be a key missing piece of the jigsaw, but it is not the only piece.

There is now something for everyone. For many - pay digital will still be the right approach. For a fast growing number of others, Freeview is the right offer. For some, there will be room for both, with pay digital on the main TV, and Freeview providing a good option for the TV in the bedroom or kitchen.

What is clear, however, is the fact that Freeview is on course to become a vital third platform in the UK market.

Finally, the Freeview project, and our other activity in launching and promoting the new BBC digital channels, has demonstrated how the BBC legitimately uses modern marketing techniques.

Indeed, this is more vital in a world of digital broadcasting than in the old simpler analogue world.

It starts with making more effort to better understand the audience. This is an important priority for the BBC going forward.

Indeed, this was crucial in coming up with the insight to develop the Freeview idea in the first place.

With all the confusion, clutter and noise of the modern world, it is critical that we keep our messages to the audience as simple as possible.

It is also more important than ever that we communicate to our audiences the full range of services and programmes available to them – after all, they pay.

The trick is to give people the information they need. This might be the choice between a pay or free digital package. This might be the choice between different digital channels. It might be simply a choice about which programme to watch. But it is always about creative excellence, giving our messages in an interesting way, and it’s a compliment when people notice.

Even though a small minority criticise the BBC for marketing and trying to promote our programmes and channels, the vast majority of the public like our communication and find it really helpful.

With great digital services and programmes now available from the BBC, it all comes back to wanting as many people as possible to get them as soon as possible, and helping them find the programmes and services most relevant to them.

For this reason over the years ahead, the BBC will continue to promote, hard, both our digital channels and services and information on how you can get them.

Indeed our next campaign for our digital TV line up starts later this month - and will run right through until after Easter. This will be as big – and, we hope, as successful - as our first digital TV portfolio push in November / December last year.

We will also be doing our first major push for our digital radio line-up in June this year, with more significant activity planned for the Autumn.

To conclude:

- Firstly, the BBC has now launched all our new services. There are no more planned. We have made the transition in the BBC portfolio from an analogue world to a digital world.

- Secondly we at the BBC really believe that Freeview is the 'People's choice' - for many of the 15 million households who are yet to go digital.

- Thirdly, we believe Freeview is a key missing piece of the jigsaw, and provides a key complementary offering alongside Cable and Satellite.

- Finally, in the more complex world of digital broadcasting, modern marketing techniques are more important than ever.

Over the next few years we will continue to promote the BBC digital services both in TV and Radio – with the next stage of major activity planned later this month.

Overall we believe that the prospect of getting a fully digital Britain is now brighter than ever. With the right cross industry co-operation and the appropriate lead and framework from Government, millions more UK citizens can go on to enjoy the full benefits that digital offers, in the relatively near future. Now is the time for us all to get behind the long term vision.

Meanwhile in the short term, if our activity continues to have a big impact, alongside that of all the others promoting digital, perhaps 2003 promises to be the biggest and best yet for digital in the UK!

Thank you.


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