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From Microsoft To The BBC

Erik Huggers Erik Huggers | 11:50 UK time, Monday, 17 December 2007

It has been six months since I joined the BBC as Group Controller in Future Media and Technology and while flying back from Rome to London, I figured that this was a good time to join the conversation.

Many people have asked me: “why on earth did you join the BBC? They have no stock options and by the way do you realise that you are now a civil servant!?!” Believe me, there are days that I ask those questions myself!

99% of the time however, I am exceptionally pleased, excited and proud to be part of this organization and to serve the licence fee payer. The BBC is unique in so many ways that I do not even know where to start; perhaps a better way to start is why I left Microsoft...

I often tell people that I have been very fortunate to work for Microsoft in the digital media space. Over a period of nine years, I was able to globally engage with the media and entertainment industry, the telecoms industry and the consumer electronics industry.

At the time, it did not seem special - but I have come to realize that there are not many people who have worked across the entire value chain. I had great success stories but also my share of failures during the Microsoft years. However hard I worked, I was always trying to convince third parties to adopt platform technologies. My true passion is all about using cutting edge digital media technologies to establish new innovative services for consumers. When I realized that, I knew that it was time to move on.

I briefly looked at some of the Hollywood studios and related industries, but realized that their business models would make innovation very, very hard. To truly make things happen, the studios will have to reinvent their business models and feel comfortable with cannibalising existing/legacy revenues.

By coincidence, the BBC knocked on the door, and suddenly it dawned on me that there was probably no better organization on the planet to truly drive innovation in the digital media space across Web, TV and Mobile. Think about it: a globally recognized and trusted brand name; the world’s highest quality journalism, radio and television programming; fantastic reach in the linear world and an archive that spans over three generations. What more can you ask for?

There is one other thing...

The BBC is pioneering what an online presence means for broadcasters; we are driving interactive TV and have world class mobile services. I'm really enjoying working with my new colleagues, they are some of the most passionate and smartest people I've ever worked with, and believe me: I have dealt with some very smart people.

By now you must wonder: “so what are you adding to the equation?” It is my personal goal to use my industry knowledge and foresight to help the BBC create escape velocity and become the world’s leading media organization in the digital age. What that means I will explain to some degree at the C21 Future Media Conference in London today*. If my new baby boy allows me to sleep I will provide more details here.

*"Today", that is, at the time of writing, not the time of publishing - as spotted by eagle-eyed commenter Michael Walsh below!

Erik Huggers is Group Controller, FM&T


  1. At 03:15 PM on 17 Dec 2007, Simon Wharton wrote:

    Rather liking what you are saying about the BBC as a flagship for new technologies. We often cite the BBC website when trying to get clients to understand good ways of doing things digital. It's been excellent in helping us get our clients to understand RSS. If the BBC is doing it, then it must be good. The BBC brand in effect supports our business. I'd happily pay more for my licence fee.

  2. At 03:48 PM on 17 Dec 2007, Sean Alexander wrote:

    Welcome to the Social ;P

  3. At 04:52 PM on 17 Dec 2007, David Russell wrote:

    Is there any connection between your previous employment and the fact that the BBC's internet services are offering second-class service to licence tax payers who are not also Microsoft customers?

  4. At 05:29 PM on 17 Dec 2007, Thomas wrote:

    Just to say that Blogs are a waste of resources. If the BBC or any other organisation wants feedback then it needs to do something that filters out the self-selecting minority that write comments. Like me, for example. Blogs distort the image not only of the public but of the organisation that hosts them (in the same way that a person might host a tapeworm). The comments pages invariably fill up with the unrestricted ramblings of people with an axe to grind, very often with no reason beyond some nonsense they read in a tabloid or on another blog somewhere.

    The end result is a paranoid mess which achieves nothing at all other than wasting the time of the blog writer and making their employer look like they are besieged with complaints regardless of the actual levels of satisfaction amongst their customers.

    So, ditch the touchy-feely blog gimmick and just do some real work instead.

  5. At 07:01 PM on 17 Dec 2007, ken wrote:

    As far as I can see the BBC blogs are open for anyone to comment, either positively or negatively.

    Obviously they will hold comments for moderation, but if they are publishing negative stuff then at least it proves they are not frightened to take in on the chin..

    Blogs can become a 'paranoid mess' as you put it if lots of people comment and ask questions that never get answered by the blogs owners, that can reflect badly on the company owning the blog.

    So can comments that dont get published, which did not break any 'rules' so to speak.

    Its not unknown for some blog owners (not talking about the BBC here, no idea if they do or don't) to only publish the comments they want the public to see, and the people who's legitimate comments do not get posted will have a bad taste left in their mouthes, and a lack of trust instilled in the company in question - possibly a lack of trust that they will spread to other people.

    Overall though, blogs encourage open communication, which is a good thing.

  6. At 11:42 PM on 17 Dec 2007, Ian wrote:

    This is exciting to here but as David wrote. It will do the BBC no favors making strong alliances with an organisation that defies web standards. Well, it might do them some favors, but not the web.

  7. At 11:54 PM on 17 Dec 2007, David wrote:

    I find myself in almost complete agreement with Thomas. Although the introduction of blogs has been a positive step (especially when providing background material which is not easily conveyed in conventional media), comments are almost always a waste of space. Without the sophisticated facilities which webforums (and before them, bulletin boards) have evolved, they become almost useless as a method of carrying on conversations with the rest of us. There are sites out there that have figured out how to integrate these two types of postings(blogs for articles, forums for subsequent conversation threads); I hope this may be one of them in the future.

    Having said that, I also agree that the BBC has done wonders as a pioneer in new media - as it has been ever since 1927 or whenever it was. And what's more impressive is that it has almost always done it well. I hope that the recent glitches over DRM are only a minor hiccup and not a harbinger of the way ahead, but I remain optimistic. And the license fee is still the bargain of the century.

  8. At 11:56 PM on 17 Dec 2007, Michael Walsh wrote:

    Eh... I thinks this post is slightly out of date - as the C21 Future Media conference was on the 13th of December:

  9. At 09:27 AM on 18 Dec 2007, Alan Connor (BBC Internet Blog) wrote:

    Good point, Michael - have edited post for clarity.

  10. At 10:13 AM on 18 Dec 2007, Jonathan Brooks wrote:

    "to globally engage..."

    This is a horrendous split infinitive.

  11. At 10:20 AM on 18 Dec 2007, Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC Internet Blog) wrote:

    David Russell,

    the question you ask about the BBC and Microsoft had been addressed by Ashley Highfield in this interview with Groklaw:


  12. At 10:22 AM on 18 Dec 2007, Jonathan Allen wrote:

    Wow, people adding comments to a blog saying that comments on blogs are a wsate of time. Irony, sarcasm or just pulling someones chain?

    My 2p will be that i hope these blogs are maintained. I subscribed to maybe 8 or 10 Microsoft blogs over the last year, all in the area of my technical profession and each one of them now has been abandoned. My RSS aggregator shows no updates every day.

    Starting a blog is a long term committment, especially if its not bound by any timeline at its inception, it is a diary and therefore should continue while the writer persists. Agreed it is likely that there will be days when there is nothing to write and others where there is too much other stuff to do meaning that no entry gets written.

    What i would advise anyone against is setting a bunch of ideals and goals for the blog and getting peoples hopes up and then letting them down.

    For the moment, however, an ex Microsoft employee in a key role at the BBC with the ideas that have been mentioned will have his blog added to my NetVibes and i will be reading with interest. Lets hope i still am in a month, a year, etc, etc.

  13. At 10:47 AM on 18 Dec 2007, Iain Houston wrote:

    My heart dropped when I heard Eric had been part of Microsoft and then it rose again when he explained that he had left after struggling to exercise his "true passion ... about using cutting edge digital media technologies" as it mirrors my own experience in a career in software development way back when IBM was the pioneer.
    More to the point: I hope the BBC's internet offerings will steer an objective technological path away from any proprietary platform at the same time protecting its digital rights.
    For example, it should not be necessary for people in Africa to have to buy a Windows licence (or Apple or any other licence) to be able to use BBC's iPlayer. There is Java, and Javascript and free Real Players from the Helix community that run on any platform.

  14. At 08:34 PM on 18 Dec 2007, Rudy wrote:

    As long as the BBC continues to give me "Top Gear", I'm going to continue watching!

  15. At 08:09 AM on 19 Dec 2007, Nick Booth wrote:

    Would you mind using fewer z's in your spelling and more s's please. Thank you.

  16. At 11:30 AM on 19 Dec 2007, David Mills wrote:

    David Russell makes a point. (17th Dec)....I am writing this using NetSurf 1 on a RISC OS 5 based machine.

    My reasons for staying with RISC OS are simple...just that a clear, simple, intuitive interface.

    As I understand things (I am not a computer expert, I use the machine to do a job) there are agreements as to standards in Web design. Unfortunately, it seems that the domination of the industry by Microsoft vis Windows allows many designers to ignore such things and produce "broken" websites. This includes BBC beta.

    I also use Firefox (of necessity) and have never found that BBC works fully on even that platform...this continues with beta. I have yet to try it out on my wife's Macintosh.

    I appreciate the need/desire for the BBC to "keep ahead of the game" and as a license fee payer I support this.

    All I ask is that things be done effectively for all us computer users by following (as I understand things) agreed protocols.

    I do not doubt that Eric Huggers' loyalties are to his current employers and the "BBC License payer"....however it seems that everyone is influenced/dominated by a supposed Industry Standard as reflected in Windows based PCs.

    David Mills

  17. At 02:06 PM on 19 Dec 2007, Sally, software manager wrote:

    So how do you like your job now? Are you completely satisfied?

  18. At 01:47 PM on 09 Feb 2008, jenny wrote:

    The blogs are great - a really good way to do all those crazy buzzword things Eric describes. Digital media space, globally engage, entire value chain, escape velocity! I can see you will definitely bring something new to the BBC although I'm not sure that kind of commercial jargon is a good thing. I hope it doesn't reflect a change in culture - the BBC wants to take the things it can use to improve from the commercial (or any other sector) but be very wary of the bad stuff. We're audiences and users not "consumers"...

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