The road to an IP future
Chief Technology and Product Officer, BBC D&E
Yesterday, I gave a speech to the members of the Digital Technology Group (DTG) at their annual meeting in London about one of the BBC’s priorities for the future – the road to IP (IP in the sense of delivering programmes and content over the internet). There’s a lot at stake here for our audiences and partners in the UK broadcasting and creative industries. I want the BBC to take the lead in telling the story about how we create an IP future that works for us all.
We know that many people already use the internet to consume much of what they watch, listen to and read. In fact, we’ve just published data showing that following a hugely successful January and February, stats for March show BBC iPlayer has had its most successful quarter ever – with record-breaking request in the first three months of this year. There are also, however, many people who continue to watch and listen on traditional channels. We at the BBC have a duty to serve both audiences.
But when that internet-only world comes (as it inevitably will), we must be at the forefront of change, we must take advantage of the opportunities offered by IP delivery to get more, better, personalised content and services to audiences and to sustain a thriving UK creative economy. In the meantime, we must deliver our traditional services brilliantly – and look at incorporating devices that make the most of both worlds on our journey there.
In my speech yesterday, I outlined the opportunities and challenges of this internet-only world – and how, working with the industry, we must shape this next chapter in the internet’s story, but importantly not leave anyone behind on the journey.
I talked about challenges such as the availability and take-up of high-speed, reliable broadband by everyone. Investment has already been earmarked for this – but more needs to be done.
Another challenge is the threat to the unique media ecology in the UK – which many feel is one of the jewels in the UK’s economic crown. We know that the internet economy tends towards winner-takes all markets – lead by companies that have no particular reason for sustained investment in a broad-range of UK content, or news plurality, or positive outcomes for society. The BBC is working hard with others in these areas – providing safe spaces for children online and tackling fake news – but we all need to do more.
And finally, I talked about preserving the qualities and attributes of broadcast in an internet-only world. Qualities such as breadth, universality, even intimacy – in terms of a direct, unmediated relationship between broadcasters and our audience. We must continue to give audiences not just what they think they want – but surprise and delight them with those hidden gems or things that will add value to their lives (not just create more filter bubbles). We want not only to carry these over to an internet world – but use the unique power of the internet to amplify and enhance those attributes for viewers and listeners for the future.
Let’s be clear, the move to an internet-only future won’t happen overnight – and nor would we want it to – we’ve always been clear about the BBC’s commitment to serve audiences using broadcast and internet services for the duration of its 11 year Royal Charter. But it’s not that far away. I want to ensure that the BBC takes an audience centric approach – working with partners and the wider industry together to help secure the IP future this country needs.