The BBC aims to be an “Internet first” broadcaster, its technology chief has said.
The broadcaster has come under an increasing number of pressures in recent years, from those who believe the licence fee should be scrapped, or from subscription VOD services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. But the Beeb insists that it will stay relevant to the online age, with plans to become an “Internet first” broadcaster.
The company certainly has established a strong digital presence: BBC iPlayer has just enjoyed a record week in terms of usage, with its growing focus on original videos and premieres, as well as catch-up content. Later this month, Peter Kay’s new sitcom will be released on iPlayer before its linear broadcast: the first time this has happened for a BBC One show.
It’s the natural extension of the broadcaster’s old habits, which saw programmes such as Spooks premiere early on BBC Three for those keen to stay ahead. Now, of course, BBC Three is planning to move entirely online, as the Beeb aims to connect with a young, digital audience.
“I think the direction of travel for the BBC is that we need to make sure that our portfolio is relevant in the internet age. BBC3 was a brand that you could move from on platform to another relatively easily,” Chief Technology Officer Matthew Postgate told the Financial Times.
He added that BBC One would remain more suited for “broadcast-oriented technologies”.
His comments arrive in the wake of the controversial Digital Media Initiative in 2013, which aimed to create a tapeless BBC with entirely digital archives: a scheme that ballooned in cost before finally being scrapped altogether by a concerned BBC Trust.
“Rather than trying to deliver one large project, we’ve been taking off the different components and moving forward,” admitted Postgate.
Later, he wrote a blog for the BBC website, which highlighted that the BBC had delivered £1.1 billion of savings across the corporation since 2007.
“We are now doing more with less,” he said. “Innovation lies behind a lot of how we have managed that.”
“Today, our challenge is to take advantage of the rapidly changing technology and media landscapes for the benefit of the public.”
Innovation is already a key part of the BBC’s steps in the digital realm: at the same time as releasing an experimental Adam Curtis documentary (Bitter Lake), the Beeb also launched BBC Taster, a new playground for its engineers to trial new services and interactive features to see if they work. That kind of embracing of online potential is what marks out the corporation as a forward-thinking broadcaster.
Postgate talked of opening the door to “entirely new forms of content that are much more data-intensive than audio or video – things like Ultra-HD or virtual reality”. While he acknowledged that “I’m not saying these technologies will take off overnight, or that they’ll take off at all for that matter”, it’s an indicator of what the BBC is eyeing further down the line.
For now, you can expect to see more iPlayer activity, as the corporation works out exactly how to manage its online BBC Three offering.
“We will increasingly use the internet to deliver programmes and services to you in the future,” added Postgate, “whether that’s to the big screen in the living room or the smartphones and tablets scattered over the house.”