BBC on driving the cutting edge of video despite being 90 years old

Planet Earth enjoys a global audience

BBC Worldwide’s digital head has admitted that the corporation has to be careful when moving into the new frontiers of video content in the acknowledgement that the broadcaster is 90 years old.

Speaking at Advertising Week Europe, Alex Ayling, head of BBC Worldwide Digital Studios, who is tasked with developing commercial opportunities globally for the broadcaster, agreed that the BBC can move into new areas of video content and production, perhaps inspired by social and vlogger culture, because “the audiences are so broad you can tap into it in different areas”. He did however hint that the efforts will never be too radical, adding “You can never forget who you are”.

Back in the UK, BBC Three is set to enjoy a £10m cash injection, where it will look to develop edgier content with a strong voice for a younger audience that consumes on the main terrestrial channels. At the time, Damian Kavanagh, controller of BBC Three, said the incoming content "celebrates young people and their passions", and to do so it will commission "new, innovative, contemporary takes on [factual entertainment], formats and entertainment".

This effort is reflected by the Beeb's push into digital and even social channels like YouTube or Facebook.

However, Ayling urged producers to be wary of being too reliant for any one platform for audience. For example, Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm change has been credited with the death of viral publisher LittleThings and the reduced fortunes of more publishers. Speaking at the panel was Devran Karaca, co-founder of Kyra TV. He said that brands that build up loyalty can shift their audiences across platforms if need be. Logan Paul’s exodus from YouTube to Twitch was an example of this.

Ayling however urged video producers not to “put all their eggs in the one basket” by relying on any single platform for distribution. He added that it was important to learn about social media audiences on social and collect first party data that can be actioned to stoke loyalty, he said: “The people that follow us on Snap, Twitter and Facebook are not our audience, we are borrowing them at best and buying them at worst.”

He advised brands keen to talk to the youth to actually hire them. “Build a team that can adapt and be agile, hire some young people and have them tell you what they are doing.”

On the content side, Ayling said audiences and creators are unshackled from the mass appeal requirements on linear content. “You can build up an archive… now there is so much stuff, there are those niche across the internet and they will find things that would never have got into linear broadcasting.”

Lindsay Poulton, executive producer of documentaries at The Guardian said that it is important to take long-form content into the real world and festival experiences so that groups of people can discuss and engage with it as a community.

“I think that watching films collectively and engaging with other human beings is really strong. We really think about real life.”

In the coming years she predicted: “Tech will continue to change, but good storytelling will never go out of fashion.”

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