BBC launches PSB partnerships
“Broadcasters can help secure the future of PSB through partnership” – Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, comments on the launch of the partnership plans
The BBC is today launching a series of new partnerships that could deliver more than £120million per annum by 2014 to PSB beyond the BBC, including sharing the iPlayer with other broadcasters and bringing it to the television set.
The wide-ranging proposals cover the production, distribution and exploitation of content.
One partnership – to develop a common industry approach to delivering on-demand and internet services to the television – is already being progressed by a group including BBC, ITV and BT.
Other proposals announced include helping support regional news beyond the BBC; BBC Worldwide working with other broadcasters to develop new revenue streams; and the BBC sharing technology and R&D to create a common digital production standard.
Initial modelling for the BBC by Deloitte indicates that the partnerships, if approved by the BBC Trust and supported by the other partners, could by 2014 generate over £120million a year of benefit to PSB beyond the BBC.
The partnerships would mean the PSBs working together, with the BBC as a catalyst, to achieve sustainable benefits for the long term.
They could also bring benefits to the media and communications sector more widely.
Audiences would benefit from exciting new services like iPlayer on the TV, as well as better user experiences online and on TV.
The BBC Executive has developed the partnership proposals following a challenge to do so from the BBC Trust in June 2008.
They also form part of the BBC’s response to Ofcom’s second PSB review.
The proposals include:
A public service iPlayer: offering the BBC’s highly successful iPlayer for use beyond the BBC
Internet services to the television: developing with other partners an open environment for internet-connected television, working closely with ITV and BT to enable audiences to enjoy a range of on-demand and interactive services via the TV set, including the iPlayer
Opening up access to regional audio visual content and broadcasting facilities: the BBC is exploring options for sharing regional news footage and premises where appropriate to support provision beyond the BBC
Sharing digital production technology: the BBC proposes to invest in and share technology that will allow a common industry approach to producing, sharing and editing digital content
BBC Worldwide: discussions are underway to explore a series of commercial areas of cooperation between BBC Worldwide and Channel 4
Broadband: harnessing the strength and popularity of bbc.co.uk to drive reach and usage of other public service content across the internet
Sharing research and innovation, training and audience research with the rest of the industry, extending our current efforts in this area.
The BBC also wants to explore whether it can do more to support the newspaper industry.
We can announce the following proposals today:
Listing charges: the BBC can announce that it is waiving the charge it makes for television listings, benefiting the newspaper and magazine sector
Pilot scheme to share content: we are in discussions with newspapers about a non-exclusive pilot scheme to share content.
Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, said: "These proposals directly address the central question of the public service broadcasting debate: how we ensure a sustainable future in the digital age.
"We are proposing that the BBC shares some of the benefits of its scale and security with the rest of the industry to strengthen it for the long term.
"While the BBC is also facing significant economic challenges, we can still play a valuable role in underpinning public service broadcasting at a time when the industry is grappling with huge strategic challenges.
“Through partnerships I believe broadcasters can help secure the future of public service broadcasting in this country.”
Summary of PSB Partnership proposals
Supporting the transition to fully digital production
The BBC is exploring how it can adapt its own significant digital production investment to help create a common digital production standard for the sector: bringing together the UK’s creative industry and technology vendors with “software as a service” that adheres to agreed industry standards, including:
A digital archive tool: creating a shared repository for the industry allowing content to be more easily stored and accessed by producers and broadcasters in common
A digital production tool: enabling new material to be combined with archive material and moulded roughly before craft edit begins, and which allows content development to be shared more easily by producers, editors and others.
The BBC is committed to the long-term delivery of rich regional news services. It is now exploring how its own commitment can help to sustain regional news beyond the BBC, by combining resources in those parts of the value chain that stop short of reducing plurality. The BBC could for example make a significant amount of raw news footage – that covering more routine, less distinctive items – available more widely.
There is also a potentially significant opportunity to share regional news infrastructure. In the medium to longer term, and subject to further approvals, the BBC could share infrastructure and broadcast facilities across the UK. Co-location could enable not only shared space but also shared infrastructure, technology and support services.
iPlayer’s phenomenal success points to the possibility of it becoming a video-on-demand platform for PSB more widely – a possibility raised by Ofcom in September. The BBC is therefore exploring sharing the iPlayer technology, knowhow, user experience and design across PSBs.
One possibility is that iPlayer could become a federation of on-demand PSB services. Users could access this federation either via a single broadcaster-neutral central site or through separate “/iplayer” sections of each participating PSB’s website, where programmes would be viewed. Each participant would then exploit its own rights as it sees fit – maintaining the benefits of creative competition and editorial independence, but maximising the benefits of shared technology and user experience. We would see this idea being compatible with other PSB partnerships including Kangaroo, to which the BBC and other shareholders remain committed.
The BBC has been developing a standards-based open environment for internet-connected television, working closely with ITV and in discussion with other PSBs and industry partners including BT. This standard would be designed to offer consumers an integrated broadband and broadcast service, free-to-air and accessed through a single, simple user experience. It could be made available by any internet service provider offering a suitable broadband connection.
The proposal would offer audiences existing free-to-air radio and television services including High Definition, while also bringing on-demand video, audio and web-based content like iPlayer to the television set. Above all it would help protect the competitiveness of free-to-air platforms and a direct open relationship between PSBs and audiences.
The BBC’s website, BBC Online, is valued and trusted very highly by audiences – so much so that it is now the third most-visited site in the UK (and the only British-owned and run site to be in the top ten). But BBC Online could be a better guide to high-quality PSB content elsewhere on the internet. Through increased linking, syndication and wider partnership, the site could go some way to addressing Ofcom’s concerns about the findability and discoverability of online public service content in general.
Working with Government, PSBs, ISPs and other partners, the BBC could also play an important role in helping bridge the digital divide. While direct financial benefits to the PSBs are limited, this activity could bring real benefits to the cultural and creative sectors, as well as important social and citizen benefits.
Partnerships with BBC Worldwide
BBC Worldwide has begun to explore ways of using its global scale and product diversity to create opportunities with other PSBs. Initial analysis undertaken by Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide indicates that partnership opportunities across a range of business areas could potentially generate benefits worth £10-20m of net value per annum after a number of years of development, with the potential to generate up to a further £20m by working with other parties.
The partnerships described above could be supported by a number of enabling contributions from the BBC, including doing more to share the outputs of its research and innovation, training and audience research.
Partnership proposals could bring benefits to organisations and institutions beyond the PSBs, with those around digital production, research and innovation, training and audience research available to all in the industry. The BBC’s broadband proposals would also bring broader benefits, including through greater online linking to public service content; syndication of BBC content to newspapers and others; strong partnerships with the cultural sector; and support for the DAB digital radio platform.
Initial modelling by Deloitte indicates that by 2014 the partnerships explored in this document (including the BBC Worldwide partnerships modelled separately) could generate over £120m of annual benefit to PSB beyond the BBC compared to a scenario without them. This annual benefit would represent a combination of new revenue, avoided loss of revenue, and avoided or reduced cost. The ultimate benefits of these proposals will of course depend on their exact design and implementation, including more detailed discussion with partners about the nature and scale of the benefits.
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