Originally given as a speech at Spotify, Stockholm, Sweden

Think Outside The Box Ad

Why thinking outside the box? It’s an advert we ran for a role we were recruiting for last year. I was looking for someone to run a specialist capability team in Birmingham and the ad just stuck with me so I’ve been using it ever since.

The BBC is the worlds oldest and largest public service broadcaster. We are not a “unicorn”, we certainly aren’t “lean” or “agile” and if you asked us to “pivot” we’d smile politely and probably ask you about the weather. But as this video should illustrate we have been consistently disrupting ourselves since 1922 –

From the launch  of Dr Who in 1963 right through to our Virtual Reality re-creation of Tim Peake’s spacewalk we made for HTC Vive recently the BBC has always been an innovator in content. BUT like you we know that the world of Digital IP is changing everything, and I do mean everything.

In a world of plenty, the only currency is attention and attention is what defines media. Netflix is fighting Hollywood for attention and winning. Buzzfeed, Instagram, & Snapchat are taking moments away from other media. They have attention.

For those of us who work within television we need to know that our competition is now cows photobombing horses in a field as much as it is any other TV show. Traditionally the BBC has evolved applying it’s public service mission first on radio, then on television and finally online.

I earned my first set of Digital Stripes running a comedy website for the BBC. In 2010 we were developing TV IP online – BBC 1 shows like Citizen Khan and Film Directors like Ben Wheatley were working with us digitally before they got their big break elsewhere. We had been told and to certain extent assumed the role of digital comedy was to develop TV Comedy. Or to put it another way our strategy was that the Internet was there to serve Television. BUT then culture eats strategy for breakfast – social media blew up &  the perfect storm occurred. More and more short form video was consumed  along with the opportunity to consume video online increasing with new methods of distribution.

In 2015 I was asked to run a session for TV Mgt Teams on the importance of short form video. So rather than talk to them about short form video – I got Brett Domino to make us a video…

Within a couple of months the BBC then made the decision to close our youth TV channel BBC Three and we relaunched it in February 2016  as an online only service. With BBC Three’s move online all of a sudden it was not a case of using digital to inform TV development. It was a case of using digital behaviours to inform content development.

The BBC which for so many years has been a platform company making content for its TV and Radio channels has had to think about evolving into a content company that works carefully through its distribution platforms. TV is still our biggest audience driver – it’s where we spend most of our money but now Digital content should not just exist to develop television hits or to augment television series.

It has its own unique ways by which we can tell great stories. That is why we launched a new home for ideas at the BBC. Taster –

This is where we road test new formats, new technologies and new talent in front of the Audeince – and from them we extract analytics that inform secondary development. In our first year we piloted everything from interactive video software like Interlude & Touchcast to micro video formats at 6 and 15 seconds duration – getting our TV teams to try very different forms of storytelling BUT what we are learning from what we are doing on Taster is that you don’t pilot single ideas, you identify digital behaviours, you laser in on what makes people share content,  you licence a new technology, or you develop a new digital format and then you repeatedly pilot it with many different genre teams till you know if what you’ve produced truly can scale.

Take for example the idea of personalised content. On Broadcast Television we all see the same programme. But online we can serve you something  made just for you Last year we developed an archive engine -we populated it with hundreds of clips of TV & News archive – we tagged them very carefully – and then invited the audience to tell their story with our archive

The Your Story engine has now been used on 4 different BBC projects with another 3 in development. The annual costs of running the Taster operation is less than a single episode of one of our premium TV Drama’s. The value of doing this lies in our ability to anticipate and respond to audience behaviour and the questions I ask of our teams who want to develop content for Taster are always

1: Is it mobile?

2: Is it social?

3: Can It Scale?

And this is why