AN INSIDERS VIEW ON THE BBC’S CREATIVE FUTURE
As the TV world hears of another BBC leader exiting the BBC, one might wonder what is going on there and why have so many of the most senior management taken the step to leave a secure and well paid job. I am not going to pretend to read their mind or to spill the beans on my friends and colleagues, but what I do know is that the pressures the BBC is under financially, the scrutiny of a certain type of press and, most importantly, a commercial change plan which brings into doubt the organisation’s Reithian values, can only help to push those who can, to leave.
As I recently stood up to make a keynote speech at City Business School, I took a deep breath and prepared to win support for the BBC; from a crowd, who if my husband was right, wouldn’t care whether the BBC was in danger or not. As you can see in this picture, it was 20 years ago that I joined the organisation for its very values which are now becoming harder to deliver. So what’s the challenge?
New audience needs – platforms, technology, expectations
Although TV viewing remains relatively strong, younger audiences are not watching as much, or in the case of my kids, any linear TV! More and more of us are now on broadband, set to reach 85% by 2021. Four out of five of us have smartphones and the majority of audiences now create or contribute online: 23% easy, 60% are active and a further 17% are intense creators. This means making the content differently, making it with different collaborators and making it available on any platform, with new gatekeepers in charge.
The BBC is having to invest in new partnerships, with new market players, which will become ever more powerful gatekeepers to the audience.
New competitors – bigger, bolder and financially better
But it’s not just about distribution channels, it’s also about better, brighter content; stand out voices, talent, tone and stories. We will all know of the rise of the £2 billion plus Super Indies; from All3 Media to Endemol Shine, Fremantle Media, Zodiak and RDF. I have worked with many of these and they attract and retain some of the industry’s best talent. However, this is only the competition within the sector; nowadays Amazon is making Jeremy Clarkson’s next ‘vehicle’ (!), Youtube has a Creator Space recording studio in London, Netflix is in 200 countries and reaches 40 million people and web producers are creating content that drives as many subscribers as BBC peak time viewing.
New financial pressures – by 2022, the BBC will need to make £800 million a year savings. Licence fee revenue has fallen and BBC Worldwide has experienced a drop in sales.
“By the end of this Charter, our savings (BBC) will reach more than £1.6 billion per year… just 8% is spent on running the BBC” Tony Hall, 8th March 2016 at Media & Telecoms conference
Consider all of this and rapid inflation in Sports, News and Drama, is it any wonder that everyone, not just the BBC, is feeling the strain compared with the might of buyers like Sky?
This can only mean one thing – massive change.
The BBC faces one of the biggest structural shake-ups it has ever experienced, compounded by a prolonged period of uncertainty.