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BBC commerce chief: focus is on online, talent & finance

The BBC needs to respond to the fragmentation of audiences and theemergence of global competition by focusing on its online presence, developing “world-class creativity” and ensuring that its finances are stable, according to Bal Samra, the UK public broadcaster’s group commercial director.

Bal SamraSpeaking at Marketforce’s The Future of Broadcasting conference in London this morning, Samra (pictured) said that the BBC faces “more and more competition for audience attention”, while pressure to secure talent and programming has also increased.

He said there was a gap between those who consume the BBC’s programming the most and those who consume the least, with divisions emerging between young and old, between demographics and between regions.

Both demographics are going on social media and online more for content. Younger groups were going online almost exclusively for their news content, he said.

Samra said that traditional media organisations face other big challenges. While globalistion of media is leading to global consolidation, new talent is  seeking audiences direct via online platforms, particularly YouTube.

In this environment, said Samra, the BBC needs to focus on three things: to be part of the online world, to develop world class creativity, and to ensure financial stability, he said.

In terms of its presence in the online world, BBC iPlayer has built a huge audience, he said, adding that the inclusion of live content online would be crucial for the future. Adding personalization and encouraging participation is a key priority, by growing the active signed-in user base, he said.

“This approach will help us build a deeper two way relationship with audiences,” he said.

Samra said, that despite earlier criticism over its switch from linear to digital-only, BBC Three was now an online success story. Taking this further, the BBC had to deliver news on mobile first, he said.

In terms of talent, Samra said that the BBC had to better reflect the make-up of the UK and that it had to compete for world-class talent.

Samra said that “the BBC also has to get most out of our finances”. The move of BBC Studios into the commercial side of the business is one example of a shift that will provide opportunities, he said.