BBC Worldwide plans new channel launches

Tim DavieBBC Worldwide chief executive Tim Davie has announced plans for three new pay-TV channels that will showcase BBC content internationally.

BBC First, BBC Earth and BBC Brit will be tested in a number of key markets for the corporation’s commercial arm.

Speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild, Davie also gave further details of the BBC Store that has succeeded plans for a Global BBC iPlayer.

On the slate are BBC First, inevitably drawing comparisons with HBO, which will launch in Australia in the summer, and featuring first-run BBC content. The move puts a premium on the often criticised content of BBC Entertainment and its predecessor BBC Prime.

“Traditionally we’ve had strong programme sales [in Australia], we’ll continue to too that, but on the pay platform we’ll do primarily drama, but also some high-profile events.” Davie said that although BBC First would be primarily a linear experience, he used the term channel to include the whole gamut of outlets including digital.

BBC Earth is such an example. It already has a presence, unusually, on both bbc.com and bbc.co.uk. In Yokahama, Japan there is a four-year partnership with Sega for an interactive natural history theme park.

On screen the BBC, no longer working with Discovery, is free to carry its brand on content into North America. Davie said there would be branded blocks with the BBC Earth name on other channels.

The third channel is entertainment based and male skewed in what at first glance sounds like an international version of Dave, the popular UKTV channel, which BBC Worldwide owns jointly with Scripps.

“We may tailor it slightly in different markets but the global name, will be BBC Brit,” explained Davie. “I’m terms of targeting there are similarities. Dave is continuing to deliver outstanding numbers, but is relying on UK humour, comedy is more nuanced when you’re rolling out editorial and it is a channel.”

He admitted that some existing channels, particularly in Latin America and Central & East Europe, would have to make way for the new channels.

On the demise of the Global iPlayer, Davie said he was concerned about the fragmentation of the BBC globally, and while he could see the appeal of the iPlayer internationally there were 60 million people already arriving at bbc.com. The strategy is designed to head off the loss of revenues as DVD continues its inevitable decline.

“Don’t think just a website but think BBC interactive as the front door. News is the lead brand as that is the lead driver of traffic. It’s the big strategy and the idea is to sit everything on the one website.”

In a proposal currently before the BBC Trust, bbc.co.uk would send audiences to a new dedicated site. At the same time the public service broadcast window is being increased from seven to 30 days. “That store functionality over time will give me the ability to put on BBC.com. The long term vision is clear and not to have bits and pieces but have the functionality on BBC.com, but this is a multi-year project.”

The global version is very much in the hands of the Trust and must first await the launch via .co.uk. It will not immediately be made available on the .com site.