Julian Clover speaks to BBC Worldwide Channels new SVP and general manager EMEA, Ian McDonough
In the early days of multichannel television in Europe there was talk of a mythical beast known as the pan-European entertainment channel or perhaps more importantly the pan-European advertising market.
Super Channel and Sky Channel introduced me to Snickers, Raider and Werther’s Originals, but as the market matured and the early entrants faded, localisation emerged as a key selling point in getting channels onto the cable networks.
The BBC began its European service as a mix of BBC One and Two into the Nordic market, over time evolving into what is now the five-channel bouquet of BBC World News, BBC Entertainment, BBC Lifestyle, BBC Knowledge and CBeebies. Localisation has become increasingly important for the channels that were broken out of the old BBC Prime. Local continuity for CBeebies in Poland surely a contributory factor for a 40% increase in advertising sales in the country against a falling market.
Ian McDonough, who has just moved up from VP commercial development has just become BBC Worldwide Channels’ new senior vice president and general manager, EMEA, not unreasonably says he wants to continue that success. McDonough’s brief covers the all five channels, though programming and marketing for BBC World News is through a separate board, leaving McDonough and his team to handle distribution.
BBC HD, which recently launched in Poland and Turkey, is high on the agenda for further rollout in Western Europe, having made it debut in Scandinavia two years ago. “When we speak to operators in Western Europe it’s very much what want to talk about first,” he says, reminding me that in the Nordics BBC HD sits happily in basic rather than in the higher premium tiers. The channel has found it easier to deal with the costs than some of the national commercial broadcasters that have often found that HD brings little in return for the added expense. “I think it’s about being smart with the capacity, because that’s what in the end costs so much more than the SD channels. It’s difficult for a local brand to do that, but as an international brand we can use the same capacity over a much wider area, though I understand the constraints from the local side”.
McDonough sees the national channels as providing the greatest competition to BBC Entertainment, TVN in Poland, or the TV3 channels in Scandinavia, along with the US brands AXN and Sony Entertainment. For BBC World News it is, according to McDonough CNN, though he acknowledges the two business channels CNBC and Bloomberg.
The content might not always be from the BBC itself, 30% is bought in from independents including lifestyle shows from chefs, Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver regularly seen on the UK’s Channel 4 or the sci-fi drama Primeval that British viewers would associate with ITV but is distributed internationally by BBC Worldwide. “We have no other British competitor out there, our only competition comes from local and US brands, so we can put the content out there to extend the brands abroad”.