April 05, 2006

Should we redefine the BBC?

The question asks about the BBC but raises questions about other media channels.

Historically the power of media channels has been in managing not just the content but also the distirbution channel. Access to the bandwidth on your telly, the cinema network or the newspaper stand, gave you a lot of power and authority.

In the last few years this power has been eroded by digital distribution channels and our traditional channels are looking at how they can repsond.

The BBC has been criticised for investing so heavily in digital channels and online distribution – using public funding to gain a competative advantage. Not so, according to the DG Mark Thompson. The BBC is simply finding new channels to distribute existing content.

What I find interesting here is the way we still seem to rigidly associate content with distribution. There are many cases of content producers fighting to remove content from youtube or google video and the industry's battle with Bittorrent is well documented. John Dale has written much on th subject of file sharing.

In an age of RSS, Podcasts and Vodcasts, should we be taking a revolutionary approach to distribution? Instead of locking content into specific channels, should we democratise access, should companies get over the loss of distribution control and instead concentrate on promotion and content creation.

Here's an interesting thought. Nike own the brand. They outsource production and outsource distribution. What Nike does is marketing.

Does the same model work for broadcasters. The BBC (or another company) creates concepts and manages the brand, outsources production (which is how it operates anyway), and doesn't get too upset about who distributes it. The BBC (or other) become predominantly brand managers.

I pull my media content from a number of sources – the Guardian, the BBC, Channel 4, Radio 1 through 5, the cinema, Amazon DVD rental and so on. Does it actually matter that I have to go to a BBC site to get BBC content? My RSS reader already pulls together a range of information sources outside of their normal distribution content. Why shouldn't I get all my media this way.

Perhaps the BBCs detractors should quit complaining about the Beeb producing a media player and instead concentrate on lobbying for access to that player to be opened up so the usert can get a broad range of content. And while they're at it, they should be posting content to youtube, google video and other sources.

This raises a lot of questions about business models, but that's for all those MBA students to figure out.

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