Television

'India is a dynamic and an absolute key market for us' : Anne Barnard - BBC World Ltd. managing director

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BBC World News is positioning itself as a tri-media news service with presence in TV, online and mobile. Editorially, it is looking to deliver more live up-to-the minute news reporting, across a broader news agenda.

Eyeing India as an important platform, BBC has set up its regional marketing centre in Mumbai to tap into Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com's Nasrin Sultana, BBC World Ltd. managing director Anne Barnard unveils the changes that news media organisations have to prepare for in the convergence era and talks about the company's growth plans in India.

Excerpts:

In terms of audience reach and viewership, where would you place BBC World News?

BBC World News has a global weekly television audience of 78 million, up from 76 million in 2006. It reaches 159 million full-time households, up 8 per cent from 2006, and 276 million total households globally. In terms of hotel-rooms, BBC World News has increased from 1.4 million to 1.6 million.

On the mobile front, the channel is available on 34 platforms. Mobile is the fastest growing out-of-home platform for us. In India, we have inked content deal with six mobile service providers in India. The list includes BPL, MTNL, Airtel, Vodafone, Spice Telecom and Idea Cellular.

BBC World News is also present in 42 airlines and 57 cruise ships. 29 million unique users (excluding the UK) visit BBC.com every month.

Where is the audience growth coming from?

Over the past five years there has been a 50 per cent increase in weekly European audiences and a growth of 25 per cent in Asian viewership.

Where does BBC World News stand in terms of ad sales revenue?

In ad sales, we have seen a 20 per cent growth and overall revenue has seen double digit growth.

In terms of revenue, what kind of growth has Asia seen?

In Asia, we have achieved a growth of 20 per cent.

How much does subscription revenue contribute?

We have recently launched two channels in India. We are in pay mode in India. The subscription revenue has just started to kicking in. Most of the channels in South Asia are largely free. In Southern Europe, we do not get subscription revenue at all.

What are the key markets in Asia for BBC?

From our commercial and advertsing point of view our key markets are India, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. We see huge potential in the Korean market, especially with our online product.

'In Asia, we have achieved an ad sales growth of 20 per cent'

Why did you zero in Mumbai as your first regional marketing centre outside the UK?

BBC World News wants to create a much more definite approach to new online and mobile products of BBC News and its consumers. India is a dynamic and an absolute key market for us. The regional centre in Mumbai will focus on the South Asian market.

After the launch of the first regional marketing centre outside the UK, will there be any change to operations in South Asia?

There will be key changes to the operations in South Asia, with a series of appointments for the regional marketing centre in Mumbai.

BBC Global News will bring together BBC World Service radio, BBC World News television, the BBC's international facing online news services and BBC Monitoring.

All South Asian marketing, communications and audience insight (MC&A) activities will be managed from Mumbai. The Mumbai office will continue to service BBC World News' MC&A needs in India, but will now additionally manage World Service's extensive activities across the region, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

Vaishali Sharma has been promoted to head of marketing & communications, BBC Global News, South Asia.

Dezma De Melo, who was previously head of audience insight for BBC World, has been promoted to head of audience insight, BBC Global News, South Asia.

De Melo and Sharma will work across consumer and trade activities and will, for the first time, provide in-region support for World Service business development teams.

Are you making any changes in your programming mix this year?

BBC World News is now positioned itself as a tri-media news service, delivering international news and information across multiple platforms - TV, online and mobile. Editorially, BBC World News is looking to deliver more live up-to-the minute news reporting, across a broader news agenda. It will also focus on providing more in-depth news and debate, plus global and regional news, business and sports programming including the popular World News Today with Nik Gowing, and India Business Report which target the Indian market.

We plan to expand our family of World News Today programmes from five hours, to seven hours a day. In July, a new World New Today programme with Mishal Husain will be launched. Our weekends will be focused on delivering topical lifestyle and documentary programming.

A number of BBC programme seasons are also planned over the course of the year and will be broadcast across TV, radio and online.

What about ad funded programming?

It is the advertisers' creation and ideas that we further push as a funded programming. But in all such cases, the editorial rests with us. Ad sales team does not impose upon any story on the editorial; they only suggest ideas. After we receive all the entries for the ad funded programming, we select only six programmes which suit our programming code.

Which is your best ad funded programming?

Our best is World Challenge sponsored by Shell. This year we will be in our fourth season. In the fourth season, we have teamed up with Newsweek and Shell for the World Challenge, to identify and reward people and groups that bring economic and social benefits to their local communities.

This year each nomination must fall under one of the following categories: community welfare and enterprise; health and education; sustainable farming; energy; water and environment.

A panel of judges will then shortlist the entries down to the 12 best examples of community-based projects or businesses.

BBC World News will then produce six 30-minute programmes profiling the 12 finalists showing how their projects and businesses are changing lives. These programmes will be broadcast to the channel's global audience in October and November, and the channel's viewers will be invited to vote online for their favourite project or business.

Last year a record 942 nominations were received from 99 countries worldwide. Winning project T'ikapapa - a Peruvian project set up to bridge the gap between Andean farmers and the potato market - was presented with a $20,000 grant from Shell to further develop their initiative.

Would such programming have been possible for BBC to undertake without the ad fund support?

No.

With pressure coming from commercialisation, what are the changes that BBC News has gone through recently?

There are no such pressures. Editorial and sales are two different entities.

How do you position BBC World News in an Indian scenario where there is a mushrooming of popular local news channels?

Our aim is to present a different and unique point of view. We do not want to put ourselves under pressure of becoming a market leader in India.

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