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Jim Egan

Chief Operating Officer | 01 Mar 2013

TV advertising remains a powerful medium. Our efforts with regions with a localised approach and tailored content should help us tap the market further. Increasing audience engagement will also be key. We will work with our clients on ad formats and targeted ads. Innovative content distribution over digital platforms, better video experience for users, and consistency of experience across our platforms will help us on the distribution side as well.

As Chief Operating Officer of BBC Global News, Jim Egan takes full strategic and financial responsibility for the business, overseeing relationships within the BBC and externally with advertisers and distribution partners for the BBC’s commercially funded international news platforms BBC World News and Egan joined the BBC in 2007 and most recently served as Controller, Strategy and Distribution for BBC Global News, where he was responsible for setting corporate strategy for the BBC’s international news services and for the distribution of radio, TV and online content to the BBC’s global audience.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Abid Hasan, Egan talks about restructuring in BBC Global News, India-specific content, digitisation and te importance of digital media.

Q. Following the restructure last September, what have been the significant developments in BBC Global News?

BBC World News has a refreshed line-up of programmes and presenters, including Yalda Hakim, one of Australia’s brightest international journalists, who has joined the channel as a current affairs correspondent and presenter for a new current affairs programme, and long-time BBC News presenter and reporter Jon Sopel, who is joining the channel to present ‘Global with Jon Sopel’, a new weekday international news programme.

The channel now has a brand new look and feel, with virtual reality capability and full HD production. It will make use of three studios, including the largest studio in the building, which will be the base for the channel’s flagship daily programmes such as ‘GMT with George Alagiah’, ‘Impact with Mishal Husain’, ‘Global with Jon Sopel’ and ‘Focus on Africa’. The studio has seven cameras and the set is designed to accompany a variety of different programme styles.

Q. Where does India fit into BBC’s new scheme of things? What can we expect from BBC Global News as far as India is concerned?

In today’s interconnected and mobile era, Indian stories are becoming more global and the world is much more engaged with India, especially given the pace of economic and political change in India. We can’t credibly claim to be a serious global news provider unless we have a significant presence in India and are able to report comprehensively from India to the rest of the world. India’s demographics are also very attractive for us – with a young English speaking audience that is interested in international news and global events. The Indian mobile and digital industry is growing at a phenomenal pace and that is also a positive factor for our business with interests across broadcast and internet. Indian households constitute over 10 per cent of our total household distribution. There are positive changes happening in the media landscape in India which will be good for India and its media industry.

We believe that we have a special place in the hearts of the Indian audiences. They are very important to us and we would like to hold that space. It is to ensure that we keep playing to our strengths in India that we have appointed a COO in the market. She will be working very closely with us to explore ways to retain and expand our audiences. News delivery on digital platforms will be a focus for us, along with our loyal viewers on the channel and attracting the youth to our offerings.

Q. India has embarked on the process of complete digitisation. How do see digitisation benefitting BBC? How does this impact your distribution set-up?

We have been successfully operating as a pay channel since 2006. We are pleased with the steps that the government has taken towards digitisation. It is too early to predict the impact, but it will bring addressability and, therefore, bring us closer to our audiences. It will also encourage investment in the distribution side of the business as it becomes less fragmented. Corporates coming in will improve governance. In the long run, we hope to be able to improve monetisation of our offerings.

Q. With digitisation also comes a more selective audience. What can we expect from BBC in terms of content specifically targeted at the Indian viewers?

We are an international news channel and we do not localise in the sense of seeking to compete with domestic news providers. However, in order to represent different parts of the world and also to maintain our relevance to audiences, we do cover specific regions, countries and events that have an international significance and we tailor our coverage during the day according to where most of our viewers are at any given time.

We do a weekly ‘India Business Report’ that picks up business news and issues from India similar to shows such as ‘World News America’ and ‘Focus on Africa’, which look at those regions. Our South Asia Bureau is based in New Delhi and news of international interest from India will always find its place on our networks. As part of our programming strategy, we may run country based programmes, for example, we did an India Direct season at the end of 2011, where the whole week’s programmes were focused on India. India’s increasing global relevance will automatically reflect in the coverage on our channel, but we are conscious about letting it remain open and spontaneous.

Q. What are the focus areas for BBC Global News in 2013? Where is the growth primarily going to come from?

The focus for us in the long term is to be the market leader on trust, engagement and reach. We plan investments in content to continuously improve our products so that our audiences have an enriching experience. We will work on our content so that we improve the interactivity, relevance and engagement with our audiences. We have already invested in new studios, high profile presenters, stronger programming and better technology. The look and feel of the channel and website is superior.

Growth markets for us will definitely include Asia. There will be concentration on our digital strategy. Our efforts will be to try and stay ahead of the curve. Our new brand campaign – Live the story represents our brand ethos – demonstrates our dedication to the whole story and our unrivalled on-the-ground newsgathering presence, it connects audiences with the world by relating events to people and drives and conveys dynamism.

Q. Growing revenue from advertising and channel distribution are among your top priorities. What steps is the BBC taking to ensure that these meet the organisation’s goals?

TV advertising remains a powerful medium. Our efforts with regions with a localised approach and tailored content should help us tap the market further. Increasing audience engagement will also be key. We will work with our clients on ad formats and targeted ads.

Innovative content distribution over digital platforms, better video experience for users, and consistency of experience across our platforms will help us on the distribution side as well. We will also work with our affiliates to provide value added services.

Q. BBC Global News is also looking to leverage the rapid growth in mobile users. How are you going about it? How are you looking to tap this growing TG?

Our mobile audiences are growing rapidly globally, not least in India. During 2013, we expect more than half of our digital audience to come to us from mobile devices. We are among the world’s leaders in the use of responsive design for our websites – a technology which identifies the users’ device and then renders the website in a way specific to that device to give the best possible look, feel and user experience. This is important both for our audiences and also for our advertisers who want their commercial messages to be presented in a consistent, high-quality manner across all devices. We have recently released the second version of our news app and this month launched a dedicated sports app too.

Q. In the Indian market, what would be the major avenues for revenue for BBC?

We earn revenues from both advertising and subscription from India. We believe that advertising will continue to grow. With cable digitisation, we hope that subscription revenues will have a higher growth rate. We would also like to monetise our products in the vibrant and growing mobile network in India.

Q. Digital media can no longer be ignored? How is BBC Global News leveraging digital and social media? What specific steps are you taking to remain relevant in the digital world?

The fact that the BBC combined its international news offerings across television and internet and formed Global News proves that we recognise the importance of digital media. Our news studios enable us to do cross platform integration. Our product investments include convergence and also a digital strategy to enable accessibility of our content on all possible platforms. Facebook and Twitter are now essential parts of our service. We use them both as newsgathering resources and also as means of keeping our audiences up to date with the news. We are very proud that our Twitter feeds – @bbcbreaking and @bbcworld are not just some of the most followed news feeds, but are the industry’s most shared and re-tweeted.

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