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Jim Egan

Chief Executive Officer | 29 Nov 2013

You still see resentment among some TV news channels that the internet has come and wrecked their business model. Print in some parts of Europe and America is having a very tough time coming to terms with the internet. Mobile consumption has seen a rapid uptake, however, advertising monies have been quite slow to move to mobile.

Jim Egan Chief Executive Officer, BBC Global News joined the organisation 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. As CEO of BBC Global News, Egan has 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 bbc.com/news.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Mehra, Egan shares his insights on and the strategy behind the content and programming for India, the Indian broadcast industry, broadcasters grappling with multi-screen migration, and more...

Q. What are your views on the current happenings and scenario in the Indian broadcast industry?

What we observe is a massive explosion in the Indian media landscape in the last 10 years. The news domain is very competitive, I do wonder how everybody makes money, maybe they are backed by people who don’t need to make money! It must be the most congested and hyper competitive news market in the world. There does seem to be a particular editorial diet round crime, celebrity, cinema, and cricket. What interests me is that there are lots of well respected and renowned people running the news business, when I talk to them they always say ‘I came into this because I was committed to the highest principles of journalism, those are the guys who have taken us down market’ – it is always someone else’s fault. These are the interesting dynamics of the market, there maybe a role that the policing regulation is playing in this as well.

There is a bit of trend at the moment for nations to be engaging in soft power, starting their own international news organisation, such as China, Iran, Germany, France and Russia. It is interesting that India has not yet said ‘we need to project an India perspective on globally’.

Q. Are broadcasters today equipped to cope with the double-edged sword of multi-screen migration?

It is one of the golden rules of any line of business to follow what the customer is doing. I have observed people, it doesn’t matter if you are in Delhi or Detroit, people are consuming news, all day, whatever screen they have; the age of multi-screen news is very much here as far as the audience is concerned. For a while TV news channels have regarded the internet with some suspicion, thinking ‘is this going to put me out of business’? This is partly the reason why we got our website and TV together and said, ‘there is an integrated P&L here, how do we maximise it’.

The website is becoming more video rich, those video stories are often packages which are taken from the channel. You still see resentment among some TV news channels that the internet has come and wrecked their business model. Print in some parts of Europe and America is having a very tough time coming to terms with the internet. Mobile consumption has seen a rapid uptake, however, advertising monies have been quite slow to move to mobile. At the beginning of 2012 Facebook was seeing mobile growth, but was unable to monetise it, and now more than 50 per cent of their income is coming from mobile. So, I think the money is starting to follow the audience.

Q. How does BBC attract a younger audience and increase viewership?

We are present in 160 million households around the world, and in addition to that, hotels and airline business is very important to us. It is fair to say that the audience is slightly older, skewed a bit more to males and is an affluent travel audience.

Online, we see a bit more younger audience and social media is driving new audiences. Two weeks ago we launched our YouTube channel, which we are programming in a very different way, and although it still remains the BBC, there is a different emphasis to top stories and so on. These are the ways in which we are seeking to bring new audiences in. We are very keen to increase the percentage of people who are both watching the TV channel and the website. The majority of audiences doing both is less than 50 per cent currently.

Q. What does your target consumer want today?

The audience that we are targeting is interested in India and India’s role in the world, and also global events and how they impact not only Indian politics, but also the society. For the last 20 years, India has been on the economic expansion, liberalisation programme, which has reinforced certain connectivity between India and other parts of the world.

Q. BBC World News has just announced a season of programmes focusing on India to air in February 2014, called India Direct. Are there any other changes in the content strategy for the India market?

India Direct is not uniquely an Indian idea, we do this in various markets across the world – the last one we did was for Singapore a couple of months ago – it is a way in which editorial and commercial interests come together. There will be an emphasis in India next year around the elections, we are also going to be looking at parts of India that don’t normally get coverage internationally.

Q. What are the insights and strategy behind the content and programming for India?

We are not trying to be innovative for its own sake, but original and distinctive perspective on things. Global issues of human interest stories, culture, and health are quite big for us. We recently launched a show called ‘Health Check’. We had aired a show in September on obesity in Indian teenagers and kids, called ‘India’s Supersize Kids’. These trends resonate globally.

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