If we win in India, we succeed globally: James Angus, BBC World Service

Angus, Director, BBC World Service, says India is the top-most contributor to the BBC News audience with 50 million viewers

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy & Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Aug 21, 2019 4:16 PM

For James Angus, Director, BBC World Service, India is a market where even a small growth in reach can increase the global reach of the platform by massive numbers. Three countries, India, Kenya and the USA, have seen the most impressive gains for BBC since 2018. India, where BBC News now operates in nine languages, has seen a rise in viewership from 20 million to 50 million to become the top overseas market for the network. 

In an exclusive chat with exchange4media, Angus talks about the growing market in India, BBC’s plans for the country and more.


Tell us a little about BBC Storyworks. Is it an India-only project or there are other chapters to it globally?

Storyworks is an important aspect of BBC Global’s commercial operation. We started Storyworks globally 4-5 years back. BBC Storyworks, which is BBC Global News’ content marketing arm, expanded to India in 2018 and is based in New Delhi. Storyworks has executed campaigns with the Indian government, including the ‘Incredible India’ one.

What are the kind of brands that Storyworks is working for? Is it only government brands or are there private brands as well?

Storyworks has a set of brands, both from the government and the private sector. Storyworks has executed campaigns for government’s Ministry of Tourism and Kerala Tourism, as well as corporate clients such as Lufthansa, Mastercard, Volvo, Radicon and TAJ Hotels. Travel & tourism is a really big sector for us. Indian tourism ministry is a very big client for us. We cover a lot of lateral markets as well.


BBC has started expanding into Indian regional languages, how important is the regional reach?

More people around the world are tuning into BBC than ever, helping us reach a new high of 426 million viewers a week, which is an increase of 50 million (13 per cent) over the last year. Four Indian regional languages--Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati and Tamil-- have pushed quite a large chunk of audience. So, for a better and profound understanding of India, we need to employ a young force of new Indian journalists. We need to be present in different areas to understand India better and to explain India to 390 million people worldwide.


What percentage of your audience is from India?

The Global Audience Measure (GAM) shows that BBC News has an audience of 394 million globally, which is a rise of 47 million. BBC Indian Languages and the BBC World News TV channel have both achieved all-time record audiences of 50 million and 101 million, respectively. India is the top-most contributor to the BBC News audience with 50 million people. Nigeria is the second largest market with 41million audience, followed by USA with 34 million audience.


Digital is all about clickbait, how do you resist the urge of going clickbait?

It is easy for us, as we are not primarily a commercial operation. We are not in the Indian market to directly compete with the Indian news providers; we simply cannot because we are a foreign brand. Our point of difference is to find out what is missing in the national market and show that to the Indian audience. BBC does in-depth analytical pieces in places that might be sensitive for the Indian media to cover and write about. This is where being a foreign brand comes in handy. We are completely unbiased, and hence the stories we do around sensitive issues are free of any colour. 


Digital space is full of opinionated readers and fake news. What is your take on that?

BBC News has brought together all its analysis and learning about fake news at one place- BBC News Fake News. Reality Check was a political discourse fact-checking service during the elections in India. We are an independent body and people have trust in BBC as it is the global leader in news provision.


Do you have a target for the Indian market?

We got to reach 500 million worldwide by 2022. India is already our single largest market that too with just 5 per cent of the population following us. Even if we are able to pull this number up to 6-7 per cent by 2023, it would be a great number for us. If we win in India, we succeed globally.


Any new innovation added to BBC?

BBC launched its first VR documentary series in 2018, Damming the Nile, and Crossing the Sky: Trek to school through the Himalayas. There is a new video vertical, BBC Real, and voice-activated devices such as Amazon Echo. BBC embarked on a voice trial for the Indian elections this year to find out user habits.

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