BBC online revamp exemplifies Facebook, other social media's influence on programming

BOSTON -- Media companies exhibiting here at INTX chatted throughout the week about the need to tailor their content to fit the different sizes of screens and the various platforms, like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Snapchat and Instagram, that viewers use. And beyond the event, at least one media company is paring back older initiatives to fund more social media-savvy ones: BBC.

The Beeb is cutting several online properties and apps over the next year in a bid to save about $22 million (£15 million), or 15 percent of its editorial budget, TechCrunch reports. That includes closing down its Food and Travel websites, shuttering science facts site iWonder, closing its online News magazine while it figures out a new direction, folding Newsbeat into BBC News Online, and reducing funding for its Connected Studio innovation initiative as well as non-core radio and social media programming.

Additionally, the service's domestic BBC News channel may be merged with its international outlet, BBC World News, according to Broadband TV News, and some of its on-screen talent may be cut over the next five years to save an additional 10 percent of its budget.

James Harding, director of BBC News & Current Affairs, said in a statement that the network must redefine itself, and that many of the cuts were made to reduce duplicated effort, such as its lifestyle programming. Instead, BBC will focus on six core areas – a move that sounds very similar to Yahoo's recent refocus on four content verticals – including its venerable news service, iPlay and Bitesize, its iPlayer properties, BBC Sport, its Ideas service, and BBC Live.

Plans are apparently still in place for an SVOD service, TechCrunch noted.

The revamp of BBC is being driven by a few factors, but certainly the influence of internet culture is shaping audiences and the way media companies attract those viewers.

In panels at INTX, executives talked about the range of experiences their companies have to create in order to be present on as many platforms as possible – from the traditional TV screen to the desktop PC, tablet and smartphone.

Neil Katz, editor in chief and VP of content with The Weather Company (whose properties include The Weather Channel), said on a FierceCable panel that the provider had to create unique designs, weather graphics and experiences for different platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and its own mobile app. He also said that viewer preferences on various devices was somewhat different from their initial expectation. "We've had less success with breaking news, and more success with cool science news" on its Facebook channels, he said.

In fact, the company recently soft-launched its first non-weather channel within Facebook, Rockets Are Cool, specifically to distribute said cool science. Since its debut in mid-March, the page has become the fastest-growing Facebook property launched by The Weather Channel. In five weeks, Rockets Are Cool attracted 125,000 likes, with a weekly reach of 40 million and almost as many views per week.

In a session on mobile video content, Verizon Digital Media Services chief Bob Toohey said that there has been a shift in storytelling to fit the demands and viewing behaviors of device users. "It's not just this targeted audience, it's time spent" watching content on mobile devices. "We're doing a lot around go90," Verizon's mobile-first OTT service, including cutting down long-form content into shorter clips that are easier to consume on smaller devices, he said.

For more:
- see this BBC release
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this Broadband TV News article

Related articles:
For Turner, ESPN, and Verizon, mobile video success relies on 'holistic' business models
NBCU's Seeso, PlayStation Vue, Starz headline SVOD launches in Q1 2016
Google, Scripps, BBC: balancing consumer demand, video technology an expensive proposition

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