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Or “you’re gonna put my TV content out on the web before the the show goes out? Now hang on a second…”

When I joined the BBC in 2006 as the Executive Producer for iF&L (interactive Factual & Learning) the team was mainly concerned with red button content. I was significantly more excited about what the web could do for BBC content and felt strategically that was where the iF&L programme support team needed to concentrate its efforts.

After a couple of weeks, a few interesting projects landed on my desk. Castaway 2007 (not the Tarransay, Ben Fogle, crustyfest show of 1999, but the subsequently less successful follow up in NZ –  see separate entry) and Long Way Down, the Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman travelogue sseries.

No-one at the BBC at this stage had thought about putting TV content out online before the TV show had aired. My main strategic reason to get this online was to extend the BBC Two programmes demographic reach.

BBC Two commonly appeals to an average age of 54 years old – I know….

The proposition was to create a real time online experience where users could watch what was happening to the two intrepid bikers, communicate with them and watch their progress on a map.

The production team had mobile phones with video recording facilities, broadcast cameras and editing equipment all piled into their Nissan Pathfinder support vehicles. After a day filming they would edit a small package on FCP, upload it along with stills, some text, read messages from fans, reply and then send to London using a BGAN modem/field phone. Then after that, they go to bed…

I spoke to Russ Malkin, owner of the Indie producing the series about the idea and the possible additional workloadand his response was, “well I think it’s doable. When will the content go out?”

“A day after it’s happened.”

“hey, hey, wait a minute….you’re gonna put my expensive TV content out on the web before the show goes out? Won’t that cannibalise my TV audience. I feel very nervous about that.”

Long Way Down, tx’ed in November and doubled its slot average for a Sunday night. Audience planning wanted to know why and asked a balanced group of viewers (circa 2000 of them) why they watched the series, 30% said they had heard about the web site, seen some content and were intrigued to see the show. Some of it must have been the ‘McGregor Factor’ but audience planning agreed that numbers were increased because of the online presence.

It’s hard for TV producers to let the crown jewels of their production out into the wild frontier of the online world so when I speak to reluctant TV producers about putting their content online before tx, I cite this case and show them the MC&A powerpoint. I also say to unbelievers  – and there are still many of them – that “my content is your marketing.” That sometimes does the trick.

Katherine Campbell did a fantastic job producing the whole thing.…. www.bbc.co.uk/longwaydown

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