How BBC grabbed eyeballs in India during the on-going pandemic

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Updated: Aug 04, 2020 10:04 AM

BBC recorded 179 million unique viewers on BBC.com during the pandemic while adding 18 million homes to its broadcasting kitty from India

BBC’s news channel saw a 33% - 35% spike in the distributionBBC’s news channel saw a 33% – 35% spike in the distribution

With over 250 employees in India, BBC World service which broadcasts content in eight Indian languages, claims to have seen a rise in market share. The broadcast firm claims to record nearly 16-18 hours of live coverage every day. In a conversation with BrandWagon Online, Rahul Sood, managing director, BBC Global News, talks about how the news platform is worming its way into the hearts of Indian audiences via both television as well as digital platforms. (edited excerpts)

In terms of viewership, what is the rise you have witnessed during the pandemic?

We saw 179 million unique viewers on BBC.com during the pandemic, which is almost a 90% increase year-on-year in terms of traffic. On TV, we now reach over 500 million TV households across the world. So, if I was to extrapolate that data and take into consideration that in India per household has four-five viewers, we’re looking at approximately 2.5 billion people across the world getting access to BBC on television. In India, BBC’s news channel saw a 33% – 35% spike in the distribution, because distribution platforms realised this is a global story. We got approached by distributors who wanted to carry the service in the base packs, making it available to a wider audience. In the last four months, market share in terms of viewership rose 55%-60%.

From being a linear broadcast media company to creating a digital play, how has the transformation been?

We cater to all aspects of digital media in terms of content, from over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms to becoming the largest news content provider in the digital space. In fact, on Facebook we are the most news viewed page. From Twitter followers to Instagram feeds, we have a huge stake in the digital news space. Furthermore, before the ban, TikTok wanted a partnership wherein provide news content on the platform which will be powered by BBC.

How does the content on social media differ from the website or television?

Given the nature of the social media medium such as Instagram, the videos which go live on these platforms are crisp, short and informative in order to better cater to the social media audiences. Similarly, BBC videos on Facebook will be slightly different from the same story available on YouTube or Instagram as the demographics of the platform is different from others. While we do not necessarily make fresh content for social media we do, however, edit the original content into byte size to fit our audience’s appetite. We have a huge repository of content, the challenge is to see which content works in which market, region or platform.

Post lockdown news aggregator apps and short format news apps have gained popularity amongst the younger generation. How does BBC plan to battle with this popularity?

News aggregators are purely tech platforms. These startups are solely focusing on building a certain audience base and are more nimble-footed in terms of targeting audiences. However, the key question is whether they are able to retain their audience and monetise them? This where the long term news players have the upper hand as they have a legacy, a track record of being trustworthy and being balanced in this divided world of ours with fake news being the order of the day. Hence, news aggregators and short-form news apps flare up for some time but will eventually wither away after some time.

How has BBC fared in terms of advertising revenue?

The beauty of being a global news organisation is that we are not dependent on just one stream of revenue. Where nearly 95% of news media in India is completely dependent on advertising, BBC is a paid subscription service so we get a sizable amount of our revenue from the license fee. We also have an out-of-home (OOH) business along with brand sponsorship and a regular advertising business, which contributes towards our revenue. So yes, we have seen a slowdown in the advertising revenue however we have enough buffers to bridge the gap created by loss of ad revenue. The gap will be filled primarily through the subscription license fee model which has done very well. For instance, in India, we’ve added 18 million homes to our distribution base, bringing the total tally to 60 million homes from 42 million homes. On the back of this success, we are looking at increasing our license fee and subscription models in the months ahead.

Read Also: Pepperfry’s Kashyap Vadapalli on the marketing strategy which brands need to follow in the time of Covid-19

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