BBC centres engagement strategy on building community

By Robert Okpu

Stockholm, Sweden


The assignment and mission for Roger Scott, head of product at the BBC, is to create and drive the company’s strategy, vision, and roadmap with ownership over the critical features and customer experience.

“Users really respond,” he told attendees at the INMA Media Subscriptions Summit in Stockholm earlier this month. “They want connection, and they want inclusion.” 

Scott has only been at the BBC for about a year, but already he has identified a lot of areas where the media giant may need to go about things in a different manner.

Rick Scott, head of product at BBC in the UK, XX.
Rick Scott, head of product at BBC in the UK, XX.

“We do a lot of work,” he said. “We have podcasts, we have newsletters, merchandise, we have marketing deals, we have events. [But] it has been spread around in a rather weak way. It’s not very simple for the user to navigate any of that stuff.”

During the past year, Scott mostly has focused on one BBC product, the motorcar fanatics programme Top Gear. He does have, though, a portfolio with responsibility for a lot of other brands.

After arriving at the BBC, he noted a disparity in the user experience: “We started by mapping out all the revenue opportunities that we felt for each brand, including the various print and digital models and the newsletters and the merchandise. Licensing as well. We have a lot of video. Video-on-demand has been very successful for us.”

It was a vast overhaul.

“We also looked at how we syndicate our content and where it goes to,” Scott said. “Education opportunities and marketplace ideas.”

In the end, finding a better way of working boiled down to one thing, Scott said: community.

“What came up was where we could collaborate a lot of different revenue streams into one theme, and that was community,” he said. 

Scott pinpointed what a subscriber community should really be about: “It’s about creating a space for them to share, meet, create, and express themselves. We feel that actually acting as the hub of the community, for a particular sort of fan club or brand, is really going to leverage how we work on subscriptions.”

The Top Gear team previously had been working on something called Drive Trial, Scott explained: “With Drive Trial, we spent about €15 million on creating content and then creating community around this content. It was a big failure because there was nowhere for the users to go. There was nowhere for that community to go. But it still grew and grew and grew.”

So what has the team learned from this?

“Where I see us moving forward with a lot of our brands, and especially with Top Gear for example, is creating a community which can act as the hub for a lot of our subscription activity. Tiered access to a lot of things, connection to events. It’s really about bringing all of those activities into one area, making it easier for the users.”

Scott is convinced there is a lot of progress to be made going forward as far as subscriptions are concerned — especially as the BBC produces a lot of quality content, much more so (quality-wise) than anywhere that he has worked previously.

“If you create a safe space for your users to participate and have a conversation with each other and with you, it really does spiral into very interesting engagement — in a rocket way, to be honest. That’s where we are at right now.”

About Robert Okpu

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