BBC: London Olympics will be major boost for digital media

The BBC has pledged to use the London 2012 Olympic Games to “do for digital media what the coronation did for television”.

Speaking at a Westminster e-Forum event this morning, BBC Sport head of interactive Ben Gallop said the corporation aimed to provide live coverage of every Olympic event – something it has never been able to do before.

“The basic ambition for what we do is we need to be showing every piece of Olympic action as it happens,” he said.

“We will mobilise every outside broadcast truck in northern Europe for this event. We want to try new things and see what works.”

Gallop said the BBC aims to set up more than 60 big screens showing the Olympics in city centres across the UK by 2012.

The corporation is also exploring using video-on-demand, user-generated content, embedded video on web pages and mobile coverage to ensure every event is broadcast in some form.

“By the end of this we hope that we can use 2012 to do for digital media what the coronation did more than 50 years ago for television,” Gallop said.

“It’s not about dragging our audiences kicking and screaming into the digital world. Many of them are already ahead of us.”

Gallop said the Olympics section of the BBC website attracted eight million unique users from the UK during this summer’s games, with a further five million visitors overseas.

He said the site had served 38 million pieces of video during the event – a 16-fold increase on Athens in 2004, when 2.4 million pieces were viewed.

“There’s a huge demand for this kind of new media experience. Some of the audience stats we had were quite staggering.

“What really drives traffic are big events and big news stories but none of them came close to the Games in Beijing.”

His traffic claims were confirmed by Robin Goad, the director of research at Hitwise, who said that at one point in the Games, the BBC Sport website made the top 10 most visited sites in the UK, according to its data.

Gallop said the BBC would be working with independent production companies and overseas broadcasters to make the event a success.

“This is not just going to be about the BBC delivering the Olympics to the UK. It’s about partnerships across the media sector,” he said.

“We want to start working collaboratively with indies. We definitely don’t see this as an opportunity for the BBC to work on its own here.”

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