BBC: 'Web will be our second biggest channel by 2012'

The BBC’s new director of future media and technology, Erik Huggers, has set a target for bbc.co.uk to overtake the audience of every other BBC channel except BBC One by 2012.

Huggers – a former senior director at Microsoft who replaced Ashley Highfield at the corporation in July this year – told the European Media Leaders Summit in London this morning that he hoped there was still ‘lots of growth left in the system’for the BBC website, which has existed since 1994 but officially launched in 1997.

‘I would like to see a world where, by 2012, bbc.co.uk is only second to BBC One in terms of audiences and reach,’Huggers told delegates. ‘Today it’s still a drop in the ocean.”

According to the BBC’s 2007/08 annual report, the average weekly reach of bbc.co.uk among adult internet users aged 16 and above in the UK was 12 million last year – or 44 per cent.

BBC Two’s average weekly audience reach in the same period among viewers aged four and above was 32.5 million – or 57.6 per cent. BBC One, the corporation’s most popular service, recorded a reach of 44.1 million – or 78.2 per cent.

‘If you look at the agenda of government and broadband Britain, I’m convinced that the BBC and other broadcasters can contribute to that in an incredibly positive and powerful way. My hope is that there’s lots of growth left in the system,’Huggers said today.

He said the BBC initially had a ‘rocky ride’with internet service providers when it prepared to launch its iPlayer seven-day online catch-up service – but said the issue of finding enough bandwidth to serve audio and video to users was a challenge not just for the BBC.

‘Everyone said: ‘Oh my God, the sky is falling in, the internet’s going to come down’ and the truth is it hasn’t had an effect,’Huggers said.

‘This is not just a BBC problem. This is an issue that the industry needs to figure out how it’s going to deal with.”

Another area in which Huggers said the BBC needed to co-operate with other broadcasters was in mobile – where publishers have encountered problems designing websites and applications because of the vast array of different handsets on the market.

‘Today we’re in a situation in mobile media where for pretty much every different phone you have to think about how you make your service,’he said.

‘I wonder if the BBC together with other partners in the industry can team up to correct that and create something of a more horizontal approach to get media on to as many devices as possible.”

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