Erik Huggers: 'Very positive' talks on BBC partnerships

The BBC’s offer to lend a helping hand to newspapers and other broadcasters has been met with a ‘very positive’ response, the corporation’s head of future media and technology said today.

Erik Huggers said the first results of a partnership with a newspaper group, which would see BBC audio and video provided to newspaper websites on a pool basis, were expected shortly.

The BBC unveiled a raft of partnership ideas last November, including an offer to “do more to support the newspaper industry” by sharing content and waiving the fees charged to provide TV listings.

The corporation estimates that the partnerships will be worth about £120m a year to the wider media industry by 2014.

Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch in London this afternoon, Huggers said: “It’s quite early days to put a number on what each of the partners would ultimately get out of it.

“The partners want to know exactly what they get. I would think that unless they see these partnerships as being valuable from a strategic perspective, they’re not going to be interested in them.”

But he added: “So far I think it’s very fair to say that the level of interest to engage with the BBC in these partnership discussions has been very high and that the discussions have generally been very positive.”

Under the proposed newspaper partnership, the BBC would offer a pool of audio and video material that titles can select and syndicate straight to their websites.

“We’re obviously strong in audiovisual content – that’s the beating heart of the BBC,” Huggers said.

“I think there’s an opportunity for us to help the newspapers in this country – it’s not easy to get into that space. To get good quality audiovisual journalism is just not something that you do overnight.

Asked when the first partnerships were likely to produce results, Huggers replied: “I think you’ll hear about this quite soon.”

Telegraph Media Group is reported to be working on a pilot scheme with the BBC to place material from the iPlayer video catch-up service on the Telegraph.co.uk website.

Huggers said of the iPlayer sharing idea in general: “We’re not trying to keep the iPlayer just to ourselves. We’re saying if others want access to the iPlayer we’ll share it.

“We just want to help them get into that game where they can try and build their digital business.”

Huggers was also asked for his thoughts on the future of the newspaper industry and whether paid-for web content would work in the face of competition from a free bbc.co.uk website.

He said devices such as Amazon’s Kindle, “a kind of iPod for text and images” represented a big opportunity for the print media.

“What I personally believe is the industry should think about ways to get that content into a format that is much more newspaper-like,” he said.

“I think technology’s coming to a point where it’s becoming more attractive now.”

He added: “Frankly I don’t think it’s up for a BBC exec to comment on other people’s business models.

“All I think is we’re going to see many different types of business model out there.”

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