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BBC Online and preparing for the Olympic Games - London 2012

Cait O’Riordan, Head of Product, BBC Sport and London 2012, BBC Future Media gives a summary of her keynote BBC News redesignat the AOP Summit At the AOP Summit last week I talked through the BBC’s digital preparations for London 2012.  I shared some insight into the broader BBC Online strategic context, and walked the audience through a ‘concept car’ which I hope helped to bring to life some of the things we’re exploring as we shape our digital offer for next year.  This wasn’t a blueprint for what we’ll deliver, but should certainly have given a sense of our digital vision. London 2012 provides huge digital opportunities and will become the most connected and inclusive Games yet.  From a market perspective, according to Ofcom 74% of people now have broadband; more than a quarter of adults (and half of all teens) own a smartphone; and one million internet-enabled TVs were sold during 2010.  In terms of public appetite there’s huge excitement around the Games – a show of hands during the session revealed what we had suspected, that demand for tickets for the Games far outpaced availability.  Audiences are prepared to take full advantage of digital developments to get more from London 2012, and for many it will be a Games experience viewed through the lens of the BBC. To bring audiences closer to the Games, last month we outlined our intention to deliver to audiences over 2,000 hours of live sport online via 24 streams - every sport, from every location on every day - but it's not just about choice of content.  In line with our 'Delivering Quality First' strategy for BBC Online, we plan to make services available across four screens: computers, mobiles, tablets and connected TVs, or as BBC Director of Future Media Ralph Rivera has put it in the past "on whatever piece of glass" they choose".

Key innovations

At the Summit, I explained some of the innovations that we're experimenting with, with a view to including in the final BBC Olympics experience. Immersive video for a more active viewing experience A new way to watch video: the ability to switch seamlessly between 24 simultaneous streams and critically the option for more data around what you’re watching.  Data overlays will allow embedding of direct links to content.  So if you're watching the fencing, for instance, you could click on the athlete's name in the overlay on the video to jump straight to his profile page. And vice versa, through sophisticated tagging you could go direct from a leader board, into the video of a winning finish, for instance.  Data will provide an added layer of BBC storytelling. Dynamic curation delivering unparalleled detail We're developing a publishing platform that delivers pages that are dynamically and automatically created. Content can be tagged with an identifier that can be automatically pulled into the relevant page to provide a real-time, extensive, and trusted companion to events. We delivered a page for each country and player during the World Cup in 2010 using this model and we're scaling this up for next year to deliver unparalleled up to the minute detail on each athlete, country and event.  Delivering such a detailed and broad service via traditional editorial curation would be cost prohibitive. Visual-first navigation to simplify discovery Pulling all this together is a user-experience based on horizontal navigation, consistent across all devices. This highly-visual "stream" allows us to give greater prominence to video and encourage browsing beyond this, making the breadth of content more accessible. Already popular in smartphone and tablet design – and present now in the BBC Homepage beta – this natural and intuitive way to browse content is just like flicking through a magazine. Optimized mobile browser experiences Mobile will be integral to the way many follow events and interact with others. We'll be leveraging the distinct benefits of devices to improve London 2012 for audiences.  With half of teens now owning a smartphone (and 60% considering themselves to be 'highly' addicted to them - especially for social media) the mobile experience is going to be important for them. We envisage a digital experience that's as seamlessly social on mobile as on the web - with geo-location used to identify activity near to where users are and tools to share with friends on the move.

In the living room Analysts are forecasting that around 36 million TVs with built-in internet capability will be in homes by the end of 2016, and forthcoming innovations from the likes of Google TV and platforms such as YouView will help increase the penetration of connected TV before the games.  Our BBC iPlayer product for connected TV is available on over 300 devices (most recently Sony PS3), and we recently launched a BBC News app for connected TV which we'll be rolling out across further devices this year. For the Olympics we're developing a similarly structured product, with a navigational panel allowing users to flick between the 24 live streams via their remote control, and access stories and updates in full from the internet on the living-room TV.

Beyond London 2012

These innovations don't start and end with London 2012; many will find feet in the other products of BBC Online over time.  And, we'll continue to explore ways to improve our four-screen offer – the development of broadcast technology is iterative and we're some way from realising the connected storytelling vision that Ralph Rivera has outlined in the past (where a highly social and seamless experience is enjoyed through all four screens), but the Games provide an opportunity to take real steps in that direction. Cait O’Riordan is Head of Product, BBC Sport and London 2012, BBC Future Media.

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