LONDON: The BBC has partnered with Facebook and Twitter to make its digital offering more social, according to Erik Huggers, the corporation’s director of Future Media and Technology.
Talking to The Telegraph, Mr Huggers said that partnerships with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Bebo were already in place and the first consumer manifestations of those relationships would come to light soon with the launch of iPlayer 3.0’s beta.
“We are close to launching the third version of the iPlayer in beta which will have many more social functions embedded within it," said Mr Huggers. "People will be able to bring their Facebook friends onto the iPlayer so they can share what they are listening to or watching with each other more easily.”
Mr Huggers, whose department has recently been tasked by the BBC’s strategy review to cut its budget and halve the number of top level domains from 400 to 200 by 2012, said that partnerships with the major social networks had been in place for “some time” but had yet to be revealed to the consumer.
In order for iPlayer users to integrate their Twitter, Facebook and Bebo accounts on the BBC site, they will require a BBC username and password. Users will then be asked by the BBC for the login details of their Twitter, Facebook and Bebo accounts, so that when they next sign in to use the iPlayer, they will be connected to their various social networks and be able to see what their friends or followers on each site are sharing or watching in “coloured puffs” situated beneath the player.
Mr Huggers said that the partnerships with the likes of Facebook would also manifest themselves across different parts of the site in time, but refused to elaborate, saying the iPlayer integration would be the first instance and was all he could reveal at this stage.
Speaking publicly at The Guardian’s ‘Changing Media Summit 2010’, Mr Huggers said the BBC had no intention of trying launch its own social network as that would be "madness", and that partnerships with the major social sites was the only route forward.
He also revealed that the new BBC web design would feature a new, next-generation embeddable video player across the site, which resembled the iPlayer’s functionality. Renowned newspaper designer Neville Brody is helping with the redesign.
Mr Huggers said the symbols, fonts and formats across each of the BBC’s websites would also be more consistent to help with accessibility and to create a more “coherent portfolio of online products”.
He was unable to be more specific about which 200 BBC top level domains (such as bbc.co.uk/spooks) would be culled in the bid to reduce BBC Online’s spend of approximately £130 million per year by 25 per cent by 2012. Mr Huggers explained broadly each site would by judged through three "big lenses": one, it has to fulfil a public purpose; two, it needs to demonstrate public value in terms of its reach, impact and value for money; and three, it has to come under at least one of the BBC’s five editorial priorities, which are news, sport, knowledge and learning, music, and children.
Mr Huggers also told The Telegraph it was too early to say how many jobs will be lost in the process of BBC Online cutting back its operations and it was still to be determined by the BBC Trust whether any savings his department makes will be ploughed back into the digital operation or invested elsewhere in the corporation. The Future, Media and Technology division, of which BBC Online is one part, employs approximately 1,400 staff.
BBC Online currently attracts 29.5 million unique users a week in the UK alone. It is the only British website to feature in the list of the 10 most popular websites visited by UK internet users.
Mr Huggers envisions a future where all of the BBC’s linear content is delivered through the website which could mean that people would be able to totally personalise the service to their own likes and needs.
“This might mean in the near future we end up with 60 million different versions of one service tailored to an individual’s needs,” said Mr Huggers.