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Michael Carrington • creative Director at BBC Children's department

Broadcasters going Online


Michael Carrington is a creative Director at BBC Children's department. He presented the multimedia BBC’s strategy at the Murcia Cartoon Master in March 2007.

BBC Children's is a multi genres and multimedia department encompassing two of the most popular digital channels in the UK. He is specifically in charge of pan-platform commissioning across radio, television, on-line and interactive TV for the BBC's young children's brand, CBeebies which is targeting 0 to 6 year old and the CBBC channel which targets 6 to 12 year old. BBC Children broadcasts more than 200 hours of television per week whilst websites and interactive services are used by millions of children each week as well.

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What are your strategies to encounter the future of broadcasting?
BBC recognizes the future of broadcasting is digital and on demand. And that's what we're heading towards. The BBC's ambition is to be the most creative organisation in the world. To achieve this ambition, we've come up with a new creative strategy which we call "creative future" and now we must come up with new ways of working to deliver that strategy. In the Children's department, we're moving toward our digital platforms using the CBeebies and CBBC brands. For young children (CBeebies brand) this means more focus on interaction and play; for older children connecting with CBBC, our website leads the way with a real connection to the television content and an emphasis on using generated content. So for ex at CBeebies, we've already started the process and our content is available on television, on radio and online and also on interactive TV, through the red button on remote control, which is similar in style to CDRom experience. There is game, karaoke and other customized example.
A joined up approach internally becomes more vital than ever. So our television, online and interactive teams are being integrated that means that they are all sitting together in the same space and this is to ensure cross-pollination of ideas and to ensure that the development process has a genuine flow. Not every idea will be 360 degree, but we want to be sure that when it is appropriate all the thinking happens early on.

What is the situation in UK regarding digital technologies?
In the UK, digital TV is now in over 80% of households, that's over 60 million homes.
We're answering our on demand services. First of all we're proposing a seven days catch up radio and television service, live streaming of our television channels and separately a pilot where our audience will have access to our complete archive, which is called "open archive". We are also building a rich search engine in partnership with IBM to better connect with our audiences. The idea is that the system being developed with IBM called "marvel" will deliver not just text based responses but a massive relevant images and videos when the content is searched.
And our strategy is also to connect with and to involve our audience not just by providing one way information and content. They can be proactive by voting for what they like and don't like. They can comment on our programs or they could make recommendation to others, in the same way you would recommend a book on AMAZON. The BBC plans to be available wherever and whenever the audience wants it. The idea being to raise the profile of the BBC linear channel as well as the program content and the on and off screen talent therefore reaching the often hard to reach community and giving existing audiences a deeper program experience.
Of course we don't have all the answers. We're still unsure of how fast the audience will want to change but knowing that the market is constantly developing and changing there's likely to be a lot of interest and liking initially but how long will that be sustained?

What kind of challenges are you facing?
Our biggest challenge is to sort out the rights situation, that's in order to make our content fully on demand. We're in discussion with all the relevant rights owners. So when we'll have sorted out what we can do on TV, there is still a question mark over what we can do online and interactively.
And of course there is the role of the PC as home entertainment medium. It's still not central to family life but we're very keen to experiment.

What kind of experiment did you already make ?
We recently launched a series called "level up" It's a live action show, conceived as a brand that could help children get the most of growing up. We adopted a gaming interface. That's the link to the audience This was based on the insight that 100% of our audiences are gamers. "Level up" was commissioned for TV, web and mobile and incorporated emergent technologies, such as blogs, webcams, wap and broadband players. Right on from the beginning we wanted our platforms to rely on each other. Specifically the website provided most of our contributors and ideas for our films as well as high percentage of studio content. In turn we used TV to drive the audience to the web and mobile. Within three months of launch, level up had 40% of all messages or traffic of CBBC's website and 8 million pages impression per month. We adopted SKYPE webcam technologies to get children onscreen from their bedrooms they were live on television.

Do you have other projects in store?
What's next for us, one of the key projects that's being developped is a proven media concept currently run successfully on VRT, the Belgium Flemish broadcaster, called "Ketnet Kick". The CBBC's version will be a community for children to create content in a collaborative way and have the opportunity to get their work published online on interactive TV, on mobiles and on the CBBC's channel. It's an immersive world not unlike second life.

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