Dec 6, 2023 - Business

Exclusive: BBC overhauls American website amid broader overseas push

Photo: Courtesy of BBC

The BBC on Tuesday relaunched its North American website as a part broader push to grow its business and audiences in the U.S. and abroad, BBC Studios' CEO of global distribution Rebecca Glashow tells Axios.

Why it matters: The move comes as the storied public broadcaster faces increased pressure from U.K. regulators over public funding.

  • The country's prime minister on Sunday said a proposed £500 million cut to BBC's budget are "welcome."

State of play: The transformation is being led by BBC Studios.

  • Funds from BBC Studios support the BBC's public service journalism and content in the U.K. BBC Studios produces everything from scripted shows to radio programs, digital features and podcasts.
  • The BBC's global news operation, led by former NBC News and ITV executive Deborah Turness, was merged to become a part of BBC Studios last year. The studios division took over BBC.com as a result of that shift.

Details: The site will remain under the same BBC.com URL, but the experience will be much more personalized to audiences abroad.

  • Part of the overhaul includes a new internal content management system (CMS) and other tools for the company's newsroom that will make it easier to optimize content across its site, app and social channels.
  • It also includes new premium advertising placements and website analytics tools that will help maximize audience engagement opportunities for advertisers.
  • The desktop and mobile sites will include refreshed navigation tools to serve users custom content based on their preferences.
  • BBC.com's registration and sign in feature will remain the same, meaning users can still create and log into their existing BBC account.

Between the lines: Several new series will be featured on the new site, including "Green Getaways," a series about greener, cleaner ways to travel, and "Changing Room," a series about moving fashion into its climate-conscious future.

  • "I think we also have a distinct position in that we are a news plus organization," Glashow said, referring to successful cross-platform franchises like BBC Earth.

Be smart: While the digital overhaul will eventually come to markets outside of America, there's a clear focus on capturing commercial opportunities in the U.S.

  • For the first time ever next year, BBC Studios will be launching a brand campaign in the U.S.
  • BBC Studios, in collaboration with BBC World Service, recently launched a new daily podcast called "The Global Story," which is maximized for U.S. audiences with a 6 am daily release time.
  • Those investments come amid a broader push to expand the BBC News' presence in the U.S., including a recent expansion of primetime evening programming out of its Washington D.C. bureau from 30 minutes to four hours.

Between the lines: As part of its broader investment in U.S. content, the studios team plans to expand its production business in the U.S., Glashow says.

  • Its L.A.-based production arm is responsible for producing U.S. adaptations of shows such as "Dancing with the Stars," and "Weakest Link" as well as originals such as "Doctor Who" and "Ghosts" that are licensed for distribution to major U.S. networks and global streaming services.
  • Glashow declined to comment asked about a recent Bloomberg report suggesting BBC is exploring strategic partnerships to help with its expansion, including raising funds or partnering with Lions Gate.

What's next: The refreshed site will be available first in North America, and will debut in other regions outside of the U.K. in early 2024.

  • A new native mobile app for Android and iPhone will debut outside of the U.K. in early 2024.
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