Rachit Vats

The Beeb has a new web address: YouTube

BBC World has embraced the broadcast-yourself phenomenon in a bid to expand its reach. What signal does this send to Indian media firms?

In an affirmation of how quickly technology is changing the rules of the media game, TV giant BBC announced that it has stepped into the popular video sharing website YouTube, strengthening the channel’s reach to millions of Internet users across the world.

BBC’s new web address is a section where users can log in and watch news clips, gathered from the UK-headquartered BBC’s 58 international news bureaus and its 250 correspondents worldwide. Even breaking news will be made available on the specially-designed page on YouTube. Just like other videos on YouTube – which was recently bought over by Google – viewers will be able to comment on clips, rate them and post their own video responses.

The Beeb has a new web address: YouTube
For BBC, this is clearly a new method to engage audiences from around the world. BBC claims that a number of users will now be able to catch its programming on the web. Understandably, for now, clips on the BBC’s YouTube address are available to users outside the UK only. It’s also a big victory for YouTube, which has been trying to coopt TV companies in the backdrop of a messy battle with Viacom over copyright issues.
The Beeb has a new web address: YouTube
So, is television finally waking up to the power of Internet? Michele Grant, senior vice-president, BBC Global News Development, says, “Viewership of BBC World on television continues to grow and we will continue to develop our core proposition. However, the BBC recognises the growth of new media and wants to engage with new audiences on platforms such as IPTV and mobile, which allow viewers to choose what they want to watch and when they want to watch it.”

And what signal is this sending back home? Says Sanjay Trehan, CEO, NDTV Convergence, “This is indeed a very smart move from BBC. It’s an ideal case of if you can’t beat them, join them. It’s a win-win situation for both players. BBC is moving where the audience is as millions of users log on to YouTube every day. BBC is also making attempts to shed its old-world baggage and attract a younger set of eyeballs through YouTube.”

Will NDTV, or any Indian TV broadcasting company, look at following this path? Trehan says, “Certainly, Indian players are going to replicate this. NDTV is looking at this trend closely, but we are not doing anything and also not ruling out the possibility of anything similar.”

A spokesperson from CNBC-TV18 adds: “In fact, we are seriously looking at this space as a future perspective. It will be no big surprise if we get into this zone with a dedicated section for videos.”

Equally upbeat is a senior spokesperson from Indiatimes, who dubs the BBC move as a revolution. “A lot of players are slowly realising that whether they want it or not, eventually, a lot of their content is going to find its way to YouTube. BBC is doing a very smart thing. It has figured out a way to catch a much younger target group. This way, they are extending their reach. More importantly, it’s legitimising YouTube.” He does, however, add that this trend will take time to set in India due to mindset issues.

There is also a view questioning BBC World’s decision to get into the Net space. Media columnist Sevanti Ninan says, “I don’t see the point. If Al Jazeera entered such an alliance, it would have made a lot of sense. That way Al Jazeera would be able to make its presence felt in countries where it has been banned. But for BBC, which has a global presence, a move such as this makes not much sense.” Ninan does feel that YouTube is no longer a small-time portal and will provide BBC a whole new clientèle.

Either way, there’s no escaping that this signals a brave new world for the Beeb – and TV in general.