The BBC Trust has approved proposals for the BBC to establish bbc.com, a commercial venture to offer advertising on the BBC’s international online service for users outside the UK. UK users’ experience of bbc.co.uk will not be affected.bbc.com will deliver a new flow of income from international visitors into the BBC for investment in its core journalistic mission and capabilities, and into BBC Worldwide and BBC Global News to strengthen the range and reach of their offering to international audiences.
BBC Worldwide, in conjunction with BBC Global News, will be responsible for the development of bbc.com. The current site has been very successful in attracting international traffic, and it currently has more than 40 million (source: BBC web server stats) unique users per month from outside the UK who mainly access the highly regarded news pages.
Following the launch of bbc.com, advertising will be introduced on selected high-traffic pages, visible only to users accessing the site from outside the UK, and over time will be rolled across more of the site. Editorial control of the news pages will continue to be the responsibility of BBC News.
bbc.com will deliver significant new funds for investment by the BBC. BBC Worldwide will pay the BBC for the rights and services it uses and, given that the majority of the international traffic to the website is to the news pages, BBC News will be the principal benefactor of these payments.
BBC Worldwide has entered into a joint venture with BBC World covering the news, sport and weather parts of the site, which means that BBC World will receive a portion of the economic benefits from this exploitation in return for providing their editorial, audience and advertising expertise and on-air cross-promotion. Together these represent a significant new source of income for BBC News and BBC Global News to invest in journalism and new services.
The introduction of advertising on bbc.com will not affect the quality or integrity of the web site. A system of robust editorial safeguards will be implemented to ensure that the BBC’s reputation is not damaged and that the Corporation’s highly regarded journalistic and editorial values will be fully upheld.
bbc.com mirrors the situation with other BBC international activities, such as BBC World, the international news channel managed by the BBC’s Global News division, which has carried advertising from launch in 1991. BBC Worldwide’s BBC-branded entertainment TV channels, such as BBC America in the US, also carry adverts.
bbc.com will use robust geo-IP technology to separate out international visitors to the site.bbc.com is an integral part of the BBC’s Global News strategy of providing a richer range of services to international audiences reflecting changing audience needs.
Over recent months, a new World News America show anchored by Matt Frei has been launched on BBC America and BBC World, as well as an on-demand video service on both the BBC’s website and YouTube for international audiences. All these services are commercial services supported by advertising.
Richard Sambrook, Director, BBC Global News, commented: “BBC News has built an unrivalled reputation for impartial, in-depth news reporting. Today it is the most trusted source of news and information for millions of people around the world. Introducing advertising on international traffic to news pages is a natural development in the growth of the BBC’s commercial news services.
“It will enable us to deliver a stronger service for the benefit of our audiences throughout the world.”
bbc.com is central to BBC Worldwide’s strategy to increase dramatically the scale of its direct-to-consumer businesses, principally through launching a series of BBC-branded television channels and web services.
The roll-out of the TV channel strategy is already well underway, and the approval of bbc.com is a key milestone. BBC Worldwide plans to invest to grow both the reach and functionality of bbc.com and to build editorial services so that site offers the best of the BBC’s output, tailored to the needs of international audiences. These services will cover key genres like Natural History, key programme brands like Top Gear, and the BBC programme archive.
John Smith, CEO, BBC Worldwide, said: “We welcome the decision from the BBC Trust today to approve bbc.com. It is a key step in delivering our strategy of growing our online revenues to 10% of revenues and building a portfolio of direct to consumer business.
“We plan to invest in bbc.com to make it a showcase of the best of the BBC’s content ranging from Top Gear to Planet Earth to the riches of the programme archive in a way that appeals international audiences.”
The financial support for the BBC’s international facing site that was previously provided via Grant in Aid by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will now be taken on by BBC Worldwide, allowing the Grant in Aid to be reprioritised within the BBC World Service.
The BBC World Service’s 32 non-English-language sites will continue to be funded by Grant in Aid from the FCO and are not impacted by the bbc.com proposition in any way.