BBC Content Chief Charlotte Moore: We Need To Dig Deeper To Beat Big Data

Charlotte Moore, content supremo at the BBC, has warned that the “insatiable greed for data-gathering” is “serving the wrong master” and that the British public broadcaster needs to nurture new, diverse, original storytellers to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

BBC Director of Content Moore was speaking at the RTS Steve Hewlett Memorial lecture, in honor of the former editor of BBC’s Panorama. In the speech, titled Championing human storytelling in a data-led world, at the University of Westminster, she warned about the threats of the digital platforms moving into television and laid out five promises to ensure that the BBC would continue to commission distinctive shows such as Three Girls and Blue Planet II.

It is the latest BBC salvo against Silicon Valley following a recent speech by BBC Director General Tony Hall at the Royal Television Society London conference last month.

“In the past few years we’ve seen monumental changes in the media landscape around us. Audiences have been catapulted into a golden age of television… An age of incredible quality and choice. It has come about because of the huge, tech players that have entered the market. Whatever the latest FAANG acronym, there is no question that the giants of the West Coast have driven up quality. They’ve forced everyone to raise the bar.

However, she added, “I worry that the insatiable greed for data-gathering is actually serving the wrong master… That entire businesses are focused on what they can take from audiences, instead of what they can give back. The BBC is different. Sure, audience data and algorithms are incredibly useful. We can learn so much from what’s working for audiences and what’s not. We can understand how to tailor our services uniquely to them. But I don’t believe any amount of data can tell you what to commission next. Data simply won’t deliver you Car Share, A Very English Scandal, or Murder in Successville.”

In order to find the next iterations of these shows, she added that the BBC needs to “seek out and support” the very best storytellers of the future.

This comes as the amount of money spent on UK-originated programming by the public service broadcasters, which also includes the likes of Channel 4 and ITV, has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.

“Right at the moment when it’s so important that we tell all our authentic, British stories, the reality is that the volume of original British TV we produce as a country has fallen dramatically,” she said. “For all the great things on offer from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, we need to recognise that they’re not going to help. Netflix’s current budget for programmes is $8B. Amazon’s is $5B. But their investment into new UK programmes is only around £150 million a year. Less than 10% of their catalogues is made up of content produced in the UK.”

Moore revealed that the BBC would bring back Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s BBC America original Killing Eve for a second season next year, following the success of the show on its iPlayer service. “Killing Eve is a brilliant example. We released the whole series on day one and it’s had over 26 million boxset requests so far.”

She also noted the digital success of terror drama Bodyguard, which has been co-funded by Netflix. “Bodyguard hasn’t just broken all records with over 36 million boxset requests, it also attracted the highest young audience for any drama this year on any channel,” she added.

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