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BBC Mobile apps: bandwidth and familiarity

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Eric Huggers, the BBC’s Director of Future Media and Technology, announced in his keynote to Mobile World Congress yesterday the development of a raft of new mobile applications to ‘consume’ BBC content.

The BBC is already distinguished by its mobile-friendly and accessible versions of so much of its web content, but this announcement heralds not only the (expensive) re-purposing of content for mobile consumption, but also device-specific apps to stream, discover and interact with content.

These new services will be free of charge and will combine the BBC’s desirable content with their unique reach and ability to move the mass market in the UK to embrace a channel.

Erik Huggers said: “It’s been 12 years since the launch of BBC Online, but as media converges and technology accelerates, licence fee payers are increasingly using sophisticated handheld devices to access information. They tell us that they want to access the digital services that they have paid for at a time and place that suits them.”

This additional, impending data traffic will not be welcome news for network providers who are already being challenged by the growth in 3G and wireless transfer volumes. Equally disgruntled will be the paid content crowd, decrying the BBC’s distortion of a ‘free market’ (ie their ability to charge consumers). These are both temporary concerns, however, and the longer-term impact will be the change in behaviour and expectations for consuming rich, video programming on the move.

While retailers will welcome the fact that the BBC’s shouldering the marketing, training and familiarisation burden for richer content, the costs of producing retail-ready material that matches the new expectations of production quality will fall to retailers. Now we’ll see the scrabble to find business models that are profitable at the new level of capability and reach.

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