BBC boss Tim Davie hints at Netflix-style future

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BBC Director General Tim Davie has issued a call of destiny to the UK media industry which, he said, includes a plan for an internet-only version of how the BBC would operate, focused around a simple, single brand in the UK and abroad.

Netflix-style BBC

Without naming global content powerhouses such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, Davie warned that a failure to seize this moment could see this lost to polarised platforms and overseas content.

This could mean that the UK broadcaster might move away from broadcasting linear-based channels like BBC One, TWO, etc and become a global subscriptions based entity similar to Netflix.

The Director-General set out his vision for what a 2030s media market could look like, in a speech hosted by the Royal Television Society this morning.

Davie’s rallying call was aimed at ensuring the UK media industry can prosper and keep delivering benefits for the UK in the decades to come.

He said the BBC, politicians, regulators and the wider industry must urgently work together to secure the future of a thriving, trusted, world-leading UK media market, as we transition towards an internet-only world.

The industry is facing choices over its future and must take bold decisions to ensure our much-admired creative, cultural and democratic strength and values prevail, he said.

Failure to seize this moment could see this lost to polarised platforms and overseas content.

Speaking directly to industry leaders, commentators and political opinion formers, Davie said now was the moment for urgent action and collaboration, to futureproof the UK industry, allow it to grow and flourish and avoid repeating missteps of the past.

He said: “I want to set out some of the choices that we need to make, and make the case for ambition.

“This will require the BBC, regulators, politicians – all of us – to work together and make clear decisions. 

“To invest capital and set policy, deliberately, not simply live on hope and good intent.  To create a bigger creative sector supported by strong public service media and a thriving BBC.

“In short, we have reached a defining decade for the future of this incredible sector and this wonderful country.”

Davie’s four decisive moves for successful digital-led future:   

  1. Ensuring the UK is fully connected, so that everyone can get their TV and radio via internet in the years to come. A positive plan is needed to ensure UK businesses and audiences get maximum benefit, no one is left-behind and content remains universal and affordable – and not at the behest of rich overseas companies acting as gatekeepers.
  2. Champion a clear, market leading role for the BBC in the digital age. No-one in the world has created a digitally-led public service media company at scale. There is an opportunity to put the BBC at the heart of the UK’s media future. There is a plan for how an internet-only version of the BBC would operate, focused around a simple, single brand in the UK and abroad.
  3. Actively invest in the BBC. The BBC is one of the most powerful and recognised brands on the planet and we should be confident in it and back it. We are open minded about future funding mechanics, but we are clear that it is critical we have a universal solution that fuels UK public service growth – not stifles it – while offering audiences outstanding value for money.
  4. Move faster to regulate for future success. The UK’s legal and regulatory environment has not kept pace with the market. We need rules for the prominence, availability and inclusion of PSB content in new platforms, in video and audio. Plus a regulatory framework that is proactive, agile, and responds to obvious harm when it occurs – allowing innovation and growth across the industry, alongside the necessary and appropriate safeguards.

He said: “The choice of high-quality TV and audio has never been better. The threat is not about if there is choice, it is about the scope of that choice and what factors shape it.

“Do we want a US-style media market or do we want to fight to grow something different based on our vision?

“I sometimes read that the BBC needs to clock that the world has changed. I can assure you that we do not need any convincing.”

The Director-General added that now was the moment to actively secure the future of a world-beating creative economy, supported by strong public service media and a thriving BBC.