‘We’re Not Trying to Beat Netflix,’ Says New BBC Boss Tim Davie

Tim Davie, who recently took charge as director general of U.K. broadcaster BBC, has said that he is trying to create a differentiated service to retain customers.

Speaking at a session that kicked off the Royal Television Society Digital Convention on Thursday, Davie referred to the “incredible competition” in the market and said, “You just cannot take an audience for granted anymore. I think you have to be focused, be much more differentiated.”

“It’s that what I want to get to, something that is truly different, and differentiated,” Davie said. “We’re not trying to beat Netflix, I think this narrative is not where we should be (…) It’s whether we are truly valued and essential, it feels indispensable – not for every hour of your media consumption, but part of it. That’s what we are about.”

Davie said that given the deep pockets of rival U.S. and Chinese media companies, the BBC had to focus. “We’re not going to have all the expensive talent in the world, but we are uniquely placed to grow talent. I think we are a force for good,” Davie said. “It is a winnable battle, if you focus.” 

Speaking about underserved viewers, Davie admitted that there are audiences in a diverse Britain that “felt a bit further away from us.”

Referring to his 50:20:12 workforce plan, that aims for 50:50 gender parity, 20% Black, Asian, and minority ethnic staff, and 12% with disabilities, Davie said that the organization is going division by division to try and make it happen. “To the leaders in the BBC, I’ve been very direct – ‘you will not get promoted in this organization without us assessing how happy your staff are, and how you delivered against diversity targets. If you are not someone who can deliver on those two things, you will not progress in the BBC.’ Pretty straightforward.”

Given the BBC’s substantial online presence, with some 40 million people logged in, Davie said that the organization’s job now is to “friction this experience across the BBC… to make sure we don’t get left behind in the market.”

“If we could get that right, imagine how much value we could unlock,” Davie said. He added the importance of analyzing data and algorithms. “We know the competition, or the market, is working hard in these areas, we need to be razor sharp.” The way forward for the BBC in a digital world is a blend of a curatorial voice and algorithms, Davie said.

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