On the Move: BBC Studios

Three months ago, BBC Studios put global syndication and ad sales under one roof, a move aimed at unlocking growth that included the promotion of Tara Maitra to Chief Commercial Officer, Global Distribution,. Maitra tells Cynopsis how it’s going so far.

As not all in the industry immediately think of the BBC as a commercial venture, what are the activities you and your team are undertaking to educate and change that perception?

BBC Studios is the commercial arm of the BBC and we have been serving the needs of advertisers and their agencies for decades. Advertisers don’t want their brands affiliated with divisive content and they know our news platforms – both linear and online – provide their brands with a safe, unbiased content environment. However, we still need to be even more top of mind across the industry in both the US and Canada, which is why we’re investing more in our ad sales and editorial news teams in the US and on the technology side, BBC.com data collection is enhancing the expansion of these commercial activities stateside and globally.

We are creating new roles for the North American digital news team, allowing them to support more original reporting, innovative digital storytelling and top-class breaking news coverage of North American and global events.

What are some of the key hurdles you are facing?

Like the majority of the media industry, an important hurdle is reaching, nurturing and engaging younger audiences. The fact that we’re a trusted brand known for its unbiased news coverage is and will continue to be a key advantage. That has not been the case in the past, as audiences were hungrier for opinionated news content. We’re seeing that younger audiences have also grown tired of the polarized, divisive news cycle. They turn to different platforms to get different POVs to, I believe, come up with balance for themselves. Of course it’s a crowded media space with everyone competing for attention, but we are well-positioned from a content perspective given today’s consumer sentiment.

Branded content has been around since the advent of radio. How has this advertising tool evolved for digital channels?

The Tech sector in particular has been a huge success as brands look to tell human centric stories and of course brand purpose storytelling remains top of mind for so many brands. Of course, News is a less predictable environment, however with careful thought and consideration and due to the enormous reach, digital news platforms allow for innovative and smart ways to bring these stories to life in the right ways for audiences.

Working directly with our branded content studio BBC StoryWorks helps advertisers to be associated with content that aligns with their mission as well as ours. It’s key for both parties. This partnership provides funding for content we care about that an advertiser wants to be associated with ̶ a win-win across the board. Content which embraces cause-related topics is paramount for brands. Subjects like sustainability are important for us, our advertisers and our mutual audience targets, especially the younger demographic which favors media and brands that support purpose-led initiatives.

In fact, our 2022 BBC Gen Z Science of Engagement study reinforced this point, as GenZ participants showed a higher degree of emotional response to branded content than did Millennials+. They are also more inclined to consume brands that are ‘authentic’ as they come closer to representing their values, beliefs and sense of community.

How has your mission benefitted from BBC Studios putting global syndication and advertising sales together?

Well it’s an incredibly powerful combination as we look at where we should be playing in terms of distribution of our news and other content beyond linear TV. The overall goal is to expand in terms of online text-based and video content. That’s the opportunity now at hand globally.

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