BBC Worldwide wants to provide the best possible service for users of its iPlayer and BBC Store services, but sometimes finds itself limited in what it can do due to potential privacy issues surrounding the use of big data and analytics.
That’s what Michael Fleshman, SVP for Consumer Digital Technology at BBC Worldwide – and former Financial Times CIO – told Computing in a recent interview.
There are other online streaming services – ones with a more commercial background such as Netflix – which place analysing customer data at the heart of what they do.
However, the public-funded nature of the BBC means it needs to be cautious as to how it uses data, especially when it comes to privacy issues, meaning the organisation perhaps isn’t taking as innovative an approach to data use as others in the online streaming space.
“BBC as a whole takes a very conservative approach. There are intensive checkpoints organisationally and process-wise to make certain we are taking that conservative approach.
“Then, in terms of secure access to data, number one my team is focused on making sure we’re abiding by the appropriate rules and they’re on the conservative side,” Fleshman told Computing.
The approach, he explained, means that exploiting data at BBC Worldwide is more difficult than in more commercial organisations, referencing his time with the Financial Times.
“It does make our jobs a little bit harder than in most commercial companies. But in the end what you’ll see is a balance that whenever a choice has to be made it leads towards the conservative approach with that data,” Fleshman said.
However, he insisted that due to the reputation of the BBC, it’s better for the organisation to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to analysing and using the data it collects about consumers.
“With its reputation, the BBC has a high degree of trust from consumers, licence-fee payers and citizens, and the BBC as a whole would like to maintain that,” he said, although when it comes to BBC Worldwide and it’s online store, there’s a little bit more freedom for manoeuvre, he added.
“The consumer wants to be in a commercial journey, they’re not looking for that content they can’t get for free so we should make that as easy as possible.” he said.