The BBC's Nick North, speaking at Connected TV World Summit 2019
The BBC's Nick North, speaking at Connected TV World Summit 2019
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The BBC is exploring ways that it could let customers link their data from online services like Netflix, Spotify and Ticketmaster to get a better and more personalised experience from the corporation.

Speaking at the recent Connected TV World Summit in London, the BBC’s Director of Audiences Nick North said that the BBC is still in “experimental mode” with the project, but started to look into the idea with other media owners about a year ago.

“These conversations have broadened out and we’re looking at a much wider data ecosystem and exploring how customers behave and feel,” said North, welcoming any other interested parties to join the conversation.

The BBC claims that some 41 million people in the UK now have a BBC Account, with about 13 million signed-in people per week coming to BBC services like the iPlayer, BBC Sounds and BBC Sport. While this is providing insights and a richer dataset across BBC products, North said that this information is still just drawing on “that sliver of you that is your BBC signed-in data”.

“If we can make more use of your data to provide you with a better BBC, what data would you want to share with us? How could we harness other data that you are generating through your other media choices or indeed through your lives more broadly, to then use that to shape a better BBC for you? This is the question that we’re really exploring at the moment.”

Running through a series of potential scenarios, North said that the BBC could look at letting users link their BBC Account to a service like Ticketmaster to get an insight into the types of concerts or events they are interested in.

“Maybe you could link it to the books that you’ve bought or the books that you’ve borrowed from a library, where you’ve travelled recently, what your Spotify playlist is, the shows that you’ve watched on Netflix, the sports that you like to watch and play,” he suggested.

“If you had the power as an individual to bring these different datasets together, which ones would you choose to link together in order to give you a better experience of the BBC?”

Widening the topic out, North said that arguably the BBC should start to think about how data could be used not only to enhance users’ experience of the BBC but also other services, community initiatives or “broader projects towards a healthier, happier, more informed society”.

“At the heart of this I think it’s about trust, it’s about control of the data. We are all these fragments expressed online through these different pockets of data. If there is an opportunity to bring these different datasets together to deliver greater value to ourselves then we should, I think, as a public service explore that.”

“What we’re really trying to do is deliver a better BBC for our audiences. We’re looking to see how we can use the customers’ data to more effectively deliver everything we do, but how we do that must reflect our public service values,” North said in summary.

“We believe that the customers’ data is theirs to control and that their data can be an important source of value for them both individually and collectively. I think the BBC has a role to think about how they can realise that value safely.”

The BBC introduced mandatory log-in for its iPlayer catch-up service in 2017. Announcing the move in 2016, the public service broadcaster said that the plan marked the next phase of its efforts to make its content, products and services more personalised to all viewers and listeners.

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