A Caring BBC Wants to See Connected Cars as Simple as Possible

Suzanne Bowen : Monetizing IP Communications
Suzanne Bowen
32 yrs in telecom, teaching, blog & grant writing, biz development, marketing, & PR. Favorite moments in life involve time w/ family & friends, networking, IP communications industry verticals & horizontals, running, traveling, foreign languages
| 1. "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition..." Barack Obama ..... 2. "One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain." By Thomas Sowell

A Caring BBC Wants to See Connected Cars as Simple as Possible

2013-06-07_markfriend_britishbroadcastingcorp_connectedcars_didx.jpgThe past 30 days of podcasting with M2M experts have been enlightening and educational in the specific area of the Connected Car. The most recent was with Mark Friend, Controller at BBC Radio & Music Multiplatform. He leads the interactive services for the British Broadcasting Corporation's radio networks and music output across digital radio, desktop, TV and mobile platforms. The digital radio strategies and services include listen again, the iPlayer Radio app, visual live radio, podcasts, social media, hybrid radio, archive, major music events and text and data services.

Mark Friend was previously the BBC’s Controller of Strategy where he led the Charter settlement in 2005 and developed the BBC’s new services vision which underpinned it. Before joining the BBC, Mark spent several years launching and running new businesses at ITN (Independent Television News, a news and content provider with headquarters in the United Kingdom) and ... riding a motorbike halfway around the world across the former Soviet Union and USA. 

(Following is not a word for word transcript of the interview, but instead, it is a combination of transcript and summaries of the first ten minutes. Listen to the complete 17 minute interview on DIDX podcasts, iTunes, or UK podcast channels.)


Interviewer Suzanne Bowen: When I think of the BBC, which has over 100 million listeners around the world, I think of a picture of one of the world's most popular public broadcasting stations who usually interviews others, but today, I have the privilege to interview you! Can we start by hearing some background information about the British Broadcasting Corporation and how the company fits into the Connected Cars industry?

BBC's Mark Friend: In the UK, 20 % of listening is in the car. An important aspect of that is that much of radio listening is quite passive; whereas, in the car, it is somewhat less passive. It is one of the few places where you'll get whole groups of people listening at once. I suppose the reason that we care about the connected car is that it is both an opportunity and a threat. We want to make the most of that.

A big organization like the BBC ... we make great video content, we have fantastic news operation, great sports operation, good weather ... we can present people the best of the BBC according to what is appropiate for the environment. In the short time, I just want to make sure that when you turn on that device in your car, the radio is nice and easy to use still ... not too complicated ... it's accessible. You can easily find your way to the stuff you love.

Complications lead to driver distractions. I know this is something the car industry cares about. Sophisticated simplicity is what you're after. That is what we care about. We want to make sure we are presenting the BBC well and ... radio well in the car.

Interviewer Suzanne Bowen: Listening in a car is less passive. Then, the second point you made ... whole groups are actually listening in a car, animatedly discussing it.

BBC's Mark Friend: For an organization like the BBC which is slightly different from commercial radio. We care about our radio having an impact. It's certainly cross-generational. Youth listening ... the car is one place where youth listening is holding up ... we haven't seen any reduction in radio listening, but it's possible that can come in the future unless we are presenting radio simply.

Interviewer Suzanne Bowen: When I picture the BBC, I think of it as one of the world's most popular broadcasting stations who usually interviews others, but today I have the privilege of interviewing you, Mark Friend. I realize ... if I have this correct ... you are the Controller of ...

BBC's Mark Friend: ... multi-platform for radio and music. Within the big content areas that you see, there is television, radio, and news. I work with the radio division because that's our primary interest. I'm also chairing an industry group in the UK, a technology group which is looking at two key platforms ... one is car and one is mobile. We have an interesting initiative in the UK which at the product level is bringing together commercial radio and the BBC into one product.

Part of what we are trying to do is to work together as a cohesive unit to make the most of opportunities in car. The same issues arise in both ultimately. You have broadcast radio, FM of dish radio and Internet radio nice and coherently. We have quite strong ideas here in the UK of how we should be mixing those things together to create the best car experience, and actually it is the same as mobile.

Interviewer Suzanne Bowen: You did mention something about the two entities, cars and mobile phones ... I keep hearing as I talk with different people involved in connected cars conference (which is taking place in Amsterdam, June 25 - 26, 2013) regarding the concept of the car is sort of like the new mobile phone.

BBC's Mark Friend: The ways of getting media out and into the car ... a lot of people are going to docking solutions. There are several different ways of trying to synchronize your phone with the car's steering wheel. My take on that is that it is still quite a complicated picture. There are several attempts to standardize and become a simpler thing to get that connection right.

I see the phone as really important in the experience of the connected car right now. We might end up with more embededd solutions, but I think the phone will be critically important, getting the connected car experience right. Actually, there is a lot of similarity between being in the car and listening on the phone. Obviously, you are on the move typically ... trying to present simple, elegant roots into a great listening experience. Indeed, for us, a great viewing experience also and tethering that to the different devices, so that ...

Focus it really on a listening experience ... primarily what people want; whereas, the phone is slightly more personal and you really interact more with your phone. A lot about radio is just keeping it elegant and simple.

Interviewer Suzanne Bowen: May I ask two questions that are a bit opposite in nature? The first is ... what are your thoughts on current industry trends in M2M and the Connected Car? The second is what unique insights and opinions do you have on the Connected Cars industry moving forward? Help us peek into the future.

BBC's Mark Friend: I can see how industries around the car sector ... some will be transformed by the connected car. Certainly in the UK, where we are some way from seeing any critical mass, but it's a great hope for the future.

From an industry point of view, from a broadcaster's point of view, it all looks a bit complicated. How's the BBC really going to establish itself? We have some stunning services, so how are we going to make those come alive in the connected car?

(My thought here: This is one of the crucial question that many technology companies are honestly posing to themselves. How is our company going to make its services come alive in the connected car?)

We have lots experience doing this on TV devices, radio devices and mobile phones. At the moment, there are quite a few different environments we would have to build our apps into. That looks complicated, potentially expensive ... at the moment, we are looking around ... what would be a simpler way ... Phones seem simpler because of the small list of environments such as Apple, Android, Blackberry and Windows. Connected Cars involves many more environments.

Mr. Friend notes that the BBC cares about what will work for the listeners and users as well as the best situation as a broadcaster in what looks very complicated. June 25 - 26, 2013 are the two days that thousands of the ecosystem related to connected cars will study and share research and business and technical development. Visit Connected Cars website. The conference will be in Amsterdam.

Around 13 minutes into the audio podcast, Mark describes an example of the future of connected cars from the point of view of the BBC and broadcasting services.

What did Mark Friend have to say about how being co-located with the world’s largest LTE event (LTE World Summit) ... will impact the debate at Connected Cars?

Mark believes there will be more integration between broadcast and Internet and explains why. Each has advantages such as FM and DAR's quality connection an unlike cellular, the signal does not drop out. The more powerful LTE (as opposed to 3G and 4G) may be the answer to the integration. Why not let the Internet give us a bit more information via return paths?

Mark Friend says, "How we bring everything together into a bigger offering than what we do currently in a really cost-effective way that is true to what people expect from the BBC ... is the job.

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