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Thursday, 1 May 2008

How embedding video will help the BBC

The BBC has said that it is investigating embeddable videos as part of their upgrade allowing videos to be played in-page.

The screenshot above is of 'Survivors of the Titanic' audio, a radio interview from 1936 with the most senior surviving officer Commander CH Lightoller from the huge archive. It's a really good example of how allowing embedding instead of the current 'share it' options will potentially massively boost their traffic — wouldn't it help sell this content and encourage further clicks to yet more previously 'hidden' content if you could click and play this audio right here? And as they are to show ads to overseas viewers (for which the technology is now fairly well developed) embedding will, potentially dramatically, increase their revenues.

The Titanic is a subject of huge enduring interest and the BBC's online archive is stock full of gems. I wonder what the actual number of plays where it's currently located, buried in the archive, gives it. When I went to Digg it, I saw no-one had done this before. Hardly surprising.

People do create viral BBC content already.

The top one - Amy Winehouse on Jools Holland's show has 8.5m views. Currently, Mitchell + Webb clips are viral, and that show is thus being promoted on BBC World.

Their top viral - 640 blog posts is a lot and that's how the ViralVideo Chart ranks - is the Panorama show 'Sex crimes and the Vatican' from 2006. It has been deleted in the version appearing in the chart - but has reappeared elsewhere in an embeddable version. The subject area appears heavily policed on YouTube - see the number of deletions in this list - but less so on Google Video. It's hard to understand why one arm of Google removes and another allows. But with the appearance of sites like LiveLeak, policing distribution is much harder anyway.

I'm not sure whether the BBC had any role is asking for copyright material to be removed in that instance some while back but there is so much copyright material already being distributed now that the conclusion can only be that it's policy not to bother policing it. Though some have been - a Doctor Who clip and something from BBC London about the London 2012 Olympics Logo — deleted on YouTube but there on LiveLeak, the Doctor Who clip simply reposted to YouTube. Perhaps policed (not at all effectively) by others than the BBC. And perhaps that's the point, the resources needed can only come from dedicated people like the Scientologists.

What can only hugely benefit them is deliberately encouraging viral distribution, rather than forcing people back to a website to view, or hiding the viral options alongside other, less valuable, distribution methods like email. Some of the US Networks, especially NBC, are doing exactly that and get the benefit from their own ad plays, wherever the video's playing.

What these networks do is police though. They want you using their embed, not something taped off TV. This allows not just ad play but also cross-promotion and anything else you might develop and throw down the pipe - the pipe you control. Is the BBC going to be thus changing their policy and throw resources at policing once they get embedding started?

This is early days - even for, for example, networks like NBC who are leading the pack they don't seem to be encouraging complimentary marketing like these parodies of Heroes on their official site and thus helping foster a community.

The BBC said back in March, in an aside, and reinforced this in response to my comments, that allowing embedding would "eventually" happen. The BBC has so much great content, including huge amounts of archive content of huge interest like their holdings about the Titanic, which is of wide, world-wide, interest that, especially with them adding in ad plays to monetise, they just can't lose.

And it's not just attracting overseas viewers but also through UK social networks - what a great way to get the benefit potential of BBC news content being seen by younger people for example. I think this should come right up their list of priorities from asides about 'eventually' to 'by around this date' ...

NB: Neither ITV or Channel Four have any interest in allowing embedding. More fool them.

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