Salim Mukaddam, General Manager and Vice President of Central and Eastern Europe, BBC Studios | On Demand Platforms and TV Channels – Mutually Exclusive or a Great Combination?

Considering BBC has a lot of projects involving OTT services and still has its linear channels, do you see on-demand platforms and linear TV channels as mutually exclusive or a perfect combination?

At BBC Studios our mission is to give a global platform to the British creativity and talent, so we work with clients across linear and OTT, PSB and pay; local and global.

We still see lots of growth opportunities for our linear channels business, like BBC First, across the CEE where Pay TV continues to be strong. Whilst at the moment on-demand services are still quite nascent in the CEE, researchers are predicting that SVOD subs will grow by 26 million across the region by 2024, so we will, of course, be looking at new distribution opportunities to maximize revenues and audiences for our content. I see this as an additional consumer choice rather than a substitute. Croatia is a good example of where a  local SVOD service, Pickbox, can have a positive rather than an adverse impact in the wider market.

BBC recently launched their BBC First premium drama Pay TV channel and OTT service in the CEE region with A1 Telekom. What else do you have in plan for the CEE audience?

We were really pleased to see the footprint for BBC First expand into Croatia with A1 this April, after its debut in Poland in late 2018. We can see that there is strong audience interest locally for fresh, high-quality drama content, so I believe there is a real opportunity in the market for a premium British drama channel like BBC First. We are optimistic that there will be further launches in the CEE this year and hope to have some useful discussions about the channel at NEM this year.

We launched BBC Earth into the Czech Republic and Slovakia towards the end of last year and viewers across the region can look forward some fantastic programming including our landmark science series The Planets and the latest blue-chip natural history series from BBC Studios natural history unit- One Planet: Seven Worlds later this year.

Regions are very different and some content and type of services are for some countries while not for others. How do you decide what works best for a new market you are coming to?

Audiences are at the heart of everything we do, so firstly we really need to understand their tastes and preferences and from that, see where the opportunities might lie. We are fortunate to have a great research team and network of colleagues at BBC Studios that can share information and learnings with, and of course, we travel frequently to markets like NEM where we can network and hear from our contemporaries about trends and opportunities they are seeing in the market.

Working with a strong local partner is also crucial when deciding how and when to launch a service or new content and we value their local expertise enormously. We choose partners that enjoy our content and will give it the best possible support locally. 

In 10 years from now, do you think there is a future for linear TV? What kind of a service is the fittest to survive new kinds of audiences and new technologies in your opinion?

The signs are still positive for linear TV in CEE given that in more mature markets like the UK linear TV is still successful despite years of SVOD activity. Ultimately audiences want great stories and characters, regardless of the platform so the challenge for everyone is to make the very best, high-quality content to attract them.

One of BBC’s newest projects is BritBox, alleged new main competitor to Netflix. What is the main plan to attract audiences that already have their favorites among a lot of OTT services that already exist?

Britbox is a joint venture with ITV and has been available in the US since 2017 and Canada since 2018. It has been successful as it has a very clear proposition as the only subscription video-on-demand service in the market focused on British drama, so it’s a go-to destination for those who love this content and serves a previously untapped audience demand.