Candidates will have to prove their online ambitions to land job says Chris Curtis
When the job of BBC2 controller became available in February, drawing up the list of potential candidates didn’t take long.
A handful of BBC factual specialists and the odd external candidate were quickly being talked about, and before too long Kim Shillinglaw’s name was on everyone’s lips. “It’s Kim” became the standard (and slightly dull) answer to queries about who would succeed Janice Hadlow. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
She seemed to quickly establish herself as the outstanding candidate and will apparently relish the opportunity to expand her experience beyond her natural history and science background. It may have been a predictable appointment, but the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The BBC has the opportunity to appoint the next generation of channel controller”
There is nothing predictable about who will be the next BBC3 controller, given its monumental shift next autumn.
Zai Bennett, named this week as the director of Sky Atlantic, has had a successful tenure at BBC3 since April 2011 and was understandably gutted when the rug was pulled from under him in the shape of savage budget cuts and a move online.
The sizeable challenge for his successor is to make that work. That individual will be tested with running both BBC3 and iPlayer, and will require skills beyond the norm for TV execs. They will need a flexible approach to commissioning, and some experience of short-form content would probably go a long way.
Scheduling is also going to take on new significance. Should an online BBC3 release content in Netflix-style blocks, seek to replicate the weekly drop of traditional linear TV, or settle somewhere in between?
Releasing stripped daily content and attempting to create appointment-to-view content online is an intriguing prospect.
How to stagger content through the year will also be important, and the new BBC3 controller will have to decide whether to mirror the traditional TV launch schedules.
Much BBC3 viewing will likely be done on mobile devices, so will that alter the way that its content is made? Thumbnail images and close-ups could become part of the language of the way its shows are presented and shot.
Delivering interactive content and pushing engagement will likely be key priorities. It’s perfectly conceivable that candidates will be asked to outline their strategy for building a sense of community online, as much as their vision for factual and comedy. In essence, a whole new skill set is required. All of which means it’s far harder to immediately come up with a highly plausible list of candidates – which is no bad thing.
The BBC has the opportunity to appoint the next generation of channel controller – someone with a vision that genuinely looks to the future rather than relying on warm baths, noisy programming or all the other traditional buzz phrases. Who it chooses – and the criteria it uses to make that decision – will be fascinating.
Chris Curtis is editor of Broadcast