Steve Sampson, journalist and media expert, on why the under fire corporation no longer has the firepower to compete.
The BBC were right to tell Love Productions to take their Bake Off programme and get stuffed. There comes a point where no matter how valuable the property, there’s a zero return. £75M over three years was it.
But it masks a bigger issue. The BBC simply can’t compete in a cut-throat money driven world. Especially when their main stakeholder is the dull, lumbering government. They can’t run the country, why would we believe they can run a TV business.
Netflix will spend $6B on original programming this year. The BBC licence fee is only £3.5B. Everything from TV to radio to online. EastEnders to Gaelic.
SKY paid £4.2B for the English Premiership over three years. Or over £11M per match – Hull versus Swansea. The BBC were only prepared to pay £15M for the whole Bake Off series – their biggest programme, which outperformed The Olympics in sheer viewing numbers.
The Manchester United/City derby on SKY only hit 2M viewers at its peak. Liverpool v Leicester did 1M. Tiny, piddling numbers in UK terms – but a staggering 900M worldwide where the real market is. Live football of any note will never appear on the BBC again unless somehow they are allowed to become SKY or Netflix. Facebook livestreamed Wayne Rooney’s testimonial.
Meanwhile the BBC’s most expensive radio output are, pound for pound, the Scottish Gaelic and Welsh language ones. £25M a year on Radio Cymru and Radio nan Gàidheal. Or the price of Bake Off.
The heirlooms have been lost one by one. Football, cricket, racing, golf, F1, Top Gear. Wimbledon next? Instead of investing, BBC bosses are being told to save £800M in the next four years while their opposition are madly investing. The government want them to post the salaries of everyone earning over £150,000 a year. Small thinking by small people in big jobs. The BBC has no chance.
And so to C4, snatchers of Bake Off for £25M a series over three years. Hang on a minute. Aren’t they owned by… errrm… the government? How come they can splash the gold when the BBC are shrink-wrapped? For a tent, now that it seems the presenting team aren’t for going.
Prime Minister May is said to be considering her C4 options. They all have from Thatcher, Major, Blair through to Brown. Options, as in flogging it. It’s the BBC they should be floating, allowing the very many top talents to run it as a modern media business. If Facebook doesn’t get there before them.
Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.