UK broadcaster BBC invests $44 million to compete with Facebook, Netflix and Amazon

Key Points
  • U.K. public service broadcaster BBC spends $44 million to face off competition from the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Netflix.
  • It says its annual plan is about "reinventing the BBC for a new generation".
Oli Scarff | Getty Images

The U.K. public service broadcaster BBC announced it would spend £34 million ($44 million) on children's programming over the next three years to face off competition from global media giants like Facebook, Amazon and Netflix.

Proposals to draw young audiences away from the Silicon Valley firms include multimedia content such as video, live online programming, video blogs (vlogs), games and apps. The broadcaster said that it would also aim to increase interactive content that enables young audiences to "create, connect and share".

The proposals were announced in the media organization's annual plan.

"In terms of our ambitions, the plan talks about reinventing the BBC for a new generation," the BBC said.

"It makes clear that the BBC's historic mission – to inform, educate and entertain – remains unchanged but that with the BBC facing competition from other U.K. broadcasters and global media giants like Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, and young people in particular consuming media in different ways, the BBC will need to achieve it in different ways."

The funding will be delivered across the BBC's children's television channels, CBeebies and CBBC, as well as multimedia platforms.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Video-sharing website YouTube regularly reaches an estimated 70 percent of 6 to 12-year-olds, the broadcaster said. It added that the time children spend watching traditional linear children's channels had fallen "significantly", and that it would look to create a connected, multiplatform offer to supplement its traditional linear children's channels.

"Our audience is rapidly changing and now more than ever we need to keep up," the BBC's Children's Director Alice Webb said. "We're home to the most popular kids' TV channels in the U.K., but as our audience increasingly move(s) online it's our job to stay relevant, inspiring and engaging them on whichever platform they choose."

BBC 'special in its public service role'

A professor at the London School of Economics welcomed the commitment to funding in the annual plan.

"Clearly in a competitive market those with funding for their creative ideas will have an edge with young people," Shakuntala Banaji, associate professor at the LSE, told CNBC in an email. "But the BBC is special in its public service role."

Banaji added that she hopes the corporation will ensure "children's voices and opinions are heard".

Surveys conducted by the consumer insights company Trendera in May revealed that teenagers watch about twice as much Netflix as live television. It was revealed that teens spent 34 percent of their video time watching YouTube, compared to 27 percent watching Netflix, and only 14 percent watching live TV. The research was commissioned by the U.S. media and entertainment company AwesomenessTV.