Market Insight

The BBC announces it is developing a new digital assistant

August 27, 2019  | Subscribers Only

Daniel Stevenson Sutton Daniel Stevenson Sutton Senior Research Analyst, Service Providers & Platforms

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The British Broadcasting Company announced it will be launching a digital assistant in 2020. Currently under development, the assistant named 'Beeb' will not be supported by a physical device of its own but rather will be accessible through existing digital assistant eco-systems and BBC applications. The BBC has a long tradition of experimenting with new technologies. The company's iPlayer application is one of the most frequently accessed video services in the UK. 66% of internet users indicated they use the video service on a monthly basis according to a consumer survey conducted by IHS Markit. The full survey can be found as part of our Consumer Research - Devices, Media & Usage Intelligence Service - Premium

Routes to consumers

Without its own device, Beeb will be heavily dependent on existing digital assistant eco-systems to reach consumers. The majority of connected devices, smartphones, tablets and Laptops and even Smart TV’s have access to some form of native digital assistant. Any BBC digital assistant will inherently be constrained by these platforms’ capabilities and terms. Traditionally, third-party assistants have been limited in their functionality as “skills” on the existing platforms, however in recent months changes have begun to occur.

Earlier this year, as part of a collaboration between Amazon and Microsoft, Microsoft’s Cortana became available on Amazon’s Echo devices, similarly Alexa can now be accessed from the lock screen of Windows 10 PCs.

Google’s collaboration with Telefonica’s Aura presents a similar scenario and potentially a view into how Beeb may operate on third party devices. On Telefonica’s own platform, Aura is able to perform a host of tasks including smart-home functions. Although Aura can be accessed from Google Home devices, the assistant’s capabilities are restricted as Google retains control of functions such as lighting and music control. This means that Aura in this environment is limited to accessing Telefonica’s content and services exclusively.

Likely functionality

It is expected that Beeb will function as a content discovery and information tool, surfacing content from the BBC’s entertainment, news and music services. It is unlikely that Beeb will be able to check users’ calendars or send messages. Beeb’s expected content discovery and aggregation functionality better positions the BBC to compete for audience share with other skills and entertainment apps within the connected device ecosystem. In the UK, the BBC continues to retain high audience share with BBC One regularly reaching between 20% and 25% of all UK viewing, and the BBC as a group averaging around 30%. With connections to BBC Radio and iPlayer likely to be at the core of Beeb’s functionality, this assistant has the potential to provide access to some of the UK’s most popular content.

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