Choice is Challenge

    The BBC will launch a Creative Archive - free access to BBC content for learning, for creativity, for pleasure.
    The BBC will make its services available when and where people want them, with a new generation of BBC on-demand services.

This vision poses a number of challenges on the long term horizon simply due to the vision's grand scope. This document discusses a number of these, so that they can be met, resolved, and the vision delivered.

The British Public comprises 60 million people and is often approximated as 20 million homes. This belies a hidden assumption of one display per home. However, many homes feature more than one display already. A growing number of homes have more than one computer in the home. In such homes, laptops are rapidly becoming second screens.

Thus whilst many calculations are based on the possibility of 20 million homes, it is entirely possible that we may well in the future need to consider the potential audience in terms of 60 million people.

> Long Tail Distribution Wired

The BBC archive comprises of over 1 million hours of programming. Even offering as much as 10% of this archive to 60 million people has consequences. Online services tend to follow a trend: offer a choice, and all options get chosen. This occurs whether 10, 100, or 100,000 options are provided. This behaviour is often called a long tailed distribution, and appears to be innate human behaviour. Music charts, cities sizes, letter distributions, etc all demonstrate this.

Essentially this means that given a choice, somewhere, someone will take that choice. Wildly popular items turn out to be just a small subset of all choice made. This drives the economics of online music stores. The bulk of the business comes from the long tail the variety of content available.

Choice itself forms unique challenges.

Offering the entire audience such a wide choice will have the following result:

  • They will access almost every piece of content offered
  • They will do so often
  • They will not access the same data at the same time

Bottom line is we're potentially talking about 60 million people watching 60 million different things. Scaled down to just 1 million people, the challenges remain. Even if they're watching the same thing many will be watching from different time points.

All of this will occur in the face of a changing landscape for technology as used by our audience. Platforms proliferate, storage increases and platforms change. Much of the online delivery world for content is based on proprietary systems rather than open standards.

Any future plan and discussion of long term challenges must be discussed against this background. Inside each challenge there are latent issues that will cause issues when scaling BBC online delivery. After identifying common themes we will come back to the grand challenges.

Challenges: Short Version

To give a flavour of these challenges :

  • It will be simpler to deliver this choice to and from every home where possible. It could fit in your home, now.
  • Our audience will be sharing their own creations, and will expect to share ours.
  • Scaling the BBC's online delivery infrastructure using proprietary systems is not cost effective
  • Current distribution methods cannot deliver the BBC's vision.
  • Moore's law has ended in terms of raw CPU power(Mhz) this will radically change the way systems we use are built.
  • The BBC has always sought the best possible quality for a given delivery system. Growth in bandwidth at home and at the BBC's side will offset each other.


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