FT tech chief will re-build BBC’s digital content shop

Financial Times chief technology officer and chief information officer Michael Fleshman is joining BBC Worldwide in the new role of SVP for consumer digital technology, where he will lead tech for Global iPlayer, TopGear.com and BBCShop.com.

Fleshman slots in to place as the latest move following a BBC Worldwide restructure this June. Global iPlayer president Jana Bennett is leaving the company; Dan Heaf became chief digital officer after being EVP and MD for consumer digital and, previously, digital director.

But Fleshman’s role, reporting to Heaf, is a more technology-centric one.

Among his projects to look out for will likely be overhauling BBCShop.com, which currently only sells physical BBC content and artefacts, to also become a digital content sales service.

BBC Worldwide does well syndicating BBC shows through third parties like iTunes Store and Blinkbox, but, both at home and abroad, lacks an own-brand means of exploiting BBC material commercially online. Heaf told me in June:

We can operate a dual approach by making our content available through third parties and through building our own products in the UK.

“We are investing heavily in our ecommerce platform, which has traditionally been the BBC Shop. We have a much stronger strategy to make a much more compelling offering and we hope that will come alongside, potentially, locker services in the future.

“We’ll start the easiest way, which is come to the store, buy the DVD, ‘would you like to buy the digital version?’, ‘would you like to buy it in a locker service?’.

“Over time, do you get to enough scale where a subscription service makes sense? I hope so.”

BBC Worldwide’s digital entertainment operation, comprising BBC.com, games and Global iPlayer, made a loss during the last year for which figures were disclosed, 2010/11, after the cost of setting up an global ad sales outfit dragged on growing revenue.

But BBC.com individually turned a first profit in July 2011. And, although a restructure has absorbed the “digital entertainment” throughout the company, BBC Worldwide says:  “If our digital activity was still a standalone business, it would be profitable.”

Heaf has taken pains to say the digital business “is growing fast and now represents 12.8 percent of revenue to the business, up from 8.1 percent during 2010/2011” (via release). BBC Worldwide digital revenue was £110 million in 2011/12.