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BBC Gets Audience Involved in Taster
The Corporation's latest move to combat Netflix and YouTube is to fly experimental content ideas online, letting audiences direct which will go further in development

The BBC is embracing online feedback from audiences to help it shape new content formats by offering viewers a chance to comment on and rate works in progress.

Much like Amazon Studios pilot season, BBC Taster, which launched today, corrals a number of experimental ideas with the aim of letting audiences direct which go further in development.

The launch forms part of a wider strategy by the broadcaster to shift more of its emphasis online. This includes the forthcoming premiere of 25 shows on iPlayer, shows which would previously have been aired first on linear channels.

In a statement, Danny Cohen, director of BBC TV, said: “We’ve always pushed the boundaries with our creative programming and innovative digital services. These two worlds are coming together and opening up new possibilities for telling stories. BBC Taster will help ensure we stay at the forefront and better serve audiences now and in the future. It’s an exciting opportunity for our world-class production teams to take more creative risks online, try their ideas out and put them in the hands of audiences.”

The background, of course, is increased competition from Netflix and YouTube as a result of the proliferation of mobile devices and consequent viewing of content away from the TV.

Tablets are in 44% of UK households, and 61% of UK adults own a smartphone—including 88% of 16-to-24-year-olds, according to Ofcom. BBC Online receives as much traffic from mobiles as it does from PCs. Social media also plays an increasingly important role among youth audiences, notes the BBC, with 75% of British 16-to-24-year-olds claiming to use social networking sites.

At launch, BBC Taster features ideas from online service BBC iPlayer, News, Radio 1, Natural History, Drama, Current Affairs and Arts.

BBC iPlayer Shuffle, for example is described as "a continuous video player" that will serve up content based on a viewer's previous searches; KneeJerk is a platform for improvised comedy taking its cue from the week's trending tweets, GIFs, and Vines. Body Language offers to mash up poetry with video and stills.

Another idea, which has long been in gestation at BBC Future Media, is to invite audiences of BBC World Service radio to crowd curate its archive of 36,000 programmes by tagging content they either like or dislike. There is also repackaged interview material which has not made it to broadcast and behind the scenes footage of a travel documentary series, repackaged for viewers to better select which part they wish to view on-demand.

Last week the BBC governing body BBC Trust launched a six-month evaluation of the closure of linear channel BBC3. The BBC previously announced its intention to move the entire channel online in order to save costs and, it argued, to better serve the channel's youth-oriented audience.

Independent production companies Hat Trick and Avalon have tabled a bid to take the channel off the BBC's hands and run it at an increased budget of £100m a year, up from the current £81m.

The corporation is also set to debut 30 to 50 hours of programming from BBC1, BBC2, BBC4, and its children’s channels on iPlayer and in advance of transmission.

“The competitive environment for BBC iPlayer is set to become significantly more challenging as major global VOD providers such as Netflix and Amazon establish a foothold in the market,” said the BBC in a statement.

“In order to compete (and thus retain our ability to deliver public value) BBC iPlayer must continue to improve, taking fuller advantage of the characteristics of the internet.”