BBC DG Tim Davie, ITV CEO Dame Carolyn McCall, Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon and Channel 5 President Sarah Rose gave speeches highlighting the importance of public service broadcasting last night at the launch of new streaming service Freely.

Tim Davie said: “[…] People want to go to a service they can trust, they want to get to IP (internet protocol) with people they trust and this group has real care and at our heart, we are public service broadcasters. […] If you want to keep a society together, it’s having free access to these services, where prominence is not about the person who can pay the biggest check. […] The other thing is the editorial quality of local content. This group is unique in the world. We talk ourselves down as a country too often, but we are market leaders in this. I was in Europe last week and everyone is looking at what we’re doing and they absolutely see us as a world leader. We should double down in areas where we really have global strength and this is one of them. We have enough scale to compete and that’s an amazing thing.”

Dame Carolyn McCall said:  “There’s a really big demand for British content compared to the streamers. The streamers wouldn’t have made Mr Bates vs. The Post Office or a lot of shows we do that are public service. They can be big hits, but they are still public service. […] Viewers want that, and every survey shows that British viewers really want to see more British content made about British issues, British families, etc. so that means this [Freely] is meeting a viewer need, it is making it very, very easy for viewers.”

Alex Mahon said: “People want free. It’s all well to talk about other subscription services, but people want free, especially when things aren’t looking so good. […] They don’t want thousands of services, but they do want to find content they trust. So, we have to evolve to make it easy for them to find trusted, truthful, impartial content. And, amazingly, we can operate together, because in France, Germany, and other countries they want to know how we’re doing this, they want to bring it to their audiences there. […] The UK PSB VOD players are growing, the growth rates this year are off the charts and that’s really important. That is a sign of audience demand for particularly British content […] In the battle for truth, that is the key thing that we must deliver. And we must change how we do it in order to deliver it.”

Sarah Rose highlighted the simplicity of Freely: “From a viewer’s perspective, it’s the simplicity. […] The team have taken a very long time and has worked incredibly well to get something intuitive, simple and easy to use. […] All viewers want to know is intuitively they can find their content, our content.”

US analyst and media cartographer Evan Shapiro said: “Efforts like Freely can help the connected TV ecosystem solve the consumers’ paradox of choice. It’s a great example of putting audiences squarely at the centre of the TV experience. It’s an amazing example of the kind of radical collaboration necessary to create the kind of radical transformation that the UK media needs right now. Freely can help ensure that the UK public service media does much more than survive in the user-centric era, that it also thrives.”


Jon Creamer

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