Microsoft, BBC Meet Free Content To Follow?

    September 29, 2006

Microsoft and the BBC shook hands yesterday, but it was something of a soft, tentative handshake. Microsoft described a “nonexclusive memorandum of understanding” that both companies signed as “a step toward strengthening their working alliance.” Despite this rather weak language, the meeting may have had important implications.

According to the official press release, “the memorandum of understanding will define the framework within which the companies can explore opportunities for the delivery and consumption of BBC content and the evolution of next-generation broadcasting.” And while that could mean just about anything, a few specifics were mentioned in the last paragraph.

“Areas of potential investigation and collaboration include search and navigation, distribution, and content enablement,” according to the release. This, and other clues, implied that the document might have something to do with a proposal to provide free public access to the BBC archives. The BBC’s Ashley Highfield is behind that proposal, and he was present at the memorandum-signing, as well.

Highfield, Mark Thompson (also of the BBC), and Microsoft’s Bill Gates met “to officially sign the memorandum of understanding and discuss the BBC’s digital strategy.” Here’s where it got interesting – that strategy “includes plans for its online archive, for a radically re-invented Web site in the Web 2.0 world . . . and for ways to share its online content in the future.”

A comment from Highfield further defined the corporate relationship. “Microsoft is not just a key supplier to the BBC, it is also a key gateway to audiences that the BBC needs to reach through Web services it runs like MSN and Windows Live Messenger, and hardware such as Xbox and the Windows Media Center,” he said.

“The BBC needs to work with all players in this space to make sure our programs and content are enjoyed by the widest possible audience, without always having to come to to find it,” Highfield continued. It could just be wishful thinking on my part, but it sounds like Highfield’s original proposal may be evolving into a definite plan.


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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.