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Helping the BBC grow its global audience

As part of its Worldwide service, the BBC screens many of its dramas across the globe. 

When Tim Savill, head of audience measurement at BBC Worldwide, wanted to research attitudes to British drama in China, Russia and India, he came to Sheffield Business School. He also asked us to look at attitudes to social media.

The challenge

He wanted to know what international audiences like and dislike, and which components of a drama really work in other cultures. He was also interested in the differences between the way British and American dramas are seen.

We could use any techniques we liked, although Tim did suggest some primary research.

What we did

Russian student Elena Khmeleva worked in one of the groups. “Besides researching audience attitudes to British dramas and storylines in Russia, we explored competitor activity and any barriers or restrictions to market entry. It was really good to apply all of the theory to a real business case — it all clicked into place, and I saw why it was needed. Working on behalf of the BBC was amazing. I was very excited, but also very conscious of the high standards that would be required, so I worked even harder than I normally would. I’m so proud to have the BBC on my CV.”

Rondy da Silva is the senior lecturer who supervises students on the BBC Worldwide projects. 'It can be quite nerve-wracking for the students to work for an organisation as prestigious as the BBC, so it’s really good for building their confidence. They have to be consummate professionals when it comes to responsibilities, conduct and deadlines — and clients like the BBC make the students want to deliver their very best work. It’s a superb way to engage professionally with multiple cultures, languages and approaches to business within a single project.”

Tim Savill explained that he had also asked a market-research agency to run a parallel project. 'What the agency produced may have been more polished, and they had more resources to draw on (such as recruiting panellists), but the students still impressed us with the breadth of research techniques they used, as well as their findings, and we were very pleased with what they gave us.'

The results

Offering this project to us when e had already briefed an agency didn’t make our work a pointless task. Though an agency was also involved, the two groups both brought different insights to the table. “The students were better with social media, for example, and they came up with ideas which the agency didn’t. Because there were native language-speakers in each group, they were able to uncover local insights which the BBC and the agency could not.”

They say

“The students are younger and in touch with potentially different audiences and different research methods. They played an important role in corroborating our other information.”

Tim Savill, Head of Audience Measurement at BBC Worldwide

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