NEM Interview: Salim Mukaddam, GM and Vice President of CEE at BBC Worldwide
NEM 2017 is fast approaching. The event will be held next week in Dubrovnik, Croatia between June 12 and 15. Warming up to the event, the organizers made an interview with one of its key participants - Salim Mukaddam, GM and Vice President of CEE at BBC Worldwide. He will take part in the You Can’t Stop Me: The Power of TV Channels panel.
NEM: BBC Worldwide has a long tradition for being one of the greatest opinion formers in the television industry. Can you tell us where the secret lies for continually making great programming?
SM: The secret to our success is quite simple: valuing our audiences and the people who make the content. We make sure that our audiences are at the heart of everything we do, constantly listening and adapting to their needs. With this as our foundation, we then work with the best on-screen and behind the scenes talent to bring audiences brilliant and unique stories which capture their imagination and hearts, making them come back time and time again.
NEM: How has your content strategy changed over the years within BBC? Can you tell the difference between the viewers of today and those of 15 or 20 years before? Are contemporary audiences more demanding when it merely comes to content?
SM: The demands from our clients and audiences remain the same now as they did 15-20 years ago; ultimately they want brilliant content to watch and enjoy. What has changed is the manner in which consumers get access to that content, whether it be through pay-TV or free-to-air linear, VOD, SVOD, TVOD, OTT or any of the other multiple ways audiences now want to engage with content. That increase in availability fuels an increase in demand and that is the challenge that faces BBC Worldwide today – ensuring that we have enough of the greatest content to service the needs of our customers. We’re working hard to continue to deliver a world-beating catalogue of quality content that meets the demands the audience is placing on our customers.
NEM: As the General Manager and Vice President for Central and Eastern Europe, what are the differences between the audiences from CEE region and, let's say, Western Europe?
SM: I think it can be too easy to group Central and Eastern Europe together as if it is one single entity, which in my opinion does not do justice to a region as diverse and nuanced. The wants and desires from audiences in the Balkans are completely different from those in the Baltics who in turn are totally different from audiences in the Czech Republic. It is vital that we understand the personality and needs of each market individually and not assume that content that works in one territory will work universally across the region. The key difference is that CEE is a constantly evolving market and no two days are the same working in this region. It’s a lot of fun.
NEM: Since the BBC is a synonym for quality, and cherished all over the globe, surely it shouldn't take too much for the content you are distributing to be recognized?
SM: I feel very proud to work for a company where the content is held in such high regard globally. People know that they will be getting something very special from the BBC. With an ever growing demand for content across the region, the BBC brand can provide our clients with reassurance, allowing them to change their buying behaviour. Clients are increasingly prepared to engage in pre-sales in order to secure content before their competitors. For example, before Planet Earth II went on to become such a worldwide success, we had already secured both co-production funding as well as several major pre-sales for the series. Buyers have to be confident in the producers behind a series to make these kind of commitments.
NEM: What is the future of television? In the years to come, do you think there will be winners and losers among TV industry giants? Is content really the most important thing in this game of attracting new viewers and holding onto the old ones?
SM: It would be impossible to predict the future of television, except to say that it will be incredibly exciting and very different to the purely linear landscape I grew up with. I do believe though that the winners in the market, big and small, will be those who understand their customers and are able to put in front of them surprising, challenging and engaging content that they love. That is where BBC Worldwide is adding value, allowing clients to differentiate their offering from their competitors with standout content.
NEM: Do you think there is enough space in the market for new TV channels?
SM: For the reasons stated above, I absolutely do see a space in the market for new TV channels. Clearly, the supply of content has exploded in recent years. However, with so much choice, I believe audiences will increasingly rely on trusted brands that understand them and reflect their personalities to curate content that they will enjoy. Our own channels, such as BBC Earth, are seeing a growth in the region because they are expertly curated by people at the BBC who understand the audience and deliver that surprising, challenging and engaging content that audiences love.
NEM: How do you find the balance between quality content and the one that makes profit? Is everything profit ridden in the world of television today?
SM: BBC Worldwide is the main commercial arm and the wholly owned subsidiary of the BBC. As such, my role is to help grow revenue in order that the profits can be returned back to the BBC to be reinvested into making the next set of world class content. It’s a virtuous circle that makes working for the BBC so rewarding. This process helps fuel our catalogue so I can continue to deliver great programming to my customers and our audiences, so that they keep coming back for more.
NEM: You will be speaking at a panel discussion at New Europe Market. What are your expectations from the conference and why do you think it attracts the most important people from TV industry?
SM: I’m really excited to be joining one of the panels at the New Europe Market. Given the constantly evolving nature of the Central and Eastern European marketplace, conferences like NEM are vital to ensure you fully understand the needs of the region both now and how they are going to develop in the future. I am looking forward to hearing what other experts have to say and meeting even more great people from the industry in the region. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s set in an area as beautiful as Dubrovnik.