BBC Looks to Enhance Programming via the Web

The broadcaster's former head of digital, Simon Nelson, says focus is on ambitious web projects centered around popular programs, such as the recent 'Dr. Who' game that attracted 2 million downloads.

Last year Google analytics showed a huge lift in searches for the word "Pompeii" -- much larger than ones years earlier when director Roman Polanski quit a film project about the eruption and a later one when archaelogical digs turned up new artifacts.

So, why all the traffic for Pompeii all of a sudden?

The BBC of course, which had broadcast an episode of its huge brand Dr. Who, which was called The Fires of Pompeii.

That broadcast led huge numbers of viewers to search Google for more info -- and be linked back to the pubcaster's enriched web pages dedicated to the show and that particular episode.

It's a long way from where the venerable Beeb was 15 years ago, as its recently resigned former head of things digital Simon Nelson told NATPE participants.

Nelson was speaking at a digital demo session Tuesday at the NATPE confab. He screened one of the BBC's first web efforts, which was hilarious and touching for its primitiveness. The BBC now has arguably a world-class site.

It wasn't easy getting there, Nelson pointed out, noting the well-known (and widespread) broadcaster resistance to the Internet. Even as recent as 2007 only 20% of BBC shows were repped on the broadcaster's website.

Focus now, he explained, was on much more ambitious projects centered around high-profile program brands.

There's a Dr. Who game now which has attracted 2 million downloads in the U.K. alone.

It was a win-win, he said. "We created huge excitement with viewers. The creators of the show took on more amazing storylines and game creators got great writers to work with."

As important as such achievements online are, Nelson suggested, "BBC channels still need to be further developed as multi-platform brands."

As for Nelson himself, he recently resigned after 14 years at the BBC. And earlier this week the Beeb laid off some 300 web staffers, bowing to pressure to cut 25% from its overall budget.