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Interview with Jana Bennett, BBC

Jana Bennett has run BBC Worldwide’s portfolio of international channels, its share in UK pay TV channels group UKTV and the international iPlayer catch-up service for almost a year. Despite tough market conditions, BBC Worldwide has continued to launch channels internationally. Bennett also oversaw the launch of iPlayer internationally last year, with the platform rolling out in 14 European countries and Australia.

Education BA Oxford University (Politics, Philosophy and Economics); MSc London School of Economics; Wharton Business School.

Previous positions I joined BBC Worldwide following eight years as director of BBC Television responsible for the commissioning, production and broadcasting on the six public service channels, as well as UKTV editorial. Learnt about the world of pay TV in the US as executive vice-president/general manager of Discovery’s second major network, TLC (US) and before that role ran the BBC production arm, including the BBC’s renowned Science production department, the home of Walking with Dinosaurs, which gave me a healthy respect for international co-production, worldwide sales and distribution… and Tyrannosaurus Rex!

Last year’s highlights Ending the year in the UK with increased ratings and reach of the domestic television portfolio, while the BBC set new records for on-demand viewing; in other words, making all boats rise. Since then, the other big event has been successfully launching the commercial pilot of the global BBC iPlayer. BBC Worldwide was the first media company to launch an independent TV on-demand app, which offers a highly editorial subscription service now in 15 markets.  A final highlight for me personally, was moving into the world of international commercial television with BBC Worldwide’s channel portfolio.

Most significant industry development An important trend has been increased live television viewing and the continued growth of pay TV globally. These have been alongside the significant development of different forms of on-demand: authenticated TV Everywhere services on internet, mobile and other multiscreen services from an increasing number of players. It means all players will need to box clever and be driven by the opportunity not by our fears.

Goals for next year Since all roads lead to London in 2012 we’ll be celebrating all things London with our international season, ‘London Calling’ across our channels across 100 countries. Extend global BBC iPlayer from pilot phase to full service in multiple territories and on multiple platforms. To further grow the scale of our portfolio of branded channels (BBC Knowledge, BBC Entertainment, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies and UKTV in Australia), which have achieved double-digit revenue growth in the past two years. It is also our ambition to launch BBC Earth as a full channel in some territories.

Industry challenges and opportunities The industry will have to evolve business models intelligently to make the most of the opportunities in the digital space. This will be in order to grow profits, and ultimately to ensure that the media industry continues to invest in the next generation of programmes. The industry will also need to make connected television a good experience for television viewers – it’s necessary to beware of spoiling the experience with cluttered functionality and to ensure that the world of so-called infinite choice is a pleasure, not a burden. We don’t want a scenario where audiences are saying: “I’m a TV viewer – get me out of here!”

Alternative career choice An explorer – ideally in mountainous parts of the world, or in outer space.

TV character most identified with I don’t think I am actually like her, but I admire the character of Sarah Lund of The Killing because she is an obsessively dedicated professional who is good at her job, rational, incorruptible and not interested in the politics at work or gender politics.  She also wears those great Danish jumpers and doesn’t mind the dark, gritty streets of Copenhagen. It makes the British winter feel bright and jolly by comparison. My alter ego would be the entire Top Gear team, because I love travel and planning journeys, and I continually suggest places they might go to next; mainly because I wish I were going with them wherever they seek a challenge – the Middle East, Bolivia or the next special!

Most admired personality Sir David Attenborough – he uses the power of television to enlighten, enthuse and entertain. He has explored the natural world to millions upon millions of viewers around the planet for the past fifty years. His energy and enthusiasm impelled him to go to the northernmost Arctic for Frozen Planet, our current series, simply because it was the only area of the planet where he had not yet filmed.  David is a role model for many viewers and programme makers and demonstrates the power of science and rational thought in all his broadcasts. He also happens to have been the architect of one of the BBC’s major channels and has been a technical pioneer during the entire history of television.

Life outside work I spend time with my family on both sides of the Atlantic – at home, by going on expeditions, skiing and Skyping, depending where we all are. I relax with a spot of retro guitar playing. And watch television on the box and iPlayer.