BBC eyes location in mobile content future

Good news for twitchers

Good news for twitchers

The BBC is banking on mobile for its future - and is already eyeing up the possibilities of location-based services to boost its offerings.

Speaking at the FT Mobile Media conference, the BBC's director of future media, Ashley Highfield, said the broadcaster - now the UK's favourite mobile web destination - believes mobile content is shortly to enter a boom time.

He said: "Mobile is the future of media and technology... I think a number of factors are coming into alignment for explosive growth." Among those factors, Highfield believes, are better pricing, operators' decision to ditch their 'walled garden' approach to content and improvements in phones themselves including the addition of GPS.

Highfield added: "It looks like the shift we saw when broadband took off."

The Beeb is now gearing up to see how best to exploit mobile's new frontier and this week it has appointed a new controller of mobile to look after its output for the small screen.

Highfield revealed the BBC is tailoring more and more of its content to handheld devices, introducing an increasing number of formats to reach bigger audiences.

Location-based services are one area Auntie is keen to exploit, as the technology increasingly makes its way onto handsets such as Nokia's N95.

Highfield is already considering the possibilities of adding location tags to programmes such as Springwatch, so those viewing content via a mobile could access extra information. "You could say 'show me all sightings of the greater spotted plover within five miles of where I am now'," he said. Viewers could also use their mobile to give more detailed responses to broadcasters, such as visiting the BBC website to add a location tag if they see a particular bird themselves.

As well as keeping an eye on the outer fringes of what mobile content is capable of, Highfield is backing greater transmission of content via broadcast mobile TV.

He said: "We're committed to supporting mobile TV - we want to see spectrum released for this purpose."

Auntie has been involved in technical trials with O2 of the DVB-H mobile telly standard and was one of Virgin Mobile's content offerings when it launched the UK's first commercial service.