The Bavarian Broadcasting Company (Bayerischer Rundfunk) is a public-service radio and television broadcaster, based in Munich. BR is part of a consortium of public broadcasters in Germany and derives its income mainly from viewer and listener license fees. Every household in Germany is obliged to pay 17.50 Euro per month to finance the public broadcast system.
It is just over a year since the BR has started to execute its new guiding principle. Editorial teams belonging to Radio, TV and Online departments shall be merged gradually. Goal is to create a network amongst employees across all departments by connecting their produced content. The BR considers itself a high quality provider of audio and video content that has to be relevant and available on all media channels.
Recently, the BR has launched an app named “BR24”. The public-service broadcaster is responding to the changing media usage behaviour in Germany especially within the younger generation where radio consumption is actually shrinking. There is also the fact that a linear and fixed-time television programme has definitely lost its attraction to adolescents. Furthermore, more than 50 million people in Germany are expected to own a smartphone in 2016.
BR information director Thomas Hinrichs says, the BR had to create a new value proposition which includes all the content that people ought to have for keeping the democratic dialogue going. “We have to provide BR’s best, whenever and wherever users are asking for it.”
The “BR24” app can best be imagined as a semi-detached house. On the left side, you’ll find news from all over Bavaria. The right side contains sports, economy, world or national news. There’s a special feature that has only been provided by the BBC so far. Every single user can be his personal editor in chief. It is possible to pick your favourite news topics by tagging the attached buzzwords. This results in a customized news portfolio according to individual preferences.
It is tough to compete on the ever-growing news-app market. To bring a fresh way of news understanding into an app, BR followed the golden rule in the digital age: “Personalization, personalization, personalization”, says Christian Daubner, head of BR’s digital information strategy. To realize this venture, professional competencies had to be built. A bunch of software developers went aboard, many of them graduated from the Technical University of Munich (TUM).
Mustafa Isik, head of BR’s software department, says that now’s time to get the grips on BR24 users. That’s a walk on thin ice. Privacy policies must be strictly adhered to. “On the other hand it’s about transparency. A public-service broadcaster doesn’t have to collect user data to commercialize it. We don’t pass data on to second or third parties. We only collect user data to create additional value for our audience.”
What’s next? Thomas Hinrichs mentions further upcoming ways of media consumption the BR has to serve: “Our content is important. Merging Online, Radio and TV is not an end in itself. We’re standing at the beginning of an evolution. We have to interact with our audience within their favourite channels. That’s public-service duty at its best.”