BBC and Microsoft Sign Memorandum of Understanding as BBC Seeks New Strategic Partnerships to Underpin Creative Future

SEATTLE and LONDON — Sept. 28, 2006 — The British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) and Microsoft Corp. took a step toward strengthening their working alliance yesterday when the two companies signed a nonexclusive memorandum of understanding.

The memorandum of understanding will define the framework within which the companies can explore opportunities for the delivery and consumption of BBC content and the evolution of next-generation broadcasting.

In Seattle, as part of a fact-finding tour of the U.S., BBC director General Mark Thompson and director of new media and technology Ashley Highfield met Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to officially sign the memorandum of understanding and discuss the BBC’s digital strategy. This includes plans for its online archive, for a radically re-invented Web site in the Web 2.0 world — a second generation of Internet-based services — and for ways to share its online content in the future.

“We are currently witnessing unprecedented rates of change in technology and audience expectations,” Thompson said. “To ensure that the BBC is able to embrace the creative challenges of the digital future, we need to forge strategic partnerships with technology companies and distributors for the benefit of licence payers.”

“Microsoft’s strength is in driving digital innovation, and our vision is to open up rich, new consumer experiences that allow people to enjoy digital content anytime, anywhere and on any device,” Gates said. “This vision fits squarely with the BBC’s charter to lead the industry in delivering content that is compelling and accessible. I’m delighted that we’re taking this important step, and I look forward to working together to develop new models for content delivery and consumption.”

“Microsoft is not just a key supplier to the BBC, it is also a key gateway to audiences that the BBC needs to reach through Web services it runs like MSN® and Windows Live™ Messenger, and hardware such as Xbox® and the Windows Media® Center,” Highfield said. “The BBC needs to work with all players in this space to make sure our programs and content are enjoyed by the widest possible audience, without always having to come to to find it. The learnings from our U.S. visit will very much inform our thinking on the BBC’s creative future.”

The memorandum of understanding aims to identify areas of common interest between the BBC and Microsoft on which a strategic alliance could be developed. Areas of potential investigation and collaboration include search and navigation, distribution, and content enablement. Any actual procurements of new technology, or launch of new services by the BBC, would be subject to appropriate regulatory approval.

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