The BBC Goes Big on Digital – and on Data and Security

Evolving media platforms and growing demand for digital delivery of content is an existential threat to traditional media organizations. Challenges posed by streaming and mobile technologies have spared no organization, not even the venerable British Broadcasting Company (BBC).

To remain relevant in the digital age, media organizations are shifting to data-centered business models and personalized services.

Meeting the challenge, the BBC has invigorated its IT infrastructure, rolled out new channels and products, segmented its audience of 50 million people and leveraged data to deliver targeted content. The challenge has been to pursue those goals while complying with strict data security and privacy laws, including the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Violations of the GDPR carry stiff financial penalties.

Worse, exposure of users’ private information could destroy trust, built up over a century, between the broadcaster and its audience — and irreversibly damage the BBC’s sterling reputation. But that didn’t happen.

A Pivot to Digital

The BBC in recent years launched an array of digital products, from iPlayer (a video on demand service) to BritBox (an online digital video subscription service). What emerged is a “heavily tailored and personalized experience, a far cry from the past,” said Chris Porter, Corporate Development Officer at 6point6, which teamed with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to assist the BBC with its transformation.

6point6 recently hosted a masterclass webinar titled Regulatory Compliance in the Cloud. The webinar explores BBC’s migration to the cloud, hurdles encountered along the way, and ways in which the broadcaster overcame them.

The BBC’s strategic pivot toward becoming a data-centric organization was something of a double-edged sword, an attempt to re-engage audiences and potentially incurring a major liability should the BBC fail to secure sensitive data.

“We’re focused on the privacy and security challenges faced when using custom data in the cloud,” said Mark Sheldon, head of products for the BBC’s Audience Platform, which powers the BBC account, personalization services, data and insight across all of the BBC.  “Accelerating our use of digital and deriving value from our customer’s data is essential to our success.”

“We’re using the best of breed technologies to improve customer insight, marketing and content discovery so that the BBC is more relevant for all of our customers,” Sheldon said. “Having clear and transparent privacy promises and features that put the customer in control of their data is key to us maintaining that trust.”

The strategy is succeeding. By putting data at the center of its transformation strategy, the broadcaster has built on its legacy of trust to create “a deeper and more meaningful relationship with customers, making the BBC an indispensable part of everyday life. That is the key to our success,” Sheldon said.

How It Works

Data is collected whenever a BBC user clicks “play” to watch, listen, read, add, follow or comment on content. The system captures personal demographic data and behavioral data: programs clicked on, whether a viewer watches to the end, podcasts listened to, articles read. The system augments that data with off-platform information gleaned from television boxes and social media.

“All of that data is walked through data integration platforms and into our customer data warehouse, where we aggregate it, enriching that content and building models and segmentations … to predict content people will like,” Sheldon said.

To bolster security, data personalization applications exist as autonomous microservices, each with its own AWS account to ensure isolation. Multiple services cannot reside within the same account. Each system has its own local data storage, which stores only data needed to fulfill use cases, while optimizing data storage capabilities needed to meet those use cases.

“The system minimizes data sharing between micro services, and encryption keys are never shared between services,” said Tom McGaw, a BBC technical architect. “Going one step further, the system masks all sensitive data to prevent accidental information disclosure.”

A Sustainable Process

The BBC reimagined its business model by using data collection and analysis to inform business decisions. Despite the positive results of the data-centric approach, it isn’t an endpoint; it’s a beginning.

For the foreseeable future, public- and private-sector organizations alike will collect, use and store sensitive data to gain efficiencies, inform decision-making, and propel their missions. As those organizations evolve, they’ll do well to secure those data stores, bearing in mind the consequences if they do not.

With that in mind, 6point6, an international consulting firm with strong cyber and defense credentials, is working toward becoming the first U.K. partner of the ATO on AWS program. As explained in an earlier blog post, AWS developed the program to help companies obtain authorization to operate certification required of U.S. government contractors working in sensitive areas. 6point6 and AWS are bringing that security expertise to European organizations for the first time.

Find out more about how 6point6 can help you on your cloud journey: 6point6 Cloud Services
Watch the full webinar on-demand here: Masterclass with the BBC: Regulatory Compliance in the Cloud

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