—Michael Gury, Principal, Public Relations/Communications at Michael Gury Communications LLC
A while ago, after years of development and stewardship of brands (protecting those using copyrights and trademarks, and assigning appropriate “brand value” to each) I was assigned to the task of developing new businesses and revenue based on the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) brand in the U.S. Actually this was a self-inflicted project as the BBC itself was certain that the BBC logo had absolutely no value in market but I, with great courtesy and conviction, begged to differ. The BBC had tried this before and whatever it was they did had flopped.
To date, the BBC was making a modest profit selling licenses for any television property that the BBC produced by stripping it of its real identity and letting the licensee brand these programs with “Masterpiece Theater” identity and umpteen other “presentation/producer” brands across the U.S. television landscape. So the reality is that pretty much every classic period series with British accents comes from the BBC but its identity is nowhere to be found. Essentially the BBC was sacrificing their own brand to the benefit of others. A classic OEM strategy – backwards.
When they decided to make a go of branding themselves, the licensees such as WGBH, WNET, Nova, Discovery, National Geographic and others screamed “foul”. Their audiences were hopelessly addicted to the programming yet the stations made a gamble. Playing chicken across the table, the licensees played the hostage revenue card, knowing that the BBC itself depended on a steady stream of revenue as much as the stations were dependent on the intravenous drip of BBC programming. The BBC, having no distribution channel of its own, had little negotiating leverage because the stations’ gamble worked – the BBC was terrified to blow its licensing revenue and its relationships with American broadcasters. So naturally the BBC caved. Their parabolic conclusion: no one wants the BBC brand in America.
Personally I knew that this was money left on the table. Of course, the proper solution was to create a BBC Americas cable channel, put a proper BBC logo on each program and withhold the decent properties from their long standing customers who would feel jilted if they didn’t get high quality unbranded material for them to brand themselves. Eventually that came to pass with the advent of the BBC Americas cable channel, which occurred later when Discovery apparently agreed with me, but unlike me put a huge amount on the table to license the BBC brand to create the channel as well as take over number of other branded businesses. In fact there were a couple of huge U.S. based companies with household names that were hot to grab the BBC brand and call it their own.