Quick Takes: Larissa Abid, BBC World Service

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Larissa Abid

Quick Takes is a Q&A series designed to connect content companies with prospects while in-person events are postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lights, camera, action!

Larissa Abid
Senior Business Development Manager, North America/Caribbean Region & BBC Radio International, BBC World Service
Location: London

How has the pandemic affected your content slate or schedule?
COVID-19 has brought new challenges to many industries around the world and broadcasting is no exception. Multiple lockdowns in England, increased health and safety regulations and high levels of staff sickness had a direct impact on the availability of fresh BBC programming. However, as time went on, teams have been able to adapt to new ways of working.

Live music programs and BBC Proms, a huge season of world-renowned live concerts from the Royal Albert Hall, have been cancelled, but production teams have adapted to provide inspiring performances from the archives. Virtual audiences have also been gaining popularity since June last year, when light-hearted science program, The Infinite Monkey Cage, took on the challenge of regaining a live audience atmosphere.

There has also been new and original content that has delighted listeners and brought people together. From Grounded with Louis Theroux – which saw Louis, stuck at home during lockdown, tracking down high-profile people he’s been longing to talk to – through to educational comparisons between Shakespeare’s plague and COVID-19.

Grounded with Louis Theroux

What releases are you most looking forward to?
The last year has seen airlines and CSPs looking for lighter content (comedy, readings), some dramas, classical and popular music – a clear indication that passengers around the world were trying to escape the realities of COVID. Given that the aviation industry is still not in pre-COVID mode in terms of passenger turnaround, we expect similar trends to continue.

BBC’s Festival of Funny, which took place across February and March, features an array of brand-new comedy content from across the BBC, while also celebrating classic British comedy. BBC Radio International will have a selection of these programs available to provide some uplifting comedic relief.

In addition, entertainment audio content from the BBC will continue to delight audiences in the UK, in the skies and around the world. This spring you can expect treats for listeners of every age. BBC Radio International’s specialist music output is second to none, and as we look forward to longer, sunnier days, our audience can enjoy new series on rock ‘n’ roll and Latin beats, plus a celebration of both country music and jazz.

What is your outlook on the state of the industry moving forward?

Contactless solutions, robotics and automation will continue to proliferate. Thus, passengers’ personal electronic devices will play an exponentially more important role in the in-flight experience, where they will be used as a remote control for seatback IFE systems.

Traveler content preferences will most likely remain the same; it’s how this is consumed that will change. It is therefore important for airlines to ensure the availability of all types of content on board, and cater to all age groups.

Do you find peoples’ viewing habits have shifted in terms of what they watch and how they watch it? How does your company’s content adapt to this new reality?
Radio listening habits around the world have definitely changed, but will they slide back to previous habits as life moves slowly back to normal? We do know that primetime radio audiences, traditionally during drive-time, saw a direct impact as people stopped driving to work. Listening selections also changed, with an interest in lighthearted listening that offered an escape from the heavy COVID news that saturated the airwaves.

Yet with so much quality content available from BBC Radio International, airlines can count on creating a positive outlook and ambience on-board that enhances the passenger experience.

Read more about the impact of coronavirus on the air travel industry, including APEX’s position on the matter, and subscribe to the APEX Daily Experience newsletter to stay up to date.

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