BBC to develop social networking websites

The British Broadcasting Corporation plans to develop its online presence by providing social networking sites based on its most popular brands such as Top Gear, a BBC spokeswoman said on Thursday.

The world-renowned broadcaster is looking to tap into the popularity of such sites as MySpace, in which users contribute comments and video footage to share with other users.

The spokeswoman for BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the corporation, said there was no time plan in place but that it expected to continue to develop its online service over the next year.

The sites will carry more interactive sections and be targeted at consumers who are already interested in such brands as the popular motoring show and BBC Good Food.

"The teen part of this (trend) might have reached capacity, but there might be other communities that we could explore given the brand and our existing online presence," the spokeswoman said.

"If appropriate social networking opportunities arise, then we would look at them very seriously, because it's a growing area of business that we're not particularly in at the moment.

"It seems to be the way that websites are developing."

The phenomenon of consumers contributing to websites such as MySpace and YouTube or via blogs swept the media industry in 2006, prompting headlines that the traditional media was losing its sway with consumers.

But a report by consultancy Deloitte this year said traditional organisations such as the BBC and newspapers were in fact ideally suited to benefit, because the trend develops consumer loyalty.

The BBC has invested heavily in its website, which receives around 14.5 million unique users a month, a spokeswoman for BBC new media said.

The BBC has an agreement with the government that its commercial businesses such as BBC Worldwide can borrow up to 350 million pounds ($680,000) for investment.

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