BBC plans to sell £80 dog training classes in attempt to cope with losing licence fee revenues - iNews

Summary

Exclusive

It’s an unlikely solution to the licence fee “black hole” – the BBC is selling £80 dog training classes with the pooch wrangler who helped Fiona Bruce and Graham Norton master their canines.

Exclusive

It’s an unlikely solution to the licence fee “black hole” – the BBC is selling £80 dog training classes with the pooch wrangler who helped Fiona Bruce and Graham Norton master their canines.

Dog Training with Steve Mann, a 30-lesson course covering puppy training, loose-lead walking and “separation anxiety”, has become one of the most popular options on BBC Maestro, an online learning platform that is allowing the broadcaster’s commercial wing to build a significant subscription business.

Viewers can also sign up for record production with hitmaker Mark Ronson, “how to write a TV drama” with Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio, and vegetarian cooking presented by Marco Pierre White.

Each course costs £80 to access every lesson – running to seven hours for Mercurio’s class. Upcoming additions include a Helena Bonham Carter acting tutorial, “ingenious” cooking at home with Heston Blumenthal, and “finding your inner strength” with campaigner Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence.

See more See how @malorieblackman used story structure to create tension in her story, Pig-Heart Boy.

Discover more on her #BBCMaestro course. https://t.co/ZDeDIfSbBR pic.twitter.com/pvTynPo4XC — BBC Maestro (@bbcmaestro) June 9, 2022

Launched during lockdown, as the housebound embraced an opportunity to expand their skills, the first courses attracted one million people to the platform.

Thousands more have continued to sign up to the digital-age Open University, licensed by BBC Studios, the broadcaster’s commercial subsidiary charged with delivering £1.2bn in financial returns to the BBC over five years.

Executives believe BBC-branded commercial offers like the expanding Maestro can make up the funding lost by the Government’s two-year licence fee freeze and help avoid further programming reductions, such as the decision to switch off BBC Four and CBBC as traditional TV channels.

DJ and hitmaker Mark Ronson teaches a music production course on BBC Maestro (Photo: Pip Cowley)

Facing an annual funding gap rising to £285m from the freeze, and with a DCMS review to recommend options to replace the licence fee – including subscriptions – launching next month, BBC bosses are looking to Studios to deliver more money-making initiatives.

The Studios-owned Natural History Unit, one of the BBC’s most valuable assets, is making new big-budget series for Disney+ subscribers, including a “definitive” portrait of life on Earth.

As well as selling global format rights to remake hits shows such as The Weakest Link, Studios has a 50 per cent stake alongside ITV in the BritBox streaming platform, which now has more than three million international subscribers.

e-Learning is a booming market and the BBC is competing against commercial rivals selling similar celebrity-led courses.

For £14 a month, Masterclass.com offers Ringo Starr’s ten-lesson course on drumming, in which the former Beatle demonstrates how to play on the backbeat and reveals how he used tea towels to get the right “feel” on his first kit.

Whilst the BBC boasts Bonham Carter’s advice on approaching auditions and inhabiting a character, Masterclass is selling Dame Helen Mirren’s first online acting tutorial.

BBC Maestro’s selling point is the depth of insight presented by teachers such as Mercurio.

The award-winning writer shared his secrets in extensive course notes, explaining how his use of characters and settings is inspired by Einstein’s theory of space-time. Mercurio tells his students they too would be able to write a hit screenplay if they follow his guidelines.

“There is so much information that industry outsiders would take months to find out for themselves,” said Isobel Henderson, a course graduate.

Mann’s dog training course is being marketed as an ideal Father’s Day present for dads with new dogs – £80 lesson gift vouchers are also for sale.

Mann, who trained dogs to work with security services in the Middle East, devotes lessons to using eye contact to slow your dog down and the best methods to motivate the pet.

Mark Ronson said his 18-lesson course would demonstrate the techniques he used to produce Amy Winehouse’s classic Back to Black.

“I’m doing this so that any young kids curious about producing, or people who are starting out, or just music fans who are wondering if they want to get into it, can see how to produce music,” he said.

See more Seven Grammys, two Brits and an Academy Award later, Mark Ronson is sharing his secrets for the first time.

Pre-order his #BBCMaestro course on Music Production. https://t.co/uvSeVxboSo pic.twitter.com/fCVa01MopQ — BBC Maestro (@bbcmaestro) June 1, 2022

“Whether it’s chopping breaks or mic-ing drums, or a more holistic understanding of how to collaborate with artists, it’s a bunch of things that I’ve learned over 25 years, the insight and foresight I’ve amassed, packaged in a nice little lesson series.”

Michael Levine, managing director of BBC Maestro, told i : “We’ve been totally blown away by the demand in the courses. We saw dramatic growth in online learning and this has continued, leading out of the pandemic.

“People had more reason during that time to explore those interests and passions that might have had to take a back seat to a day-to-day reality.”

BBC Maestro is eyeing expansion plans. “We’ve committed to trying different areas of interest – health and well-being are a big focus,” Mr Levine said.

“So are the skill areas that can support people in their day to day lives – from negotiation skills to confident public speaking. We have some incredible Maestros coming up that we will be announcing in the coming weeks.”

Mr Levine added: “We’ve got budding screenwriters who have penned their first script after watching Jed Mercurio’s course, we’ve got parents who have been empowered to turn their bed-time stories into a book thanks to (best-selling children’s author) Julia Donaldson and we’ve even got people who had never set foot in a kitchen learning how to make the perfect aubergine parmigiana their own way thanks to the incredible instruction of Marco Pierre White. I was one of those people.”

Lord Gilbert of Panteg, a Conservative peer who has expressed support for the licence fee, is the government’s preferred candidate to lead the review of BBC funding options.

The review will examine alternatives to the £159 licence fee before the corporation’s royal charter is renewed in 2027.

Culture minister Julia Lopez told a Lords committee that the inquiry could recommend a new household “TV tax”, which asked wealthier people to pay more.

Mooted alternatives to the licence fee include imposing a broadband levy or linking the charge to council tax, with those in higher bands paying a bigger monthly fee.

BBC plans to sell £80 dog training classes in attempt to cope with losing licence fee revenues - iNews
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