BBC to Experiment With Generative AI, Starting With “Doctor Who”

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BBC to Experiment With Generative AI, Starting With “Doctor Who”
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The BBC has announced that it has begun using generative AI to create marketing materials for its television shows, starting with the cult hit sci-fi series “Doctor Who.”

At present, the experiment involves only written materials, such as emails, push notifications, and search results on the BBC website pertaining to marketing “Doctor Who.” According to David Housden, head of Digital Media Inventory at the BBC, marketing copy involved in the initiative will first be written by humans; AI systems will then generate variations of the copy that must be approved by senior BBC marketing team members before being published.

“Testing and learning on how we let audiences know what BBC content is most relevant to them…underpins our digital marketing strategy,” Housden said in a statement. “Generative AI offers a great opportunity to speed up making the extra assets to get more experiments live for more content that we are trying to promote.”

Success for these AI-generated marketing materials will be measured by industry standard metrics including click-rates, open-rates, and post-impression conversion rates (e.g., how many people actually stream a “Doctor Who” episode after reading marketing material about it).

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The BBC has not disclosed which AI platform it is using to generate its marketing materials. Decrypt reached out to the broadcaster but did not immediately receive a response.

All marketing content created by AI will be labeled with disclaimers, the BBC said. These notes will inform readers that emails or articles are part of a pilot program and “may have been written with the assistance of AI.”

While the BBC’s AI trial run is currently limited to marketing materials—and only those related to “Doctor Who”—the potential success of the assessment may encourage the publicly funded broadcaster to double down on AI more broadly.

“We… want to understand the technology better—the creative possibilities as well as how well it performs – and get a feel for how our teams feel about using it,” Housden said.

Why start with “Doctor Who”? For one, the series is both broadcast by the BBC and produced by its subsidiary, BBC Studios, meaning it is entirely under the BBC’s purview.

Second, the show—which chronicles the adventures of a time-traveling extraterrestrial being who battles aliens, robots and monsters—feels “thematically” well-suited to undergoing an AI-infused experiment, Housden said.

Indeed, the titular Doctor has encountered AI on-screen several times over the series’ 60-year history, starting all the way back in 1966 serial “The War Machines.”

Edited by Stephen Graves

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