Around the World
Exactly a year ago today we launched “Around the World” - a brand new, shiny, fast-paced daily global news show.
It was made in London by a small team within BBC News - with all the authority, reputation and weight of one of the most recognisable and globally respected broadcasting brands - for a new streaming platform in the US, called Quibi.
Featuring slick graphics, fast delivery and an engaging style it was a show made for smartphone viewing, edited in a way that meant it could be watched full-frame both vertically and horizontally.
Every weekday we brought the biggest global news to North American audiences, covering six or seven stories in each 5-minute show - including analysis of the “why” and “how” behind the stories. It drew on the BBC’s vast network of correspondents and crews across the globe, meaning the show could really live up to its name.
Each episode was produced by a team made up of some of the most talented and creative people in broadcast news - editors, producers, graphic designers, camera operators and researchers. It was a privilege and a joy to work with them all.
Not only were we launching a brand new style of show, we completed the final stages of pre-launch piloting in the first lockdown, when we had to come up with a whole new way of making the show just three weeks before launch.
Throughout the months that followed, every edition was made successfully - without fail - with everyone working in a different location, mostly from home.
It may not sound a big deal now, but anyone who works in broadcasting knows how much the news-making process relies on quick conversations and collaboration (not to mention the huge file sizes of video clips that have to be moved around). I cannot really convey in words how hard the team worked and how creatively they found solutions to make it all possible. It was an incredible achievement.
Even though we were all apart, that team helped me get through the first lockdown. Not only were we covering the story of the pandemic, we were living it in real time. Everyone was so kind, supportive and patient with each other as we faced the same stress and uncertainty that everyone was grappling with in those early days of the pandemic.
We also had the benefit of working with some of the best US broadcast news producers. Their input, ideas, encouragement and humour (or “humor”) enriched the experience beyond measure.
Sadly, Quibi did not last. Six months after launch, the app was shut down in October. Much has been written about what went wrong with the platform and why - and there is little point in revisiting all that analysis again here.
Still, I am immensely proud of what we achieved with “Around the World”. It was one of Quibi’s shining successes. Popular with audiences, the show was consistently among the “most watched”, with high rates of people watching the whole of each episode and returning for future ones.
If things had gone to plan, it might have been available beyond the US and Canada by now. Unfortunately many of you will never get to enjoy the show that we poured so much energy and passion into.
So here is one of my favourite episodes. I think it shows “Around the World” at its very best - weighty, slick but with room for fun and always leaving you with something to smile about, no matter how bleak the world may seem.
- 6 April 2021