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Beeb pulls in Yank to direct Auntie's online digital opera

Ex-AOLer steps in as operation shrinks

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The BBC has hired an AOL veteran as the Corporation’s new digital, future media and technology director.

Ralph Rivera will report directly to the BBC’s FM&T boss Erik Huggers and will start the job on 8 November.

He had worked at AOL for more than 10 years where he ran the company’s games business and its Latino division. Rivera left AOL within a month of the struggling web outfit being cut loose from its parent company Time Warner.

In the past nine months he was online president of Major League Gaming, based in New York City.

At the BBC, Rivera will be responsible for Auntie’s web-based digital media products, mobile devices and internet-connected TV platforms, said the corp. He’ll work in tandem with various Beeb editorial divisions.

"Our ambition is to fuse high-quality editorial, cutting-edge technology and intuitive design to create great products and services. Throughout his career, Ralph has a proven track record in creating digital media products that are used by millions of people. I'm delighted that he has chosen to continue this journey at the BBC," said Huggers.

Of course, Rivera’s tenure could be hamstrung by BBC director-general Mark Thompson’s 'Strategy Review', published earlier this year – which is currently being mulled by the BBC Trust.

A spokeswoman at the public service broadcaster’s governing body told The Register that the trust’s final report on the Strategy Review could be delayed, following the government’s decision to freeze the licence fee for six years yesterday.

But she added that Thompson's review was broadly in step with the government's plans.

In July it was confirmed that the BBC’s online presence would shrink, after the trust agreed with plans to cut the broadcaster’s online spending.

It said in its initial conclusions that parts of Auntie's website operation had “strayed too far away from the BBC’s core remit”. As a result, the online budget was trimmed by a quarter and websites will be scaled back by half.

A final report on Thompson's review was expected by the end of autumn this year, but it may now be pushed back in light of the government's licence fee announcement yesterday. ®

Bootnote

Here's an example of how Rivera's head works. The Beeb newbie thinks that semantic web enabled bots, rather than Facebook, will kill Google.

"Lots of chatter around Facebook likes replacing links and that being the path to search dominance. I don't disagree that personalised recommendations from my friends trump links proposed by Google," he wrote on his blog in June this year.

"However, I believe that intelligent agents that know my preferences, can maintain my anonymity, can scan recommendations from friends and can work on my behalf trump likes. This may be the dreams of a trekkie, or the long held beliefs of a early 80s era computer science major when AI was a big deal - but it will happen sooner or later."

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