Much as smart TVs might seem like a recent revolution, audiences in the UK have had access to interactive, multi-window content on their boxes for over 13 years. The difference (and in many ways, the problem) is that this bonus "Red Button" material has been delivered over the old-school digital broadcast signal rather than over the web -- which is why today's launch of the Connected Red Button service makes a whole lot of sense.
Starting with the 1.2 million people who happen to own a Virgin Media TiVo box, pressing red will bring up an overlay suggesting programs from iPlayer and the radio channels, tailored by BBC staff to what they're currently watching, plus further curated web content from BBC News, Weather and Sport. They'll be able to read articles in overlay mode, or click on a video to throw it fullscreen. The content isn't new of course -- it can already be accessed via the multitude of apps that the BBC has for iPlayer and other services -- but it'll now be delivered through a much simpler, app-free interface that is already used by around 20 million people per month. We've had a play and can certainly vouch for it being straightforward -- check out our hands-on video after the break to see for yourself.
Of course, it'll only work if your TV is linked into the web somehow, which is the reason the BBC gives for initially only providing the service to TiVo customers. Starting in 2013, it'll roll out the Connected Red Button to Freeview, Freesat, BT Vision, YouView and other connected devices -- basically everything except Sky, which BBC execs say they regard as a "closed service" rather than as a "platform." At the same time, there'll be an awareness campaign urging the mainstream masses to get their TVs or media boxes online and thereby prepare for the inevitable.
BBC Connnected Red Button
The BBC has launched Connected Red Button, reinventing the BBC's hugely popular red button service for the future by effortlessly bringing TV, radio and online content together in the simplest possible way.
The service will launch first on Virgin Media's TiVo® service as part of the innovation partnership* agreed between the two organisations to create next-generation TV experiences. BBC Connected Red Button will be rolled out to other internet-connected TVs over the coming months.
BBC Connected Red Button enables you to:
• Watch programmes from BBC children's channels, BBC Three and BBC Four anytime - day or night – even if the channel is off-air
• Effortlessly catch up on previous episodes of the shows you love and discover new gems
• Get closer to the latest sporting action, with more streams, clips and content from your favourite events
• Immerse yourself in news and weather headlines and clips that matter to you, when you want them, all at the touch of a button
BBC Connected Red Button arrives in around 1.2 million Virgin Media TiVo homes today and will be available on other internet-connected TVs over the coming months. With new functionality and features added to the service over time, Connected Red Button will redefine how audiences watch, engage and interact with BBC content on their TV.
The BBC has over 13 years of experience developing and evolving its red button services, which have brought viewers closer to the action at major events like Glastonbury, Wimbledon and Formula 1. BBC Red Button now attracts an audience of 20 million per month, peaking during this summer's Olympic Games, where 24.2 million viewers watched up to 24 live streams via the red button.
With predictions that by the end of 2016 there will be almost 22 million connectable TVs installed in the UK, and that over 50 per cent of UK TV households will have a connectable primary set - either directly or via a set top box**, BBC Connected Red Button will give viewers even more reason to connect their TV, and provide a platform to make BBC TV, radio and online content more interactive and engaging in the future.
Daniel Danker, General Manager, BBC Programmes and On-Demand, says: "With today's launch of BBC Connected Red Button, the BBC is seamlessly bringing the Internet together with live TV, while making the technology completely invisible. This is red button reinvented, and the beginning of the exciting future of television."
Victoria Jaye, Head of IPTV & TV Online Content, says: "With BBC Connected Red Button, we're starting with the TV audience who love our broadcast output and we're curating online content on the big screen in ways that add value to their TV viewing. The audience can sit back and relax – the internet just made TV better."
Cindy Rose, Virgin Media Executive Director of Digital Entertainment, says: "The BBC understands as passionately as we do how important connected television is for home entertainment. We're delighted the BBC is working with us to launch another milestone in interactive services. Our commitment to this partnership of innovation means Virgin Media TiVo customers are the first to experience the latest interactive services at the press of a button."