Digital On-Screen Graphics - research findings

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As digital switchover continues apace the audience can choose from lots of different channels and technologies to consume television programmes, with some having access to over 500 different channels.

As the number of channels grows we at the BBC believe it is important that viewers can quickly identify when they are watching a BBC service. That is why the BBC, like many other broadcasters, insert channel identifiers for dedicated digital channels. The identifier, called a Digital On-Screen Graphic (DOG), is normally at the top left-hand part of the picture to avoid clashing with subtitles or captions.

You may ask the question why don't we show on screen graphics on BBC One and BBC Two as well. The reason we don't is that they are very well established channels that always appear on positions 1 and 2 of the EPG. Our digital channels are much newer and are on different numbers, depending on what platform you're watching on, be it Freeview, Freesat or one of the subscription options available, and DOGs allow viewers to identify the channel instantly.

DOGs have always been subject to wider public interest and every now and then we're asked why we use them. Over 48 million people watch the BBC's television channels each week and it's natural that, within a group that large, people will have differing views about DOGs. With that in mind, we commissioned a detailed piece of research to gain a deeper understanding of how the public at large feel about Digital On-Screen Graphics.

The research was carried out by Ipsos MediaCT using in-home interviews, amongst a nationally representative sample of 1031 people across the UK. The research took place from 5-11 March 2010 and we would like to share some of those findings from the research with you.

Download the research summary by Ipsos Mori (PDF 1.4MB)

Do people notice DOGs?

Very few of the people interviewed spontaneously noticed the DOGs on screen, even when prompted. The DOGs aren't the first thing the eye is drawn to, even on a TV screen that was not very busy. Our research found that the majority of people tend to agree that they 'don't really notice them'.

Do people find DOGs helpful?

Despite this claimed low awareness, DOGs are the most commonly cited aid in helping people identify the channel they are watching. This puts it ahead of the EPG and other methods in claimed use for channel identification. A majority (6 in 10) agree that DOGs are a quick and easy way in which to identify the channel they are watching.

How do people feel about DOGs?

Despite the fact that they are rarely noticed and their usefulness in identifying the channel, the research did show that the audience have mixed views about DOGs:

  • around a quarter of all TV viewers hold negative views about DOGs
  • a similar proportion (27% ) are broadly accepting of them
  • around half of do not have consistently strong views either ways

The research also shows that even amongst those who dislike DOGs, many still agree (4 in 10) that they play a helpful role in identifying the channel; so, although they may irritate, they can at least see the point of them. A minority of people (11%) both don't like them in principle and don't find them useful .

DOGs are changing

As of 4 April 2011 we'll be moving our DOGs to help improve your viewing experience. Read on to understand more.

What has changed?

The BBC has moved the Digital On-Screen Graphics (DOGs) on its digital channels to a wide-screen (16:9) position further towards the top left hand corner of the screen. Up until now DOGs have been set for old-style (4:3) sets which meant that on wide-screen TVs they appeared closer to the centre of the screen.

Why has it changed?

We moved the DOGs to this position on our HD channels at the start of 2011 and received positive audience feedback on the improved viewing experience. Internal BBC surveys indicate that over half of all TV sets are now widescreen, though that rises to over 80% of TVs in the living-room. So in order to ensure the best possible viewing experience for audiences in the future we feel that now is the time to make this change.

What do I do if the DOG on my screen is obscured?

Don't worry. This will be because you have a digital TV box linked to an old style (4:3) TV and have the viewing option set to "centre cut-out". All you need to do is reset your viewing options to "letterbox". This way you will also be able to see more of the picture too.

I hope that helps explain the thinking behind why we have DOGs, and the way in which we tailor our services in a way that ensures they cater for the BBC's large and varied audience in the best way possible.

Helen Normoyle is Director of Marketing and Audiences

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