CBBC HD, CBeebies HD, BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD & BBC News HD launch Tuesday 10 December 2013

Director, BBC Distribution

This is a blog I have been looking forward to writing for many, many months. We have announced today that our five new HD channels will launch on Tuesday 10 December 2013 on all main TV platforms. This brings the total number of subscription-free HD channels from the BBC to seven.

Already, people living in more than half of UK homes have the ability to watch in HD. This is predicted to grow to 80% by 2016 and 90% by 2019. And I know that as the size of TV screen continues to grow, viewers increasingly appreciate the improved sharpness that HD offers.

The launch of CBBC HD, CBeebies HD, BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD and BBC News HD in time for Christmas means you’ll be able to watch more festive treats in the highest quality from the comfort of your sofa.

In July 2013, we confirmed our intention to launch our five new HD channels by early 2014. But we couldn’t resist the possibility of being able to deliver these early, in time to give them to you for Christmas. It's said that launching a channel takes at least 6 months. We will have managed to launch five channels in five months. So I want to take this opportunity to say a HUGE thank you to the brilliant team of dedicated professionals, across the BBC, our suppliers and our platform partners, who have been pulling out all the stops to achieve this for our audiences.

Electronic Programme Guide channel numbers

This is where you will be able to find the new HD channels in EPGs:

CBBC HD

CBeebies HD

BBC Three HD

BBC Four HD

BBC News HD

Freeview HD / YouView

73

74

105

106

107

Freesat HD

607

608

147

148

212

Sky HD (HD subscribers / non-subscribers)

613 / 633

614 / 624

115 / 210

116 / 211

570

Virgin Media

710

711

163

164

604

Putting the best, first: SD/HD Swapping

One goal in our approach to distributing our channels is to put the ‘best’ version of a channel first in the EPG, where the ‘best’ version has the right availability of nations or regional content, followed by the highest picture quality. We also factor in whether the channel has been technically enabled to launch our much-valued BBC Red Button services.

For Sky, you will see I have given more than one EPG number for most channels. With the exception of BBC News HD, we will enter into SD/HD swapping for our new HD channels from 10 December 2013. This is designed to make our best version the easiest to find by placing the HD version at the more prominent channel number currently assigned to the SD version. This swap will work for Sky customers who subscribe to one of its HD packages. It is also possible to receive the BBC’s HD channels without paying for an HD subscription, provided that your set-top-box is HD compatible. However, the swap doesn’t work for non-subscribers so they’ll need to look for the HD channels at the new numbers I’ve listed. Hopefully one day the swap will work for everyone, so it will be simpler. Regarding BBC News HD, we have decided to delay the swapping with the SD channel until after the Christmas change freeze, ie, January 2014, in order to avoid non-essential technical work that could impact the availability of our existing SD BBC News channel whilst it is covering a major news story.

Sky HD viewers in Northern Ireland will hopefully have noticed that on 18 November 2013 we carried out a swap of BBC One NI HD with BBC One NI SD in the Sky EPG. This means that viewers who subscribe to a Sky HD package will now see BBC One NI HD at 101 and BBC One NI SD at 141. This pilot went very smoothly and we are going to make the same change for BBC One Scotland HD and BBC One Wales HD in their nations, while BBC Two HD, which carries the same programmes as BBC Two SD in England, will be swapped in England only. This will give Sky HD subscribers, wherever they are in the UK, a prime BBC service in HD in one of the first two positions in the EPG.

In 2014 we intend to make the equivalent SD/HD substitutions on Freesat, ie: BBC One in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; BBC Two in England; and the other five HD services across the UK. We would like to replicate these swaps on Freeview too but it is currently constrained by the channel listings policy. Virgin Media does not currently offer SD/HD swapping.

Freeview HD / YouView coverage

Readers of my earlier blog will know that on digital terrestrial television (Freeview HD and YouView), BBC Three HD and CBBC HD will use the single vacant slot within our own capacity (on Multiplex B), which has 98.5% coverage of UK homes. Meanwhile, BBC News HD, BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD will use new HD capacity, which will cover part of the UK and grow in coverage over time. It’s great news that this new HD capacity has become available – through Ofcom’s decision to license it and Arqiva’s willingness to invest in operating it. It will boost the choice of HD quality programming available easily and for free via the UK’s most popular TV platform. Freeview HD and YouView now offer 10 free HD channels broadcast to those living within the coverage of the new HD capacity. It’s constraints around spectrum and costs that mean that this new HD capacity won’t cover the whole UK. But at the point of our launch it covers 50% of UK homes, including the main city in each nation, and it will extend to cover 70% of UK homes by Wimbledon 2014.

Increased prominence for BBC channels in Virgin Media homes

I’m pleased that 10 December 2013 will also see a few other changes on the Virgin Media channel list that will make certain BBC channels easier to find. There are improved channel numbers for BBC Two HD , BBC ALBA and BBC Parliament :

BBC ALBA

BBC TWO HD

BBC Parliament

Virgin Media

161

162

605

This change recognises the public service status of BBC channels that entitles them to “appropriate prominence” in channel lists. It happens to give us a nice block of BBC channels between 161 to 164, and we’ve aligned the final digits of 162, 163 and164 with BBC Two HD, BBC Three HD and BBC Four HD to help make the numbers easier to remember.

Advice on picking up the new HD channels

  • If you have Freeview HD or YouView your receiver may pick up the changes automatically, but if not then you will need do a retune. Digital UK’s TV retune website gives advice on how to retune. Freeview HD and YouView viewers can check which new HD channels they can expect to receive using the Digital UK coverage checker. Once you’ve entered your postcode, take a look in the ‘channels’ section.
  • If you have Freesat and you do not pick up the new channels automatically, you may need to put your digital box or TV into standby for 30 seconds and then switch it back on again. If the channels are still unavailable then carry out a 'Freesat channel retune'. Full instructions can be found in the manual for your digital TV or box. Further help with retuning can be found at www.freesat.co.uk or by calling the Freesat customer support team on 08450 990 990.
  • If you have Sky, you should not have to do anything. If you do have a problem receiving any of our channels, you can try turning your Sky set top box off at the mains, waiting 30 seconds and turning it back on again. If that doesn’t resolve your problem you can find more help at www.sky.com/helpcentre.
  • If you have Virgin Media the new streams should appear automatically. If you do have a problem receiving any of our channels, you can find more help at Virgin’s website.
  • You can find detailed technical information for all BBC channels and where each appears on satellite, including our new HD services through our satellite reception advice page .

Ding Dong Merrily on High Def

I really am thrilled that we’ve been able to bring so many people this great boost in quality as an early Christmas present. My colleagues and I hope that you will enjoy our five new HD channels and the other efforts I’ve outlined above to help make the BBC’s services easier to find.

Alix Pryde is Director, BBC Distribution

Comments

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  • Comment number 97. Posted by Sue_Aitch

    on 23 Dec 2013 18:31

    Alix, thank you for your replies.

    I was just wondering if the Textphone for the BBC Reception Advice Service is still the one it used to share with BBC Audience Services, that is 03700 100 212 as mentioned on Red Button Digital Text page 9990's Contact Us subpage?

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  • Comment number 96. Posted by lotrjw

    on 23 Dec 2013 16:35

    Thank you for coming back to comment @Alix Pryde, I hope the issues re BBC Three D.O.G. and 4:3 safe graphics are taken seriously, thanks for passing them on.

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  • Comment number 95. Posted by Alix Pryde

    on 23 Dec 2013 16:05

    Subtitles: @FastBSL, thanks for your comments about subtitling differences between channels on Freeview HD. On Freeview, BBC News HD, BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD are carried on someone else’s capacity while the others are carried on the BBC’s. The two groups of channels use different kit to code the subtitles which is why there is a difference. We expect that the two systems will have much more similar looking subtitles in the New Year. On your specific point about subtitle size I've passed your comment onto my colleagues who look after subtitling.

    Listings magazines: @TonyK, thanks for asking about listings magazines pointing to HD content. I can confirm that programmes have been marked as being available in HD in online listings such as the Radio Times from launch but print deadlines mean that paper listings magazines take time to catch-up. As you’d expect, we confirmed the launch date to listing magazines as soon as we were confident of hitting the very challenging target date that we set ourselves. In an ideal world, it would have been nice to launch with printed listings being in place. But in this instance, in practice we would have had to delay the channel launch until January, so on balance I think we took the best approach we could for our audiences.

    Eire: @Simon Kenyon asked about the new HD channels becoming available in the Republic of Ireland. BBC channels are sold on a commercial basis in Ireland via the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.

    Reception issues: @scrantlord, I was sorry to read about your problem. As other comments have noted, this is a known issue with some early Freeview HD receivers, including the one you have, which are unable to cope properly with more than one HD multiplex. Colleagues at the BBC in my team and in R&D have been speaking to the manufacturer in an effort to get a software fix out. I'm afraid I have no news yet of whether updated software will be available but if and when there is any news we'll add it to bbc.co.uk/reception/news.

    @RonH – I’m sorry to read that you are having difficulty tuning to SD services on Freeview. It’s not an obvious issue so in order to help you diagnose the problem, please try my BBC Reception Advice team. There is a problem assistant available online on the “self help” section of Reception Advice website (bbc.co.uk/reception). The Reception Advice Service can also be contacted by phone (03700 100 123) or by letter (PO Box 1922, Darlington, DL3 0UR).

    Seasons greetings to you all!

  • Comment number 94. Posted by Alix Pryde

    on 23 Dec 2013 16:00

    Thank you once more for the continued positive messages letting us know that you are enjoying the new HD channels! From “A CBeebies Christmas Carol” to “Borgen”, it’s been making a difference to me too.

    Since I last posted, there have been lively debates on a couple of topics: DOGs (BBC Three's in particular) and some BBC output still being 4:3 safe. I've read all your comments and I have drawn them to the attention of the relevant BBC team in each case.

    On a few other specific points, I wanted to respond before this blog reaches its close at the end of a fortnight...

    Freeview coverage: @solkid asked why BBC Three and CBBC were chosen over BBC Four and CBeebies for full Freeview HD coverage. Naturally, we would like to be able to give all our services universal coverage so that everyone can have access to them on Freeview HD, and this was a difficult choice. We worked with BBC Television and BBC Children’s on the decision, which was ultimately taken by the Executive Board. BBC Three took priority because it gets the most viewing, and will also play an important role in covering the Commonwealth Games (alongside BBC One). Of the children’s channels, CBBC was prioritised because its viewers have greater expectations of HD content, being that bit older and there being more HD children’s channels targeting its age group. I know this wouldn’t have been everybody’s preferred choice, but I hope this explanation shows how we tried to do the best for the most people, given a difficult choice.

    I’m sorry people such as yourself, @solkid, will have to wait a little longer for BBC News HD, BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD to reach their intended coverage, and that even then some people will need to find them via alternative platforms. Just to clarify, it’s not the case that Scotland has to wait to May ’14; the two largest transmitters in Scotland have already launched, serving Edinburgh and Glasgow, with others to launch in the first half of 2014.

    In case people didn't spot it in my original posting, you can check your coverage at: www.digitaluk.co.uk/coveragechecker/ You can see which channels are available by expanding the 'Channels available at your address' section.

    Red button for HD channels on Freeview: @Eladkse, thanks for asking about this. We realise it is important to introduce this service. It requires a complicated development for Freeview HD specifically, but we're on the case.

  • Comment number 93. Posted by lotrjw

    on 22 Dec 2013 12:27

    @garden-snail I totally agree that since DSO there has been no need to have 4:3 safe titles!
    In fact if the BBC went and did 16:9 graphics everywhere, all that would need to be done is to give or point to where instructions are, to set peoples boxes to letterbox.
    Also that any complains are handled, by pointing to the instructions, that are needed to change the receiver to letterbox output.
    It really does undermine the point of widescreen in the first place when 4:3 graphics are used on a 16:9 image! Its like saying its really only designed to be watched by cropping to 4:3 and watching on a 4:3 TV!

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  • Comment number 92. Posted by garden-snail

    on 21 Dec 2013 23:56

    Thanks for the update - it's always good to see more HD channels being launched.

    The 4:3-safe titles on BBC News HD did strike me as odd, since HDTV is an inherently widescreen medium. Until recently, Sky News was a good example of one way to handle the issue. The SD version had captions in the 4:3-safe area, while the HD version extended the captions outside this area to make more efficient use of screen space.

    Since digital switchover, widescreen receivers are ubiquitous. For those still using 4:3 TVs, receivers letterbox the image to fit the screen so no-one needs to buy a new TV. If people set their receivers to crop the image instead, they should expect to lose some information. If broadcasters are forced to stick to the 4:3 area, it undermines the whole point of widescreen TV!

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  • Comment number 91. Posted by RonH

    on 20 Dec 2013 13:02

    The HD is all fine via the Sky service, but I no longer get any BBC channels on my SD Freeview TV. I've run the channel search several times, but still get zero signal quality for all BBC channels. All other channels are unaffected with full strength and quality.

    Are there any solutions?

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  • Comment number 90. Posted by FastBSL

    on 19 Dec 2013 19:13

    Many thank you for lovely more BBC HD Channel. As being Deaf myself, I noticed difference in subtitle font size as I watch BBC News HD via Freeview HD and look cool but right subtitle font size to me but other BBC HD channels display much smaller subtitle size fonts. Would be grateful for further explanation about different font size in subtitle. Thank you.

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  • Comment number 89. Posted by HD_fan428

    on 18 Dec 2013 09:27

    It’s been a while since I saw CBBC at a friend’s house (I don’t have kids either) but the SD DOG was really bad—coloured and animated! Their little girl was watching it happily and certainly being trained to see highly intrusive DOGs as a normal part of TV. Hence perhaps the much more garish BBC3 DOG compared to BBC4; the marketing department have determined that young people are more accepting of screen junk as well as being harder to reach, and so market the BBC brand (which they call channel identification) more forcefully to them.

    Of course the BBC is far from being alone in using DOGs on channels aimed at youth; when you see the pop video channels with their huge DOGs, snipes and God knows what, as well as utterly dire picture quality, you wonder just how low young people’s expectations can get. It’s a shame though that the BBC is joining in a process that reinforces old ideas about television as a trivial and disposable medium compared to the relative seriousness of cinema. Which isn’t really a PSB’s job, you’d think.

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  • Comment number 88. Posted by darrenb

    on 17 Dec 2013 23:37

    Yes they are my nephew was watching it this morning before school. Hopefully Alex will pass on the information and see what happens. This happened a lot with Sky programmes and then people just got fed up with how dark the DOG was i recall Sky Atlantic being really bad, now what they do after an ad break they leave the DOG on for 10 secs and then it goes off, maybe this is something the Beeb can do if anything just to let the viewer know what channel they are watching or simply tone the DOG down and posistion it in the corner.

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