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:
BBC Three HD
BBC Four HD
BBC News HD
Freeview HD / YouView
Sky HD (HD subscribers / non-subscribers)
613 / 633
614 / 624
115 / 210
116 / 211
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 TWO HD
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
- A press release announcing the five new HD channels is available on the Media Centre website.