Delivering the digital Olympics: 24 live streams via the red button
Vision switching centre in Broadcasting House, during the 1952 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Phil Fearnley hopes that the Olympics will do for digital and connected TV what the coronation did for analogue TV.
In August last year, Roger Mosey, the BBC’s Director for 2012, and I set out our editorial and digital ambitions for the BBC’s coverage of the Games at the Media Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival. We have come a long way since then, and over the past year, my team has been bringing those digital ambitions to life.
One of the key elements of that strategy is to bring our audiences over 2,500 hours of live sport online via 24 High Definition streams - every sport, from every venue on every day – across four screens: PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV.
Today, we have announced plans which allow cable and satellite providers to deliver the same 24 streams that will be available on the BBC Sport website, via the BBC Red Button service and corresponding EPG channels. Roger Mosey has blogged about this, and I wanted to outline how this will work technically in a little more detail.
Using these brand new red button services and via the standard EPG platform listings, viewers will be able to switch seamlessly between 24 SD or HD channels. Pressing red on any BBC TV channel will enable audiences to find and watch the events they like, when they like, through simple five button navigation (up, down, left, right, OK). The channels on each red button service will only show the Olympics sports as they are taking place, as well as highlighting what is coming up later.
We want our audiences to intrinsically feel that they are part of a family of BBC digital Olympics products, no matter what platform they are on – PC, mobile, tablet or TV. The design of these new red button services reflects that, and adapts around the capabilities of the various platforms and their set top boxes.
The red button services will be built by the platform operators themselves in line with BBC product, technical and UX designs, to ensure that consistency, standardisation and ease of use.
Our Digital Olympic services for TV extend beyond the satellite and cable platform plans we have announced today, and we intend to go into more detail on this in the coming weeks. While it is significantly more complex to design and deliver standard services for connected TV, we are working hard to make sure our audiences have as much choice and access as possible on all platforms, alongside our core digital offer on the BBC Sport website.
Our vision for BBC Online is as a single service, made up of ten products (including News, Sport, Weather, iPlayer) across four screens (PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV) - our 1-10-4 strategy.
Our announcement today is clearly focussed on the TV platform. However, over time the lines are starting to blur between IP and broadcast channels, and between platform boundaries. Today's announcement ensures that 24 channels are available on all BBC online platforms in the UK, but also on traditional TV platforms, and as red button services.
We have already started to deliver aspects of the digital Olympics. Our portal for the games showcases the best video, news, and content from the BBC and forms the main digital gateway into the BBC's 2012 and Olympic coverage.
The Olympic pages on the newly re-launched BBC Sports site are already proving extremely popular as the number of Olympic sport test events happen. We are also hugely excited by what we are testing in our "labs" at the moment and look forward to sharing more of this with you very soon.
Broadcast television’s first big moment was the coronation in 1953, which brought the nation together around the TV screen for the first time. Our aspiration is that 2012 will do for digital and connected televisions what the coronation did for TV. I hope and believe when the dust has settled on the Olympic Games you will agree with me.
Phil Fearnley is the General Manager, News and Knowlege, BBC Future Media