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Freeview, digital or BBCi?

Matt Millington | 17:39 UK time, Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Our interactive TV offerings have increased dramatically since I first started working in this area in 2001.

Back then we had just two events to work on - Wimbledon Tennis and Open Golf. Now there is rarely a day in the week when we don't have something to show via the red button.

This goes a long way in explaining my rapid hair-loss, but our increased output has also caused us a headache for the Freeview platform. Monday mornings now regularly bring a host of e-mails from unhappy Freeview viewers who had expected to see their favoured sport via the red button, only to find that someone else's favoured sport is there instead.

On the satellite and cable platforms we are regularly able to broadcast five streams of sport within a multiscreen - so little problem getting everything we have onto air.

Freeview, however, does not have the luxury of such bandwidth. In fact, we only have two extra streams on top of whatever BBC ONE and BBC TWO are showing.

BBC Interactive TV

In many instances, that means we have to make an editorial call on which sports to show and which sports to drop. Sometimes, this can be a no-brainer; at other times, fierce arguments will erupt in the BBC Sport offices.

Either way, we can be sure that some viewers will be pleased with our choice, others will be outraged. On top of that, these two streams are for use by all of the BBC interactive services, not just BBC Sport's, so I will regularly be sent into battle with my peers in other departments. I take no prisoners, I'll have you know.

So what of the future? We're often asked if, and when, Freeview will gain extra streams for interactivity.

Well, these decisions are made by higher mortals, but there is currently a pretty big bun-fight going on for Freeview bandwidth - extra channels, HD, interactivity, you name it - but the picture should be come clear in the next few months.

Freeview take-up has grown hugely in the last two years; it may not have the sexy-looking multiscreen, but rest assured that it remains a huge priority for BBC Sport.

BBC iD

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