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Please Wait...

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Andrew Bowden Andrew Bowden | 10:33 UK time, Friday, 19 December 2008

If you use our service on a Sky box you may notice that every now and then you come across a large "Please Wait" screen.

ETV interstitial from 2008

We put one of these up every time a user selects some content that can't be loaded in a few seconds.

In an ideal world, we wouldn't need them at all - we don't want you to have to wait ten seconds or so just to get to the News Multiscreen. However due to the way our service has to be structured, it's an unfortunate necessity.

The reason for that is all to do with bandwidth and positioning.

Satellite space is broken up into chunks called transponders - the BBC has seven of these. The main BBC TV channels are split over six of them, and each contain a series of TV and radio channels - including 18 regional versions of BBC One and 4 national versions of BBC Two.

BBC Red Button has a chunk of space on each of those transponders which enables us to have a service alongside the TV channel - so that when you press red you don't need to leave the channel you're watching.

However that chunk of space isn't big enough to contain all our content, so some of our text content sits in a shared area on another transponder. Our video services too also sit in another transponder to the TV channel. When you select some content - like Flight Arrivals, the News Multiscreen or Sport Multiscreen - the set top box needs to retune to the other transponder and load up the content. This can't be done quickly, hence the "Please Wait" screen - which we call an interstitial internally.

Clocks going back interstitial

As well as promoting various parts of the service, we also use the interstitials for information purposes, like reminding people that the clocks will be going back or forward. And at Christmas, we like to have a little fun, in the form of our advent calendar - running from the first of December through to Christmas Eve.

17 December please wait screen

The follow up on Christmas Day is my personal favourite, however I suspect many people won't actually get to see it - people are generally too busy cooking turkey and opening presents to be pressing their red button. However if you have a spare moment amongst the chaos and mayhem, why not press red and see what you find!

Andrew Bowden is a Senior Development Producer for the BBC Red Button Service.


The following comments were originally posted on the BBCi Labs blog

At 7:47pm on 23 Dec 2008, Briantist wrote:

Not a surprise really, Open TV is over a decade old as is the Sky Digibox.

No waiting for Freesat HD with MHEG-5. HD too...

At 9:30pm on 01 Jan 2009, sammyjayuk wrote:

MHEG is about as old, I think - as is Liberate. The age of the technologies used to power interactive TV here is astounding - although IMHO its more amazing that the BBC still manage to do everything they do, cross platform, given how old and different they all are.

Hoping to see more great things in 2009!

At 11:08am on 05 Jan 2009, Andrew Bowden wrote:

MHEG and Liberate both date from the mid-1990s, but the age of the software language isn't usually an issue - Perl dates back to 1987 and is still in regular use, and still being developed.

However standards for set top boxes, digital radios and other hardware, will always be a bit behind the average computer. They tend to be "dumber" devices, with less upgrade potential in order to keep costs down.

There's also different expectations for PCs and other digital devices.

We've grown used to have to upgrade computers at regular intervals. However we all still expect a TV to work for years to come - there are people using 20-30 year old television sets quite happily. Few people are using ZX-81s any more though!


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