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What we'll be building in the next six months

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John Denton John Denton | 12:14 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

So the roadmap for the next six months has arrived and we want to share it with you good readers of our blog.

It is a really critical time for BBC Red Button, with large audiences still using our services but with many, many more competitors coming into the market. So with one face focussed on serving existing audience and the other facing to the future, we juggle the difficult job of keeping present platforms fresh but ensuring that we are at forefront of new developments.

This year will see more broadband connected TVs and set top boxes arrive on the market. With this potential technology change, a number of our team are concentrating on understanding what the creative, technical and user experience will be on these new devices and how this will shape BBC Red Button in the future.

Initial work includes investigating delivery of video and audio via broadband on to TV screens. Transferring this experience to a TV screen where viewers' expectations are higher will be a real challenge.

Some of our knowledge has come from delivering the award-winning BBC iPlayer on Virgin and this year has seen it launch series-stacking and BBC HD content as part of that offering. We'll also be added radio and an improved user interface in 2009.

The BBC also has a huge amount of feed-generated content and we are working with teams across the BBC to explore what would work using broadband connected devices. From a technical perspective, this requires us to ensure content is properly formatted and easily available, but also editorially we are looking at how the audience, you, can take more control of what BBC programming and information you want to see and how you may wish to control it. We've already done some internal prototypes in this area, using news and sport content, and on the Electric Proms.

So what can our existing audiences expect to see in 2009? Well with broadband at forefront of mind, we are looking at how we can link to this content from our existing homepages.

Each platform will see an update to the homepage beginning with Freesat which is one of the first platforms to explore broadband as a delivery mechanism.

Our next big project to launch this year will be an upgraded CBeebies portal; highlighting the range of exciting programme characters on the CBeebies channel, the new red button service will be graphically richer, bringing all of the content including links to radio, iPlayer (where available) and video into one single destination. We will retain some of the favourite existing content but introduce new games based on key programming brands such as Green Balloon Club and In The Night Garden.

We have just added a headline ticker to both Sky and Freeview homepages which continues our work with bringing more news and sport content and features into the service, especially pertinent as Digital Switch Over removes Ceefax from viewers' screens. A lot more technical work will be needed to assist the BBC in keeping its digital channels available during this period.

Talking of technical work, many of our team will be continuing to support existing platform with operational support and short order work. Projects here include upgrades of feeds, rebrands and ensuring live products are working properly. We have specifically targeted some key tasks including operating system updates and migrations and content publishing systems alignment work to improve and standardise the back-end systems that keep the service going. It also fulfils our aim of creating more efficient systems that are automated and easily scalable.

And of course, we will continue to deliver the very best of BBC programming behind the Red Button by utilising our multi-platform products. These existing products can be re-skinned and re-configured by the BBC's various content teams in support of their programming. For example, BBC Sport will be delivering world-class sport from Formula 1 to MotoGP to Badminton Horse trials; Children's are presently broadcasting the Kerwhizz quiz and have plans for further interactive quizzes over the year; and Vision's Comedy Labs are producing various extra comedy programming exclusively for both red button and online; and finally look out for more music sessions and festival coverage over 2009 starting in May with Radio 1's Big Weekend and including Glastonbury and The Proms during the summer.

One final item that we will also focus on is more marketing and trying to get red button schedule information out to all our viewers as I know that one of the biggest complaints is that we don't tell you enough about what's on the service.

We hope that you agree we are continuing to bring the very best of enhanced programming to you via the red button whilst focussing on some very exciting developments for the future. It's going to be a very busy 6 months!


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