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The shape of things to come

Roger Mosey | 22:37 UK time, Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Just before the World Cup started I did a quick interview for The Guardian about our plans for the World Cup. It's traditional on these occasions to say we'll have some new whizzy camera or to dwell on the wonders of our tv studio, or I could have talked about our refreshed graphics package - which is, we think, pretty smart.

But I've tried to be clear from the start that this World Cup is not about new tricks in one medium: it's about innovation across the whole of BBC Sport and it's about offering choice on as many platforms as possible.

So how are we doing? Here are some snapshots of how audiences are responding to our multimedia World Cup...

First, people are pressing the red button in massive numbers to get interactive TV. There've been a couple of silly newspaper stories saying this is driven by a desire to escape John Motson's commentary - an assertion based on no numerical evidence and ignoring the fact that all the research says he remains the UK's most recognised and most appreciated commentator.

But it was the BBC that decided to offer a choice of audio streams so it's hardly a terrible blow to us if people exercise that option. And so far getting on for 2 million people have pressed red on the Sky platform to watch highlights or World Cup Daily or to select from the range of options - and that number will be much higher if you factor in use of the red button on Freeview, which we currently can't measure.

Then there's our website. Independent research by AGB Nielsen puts us at the top of the chart for people seeking World Cup news.

Our own figures suggest each day we're breaking records for the number of visitors to the site: well over 3 million on Monday alone.

A significant factor, of course, is our audio and video content. This is also reaching all-time highs, with more than half-a-million page requests on one day.

As we expected, peak demand appears to be during office hours - so we had more than a quarter of a million people looking for Five Live audio commentary on Australia v Japan and slightly fewer than that seeking live BBC video of the Czech Republic v USA.

There are still occasional glitches in the system, for which apologies, but we've received many emails saying how much people have appreciated the new service - and asking if we'll do more. To which the answer is: yes.

Choice isn't just offering more from big events, even as we gear up to add up to five courts from Wimbledon to the BBC World Cup proposition. It's also bringing other events to our portfolio as you may have seen today with our streaming of the one-day cricket between Ireland and England.

Similarly, last week more than 300,000 people had accessed our French Open Tennis service on interactive TV - and that was before the surge of interest in the final between Federer and Nadal. In audio, Five Live Sports Extra has also brought in record numbers of listeners.

Then there's high definition - which launched successfully and is providing brilliant pictures; and we also have expanded sports news services on BBC News 24 and BBC World.

None of this should be taken as saying we're in digital heaven already. There's more to do, and the strategy of BBC Sport now is to build a true 24x7 service that brings together action, news and archive through video, audio and text in one unbeatable package.

It'll take us some time to get there, but we hope you like what you're seeing already - and it's encouraging that millions of people are supplementing their old media with new media and choosing BBC Sport as the way of the future.

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