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Taking the Doctor to the next dimension

Alix Pryde

Director, BBC Distribution

Here in BBC Distribution, excitement is mounting with each moment as we count down to The Day of the Doctor. We’re excited enough about the special  50th anniversary programme itself. But we are also thrilled to have the responsibility of delivering the Doctor to a new dimension; to be his human assistants enabling him to burst out of your screen in 3D.

So with the time ticking away to the Time Lord’s return, it’s time for me to give you the latest advice on how best to watch it in 3D. But before I do, I want to take a little of your time to mark the achievements of BBC Red Button HD, which will undergo a regeneration of its own shortly after broadcasting the 3D special.

A Fond Farewell to BBC Red Button HD

At the beginning of the summer we started trying something new. We’ve been experimenting with pop-up red button streams to cover major events like Wimbledon, Glastonbury and The BBC Proms. And it’s clearly allowed us to deliver more value to our audiences.

During the Wimbledon/Glastonbury fortnight we had one additional standard definition (SD) stream on Freeview and two additional SD streams on satellite.  Alongside these we offered, for the first time, BBC Red Button HD. By making efficient use of spare capacity we had available over the summer and autumn, we were able to keep BBC Red Button HD going for much longer than the additional SD streams and my team worked really hard with colleagues across the BBC to expand choice and quality for viewers, with really gratifying results:

  • Overall more than 3.5m viewers used the HD red button stream across Freeview HD/Youview, Virgin Media and Freesat.
  • During Wimbledon alone, 1.2m people tuned into BBC Red Button HD (with a total of 7.7m million people using the red button to access the additional matches overall; that’s the highest ever for Wimbledon).
  • We were able to broadcast about a dozen BBC Proms in HD that were otherwise destined to air in only standard definition on BBC Four. These were enjoyed by a quarter of a million people. Plus we upgraded to HD the four outside broadcasts on the Last Night from Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and Hyde Park London.
  • The FIFA Confederations Cup and Glastonbury attracted 650k and 300k viewers respectively while other events to benefit from coverage on BBC Red Button HD included tennis from Queens and the ATP World Tour Finals, the British F1 Grand Prix, the Women’s Euros, Diamond League Athletics, Moto GP, RideLondon, the Reading Festival and T in the Park.

Many people across the BBC, our suppliers and the TV operators we partner with worked hard to bring this experiment to fruition. So as it comes to an end, I’d like to say a public thank you to them for all their efforts.

The Day of the Doctor in 3D

BBC Red Button HD’s final mission is to showcase the 3D version of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor”. This will be broadcast on Saturday 23 November at 7:50pm (simulcast with BBC One and BBC One HD) and will be repeated on Sunday 24 November at 7pm (simulcast with BBC Three). It will look fantastic in 2D but if you’d like to see the Doctor in a new dimension in the comfort of your own home, there are two ways you can join the adventure in 3D…

You can either watch the episode in 3D live via broadcast on your 3D TV or you can catch up via BBC iPlayer.

How to watch in 3D, live

To watch The Day of the Doctor live in 3D on your TV, you will need: a 3D capable TV and its 3D glasses, and you must be able to receive the BBC’s Red Button HD stream via the telly itself or a set top box.

If you’re not sure whether your TV is capable of displaying 3D, then please check your TV’s manual. When the episode is about to start either on Saturday or Sunday, just switch to BBC Red Button HD, put your 3D TV into ‘Side-by-Side’ mode, pop on your glasses and enjoy!

For viewers with Freeview HD, Youview, Virgin Media, Sky and Freesat, the channel number for BBC Red Button HD is listed below:

Freeview HD/YouView                  303

Virgin Media                              994

Sky                                          977

Freesat                                     980 

If you want to record the episode, it’s easy to do because BBC Red Button HD is listed in the electronic programme guide for these platforms.  In most cases the channel has been available for some time so you should be able to find it, but if not then you can try to retune your Freeview HD digital TV or box or you can find help at, or


You’ll be able to find information about how to watch The Day of the Doctor in 3D on the BBC’s Red Button text page 998. To avoid any disappointment, you might want to have a practice, in which case you can use the 3D test card that will be shown from 6pm on BBC Red Button HD before the first showing of Doctor Who 3D.


How to watch in 3D on the BBC iPlayer

It will be possible to watch The Day of the Doctor in 3D on iPlayer for 7 days from the 23 November (after the broadcast has ended).

To enjoy in 3D, you’ll need compatible 3D equipment. Your options are:


  • Connected 3DTV with iPlayer and 3D glasses.
  • Connected Set-top-Box/Blu-Ray with iPlayer, a 3DTV and glasses (3D is not available via Sky On Demand)
  • PC/Mac with a 3D Display.


TVs or displays need to be set to “Side by Side” mode for iPlayer to work in 3D, so please refer to your manual if necessary.  If your TV does not allow you to switch to 3D mode when using the internal iPlayer, you’ll need to connect the 3DTV (via HDMI) to use iPlayer from either a connected set-top-box, Blu-ray player, Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. 3D is only available in the higher quality version of streaming, so you’ll need a sufficient internet connection.

PC/Mac users have the option of downloading the programme via BBC iPlayer Downloads, where the download can be kept for up to 30 days. However, once you first start to play the download, you’ll have 7 days before the programme expires.

We cannot provide specific guidance to individual set-ups, but we hope you’ll find this information useful.


What will BBC Red Button HD regenerate into?

Last July we were very pleased to announce that the BBC is to launch five new HD channels by early 2014. These will be HD simulcasts of BBC News, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBBC and CBeebies.

I’m sure you’re keen to know when the launch will be but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out. I’ll post again with an update towards the end of the year. However, in the meantime, I can let you know that the capacity vacated by BBC Red Button HD will be used to broadcast BBC News HD on satellite and BBC Three HD and CBBC HD on Freeview HD/Youview.

Some of you might have liked us to create a permanent red button HD stream. In terms of making best use of the capacity we can afford, the five channels listed above each attract more viewers. However, it’s our ambition to repeat our experiment with pop-up streams in 2014, delivering more choice in an agile way around major sporting and cultural events. And we will continue to keep under review the value for money of expanding our HD offer in the future.

So as to what that future holds, I suppose there’s only one man who knows... And whichever way you choose to watch him in 3D, I hope you’ll find that the Doctor has never looked so good.


Alix Pryde is Director, BBC Distribution

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