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A BBC Red Button summer 2013

Alix Pryde

Director, BBC Distribution

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I’m writing with some exciting news about the BBC’s plans to offer you additional coverage of great sporting and musical events this summer, including additional HD.

There will be extra courts from Wimbledon and extra stages from Glastonbury. And on top of that, we’ll be offering you HD coverage of a range of other events too numerous to list in full, so make sure you keep an eye on the Red Button what’s on. But to give you a taster I can tell you that it will include the British F1 Grand Prix, Women’s Euros, Diamond League Athletics, Moto GP and the Confederations Cup.

The main purpose of my blog today is to explain what you will need to do in order to access the extra coverage that will be available to you.

As regular readers will know, one of the challenges we have been grappling with over the past months and years is how to get the right amount of capacity for BBC Red Button broadcast video streams. The difficulty is that the amount of content available varies across the year, typically peaking around the time of Wimbledon, Glastonbury and the British Grand Prix. Our goal is not to waste money paying for more capacity than we need over the rest of the year, but at the same time to be able to offer audiences a breadth of choice at the times that they want it most. It’s a difficult balance to get right.

In order to bring an enhanced experience to your TV this summer we are trying something different. We are trying to operate a flexible model for the BBC Red Button which expands when the content demands. And as more and more of you get HD TVs, we want to be able to offer more of these prime sporting and music events to you in HD too, beyond what you will see on BBC One HD and BBC Two HD. This summer is our first experiment, and we’ll be launching:

  • An HD red button stream on Freeview HD/Youview, Sky HD, Virgin Media and Freesat HD
  • One additional SD red button stream on Freeview/BT Vision/Youview (digital terrestrial television, DTT)
  • Two additional SD red button streams on Sky, Virgin Media and Freesat (satellite and cable)


The reason why there is only one additional SD stream on DTT rather than two is that unfortunately there isn’t the capacity available in the market to do more. That’s also the reason why the geographic coverage of that stream is a bit less than our usual coverage, c. 90% of households rather than 98.5%. The coverage of the HD stream and the satellite and cable streams will be the same as the usual BBC coverage.

The extra SD streams are timed to cover the last week of June and the first week of July as this is the busiest time of the year on the Red Button. The HD stream will start a little sooner and will be available for longer. All the events are available on as well.

We’ve listened to your feedback so we know that many of you like to be able to record what is broadcast on the red button streams. Therefore we have arranged for the streams to be listed in electronic programme guides as follows:

* - available to viewers with HD equipment only; not available on BT Vision

** - subject to commercial agreement

*** - Virgin Tivo customers will have access to event coverage via the Connected Red Button as well

In addition to finding the channels in the EPG, we are working hard to make sure you get easy access to all the coverage of a particular event, including what’s on BBC One, BBC Two or BBC Three at that time, available behind the Red Button service, which you will be able to get as usual by pressing red on any BBC channel. You may find that what you see looks a bit different from what we have done in the past. That’s all part of our experimental approach and we are interested in your feedback on it to help inform what we do in future.

The first coverage to be broadcast on the HD stream will be on 13 June. The additional SD streams will come into service on 24 June. However, the different streams on different platforms have already begun to become visible with placeholders and the rest will appear in the next few days. So here’s what to do to make sure you can watch the streams that will be accessible to you, depending on which platform you use to get your TV:

  • If you have Freeview, YouView or BT Vision+ your receiver may well pick up the changes automatically but you will likely need to do a retune if you don’t have an HD receiver. Digital UK’s TV retune website gives advice on how to retune.
  • If you have Sky, you should not have to do anything. If you do have a problem receiving any of our channels, you can try turning your Sky set top box off at the mains, waiting 30 seconds and turning it back on again. If that doesn’t resolve your problem you can find more help at
  • If you have Virgin Media the new streams should appear automatically. If you do have a problem receiving any of our channels, you can find more help at Virgin’s website. For Virgin TiVo users the broadcast Red Button streams will still appear in the 980s while the Red Button application on our TV channels will take you to additional coverage on the Connected Red Button service. 
  • If you have Freesat and you do not pick up the new channels automatically, you may need to put your digital box or TV into standby for 30 seconds and then switch it back on again. If the channels are still unavailable then carry out a 'Freesat channel retune'. Full instructions can be found in the manual for your digital TV or box. Further help with retuning can be found at or by calling the Freesat customer support team on 08450 990 990.

So whether your preference is strawberries and cream, cider or a meat and potato pie I hope you enjoy it in front of some excellent summer entertainment courtesy of BBC Red Button.

Alix Pryde is Director, BBC Distribution.

UPDATE, Wednesday 26 June 2013, 11.00am

Commenting on the About the BBC Blog closes automatically two weeks after publication. This morning however, we have re-opened comments for this post. I wanted to explain why I have arranged this.

First, I think it is important that we offer a space to comment on live issues so that we can hear what you think, and given that many of you were still commenting on Monday it was a pity to have the conversation end at that point.

Secondly, we are continuing to fix minor bugs in the applications delivering the additional streams on the various platforms. Your comments provide us with valuable feedback about your experiences and help us know when we have resolved issues.

Alix Pryde.  

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