BBCi Labs Blog

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Will viewers choose their own running order?

  • TVP
  • 30 Dec 08, 11:10 AM

Tristram Biggs writes...

Historically FM&T Journalism has focused primarily on web development. The reasons for this are many and none of them are any of my business but it is odd, because the first experiments that BBC News made with 'On Demand' started in the early 1970s and they were on television sets. The experiment still exists today and it is called Ceefax.

The principle is relatively simple, take some text Journalists with access to agency feeds and ask them to write short news stories. Then ask them to keep them updated, all the time. And so On Demand Journalism was born - no printing presses or Six O'Clock bulletin to meet, just up-to-date information when the viewer wanted it.

Read more and comment on the BBC Journalism Labs Blog

Tristram Biggs is Executive Product Manager for TV Platforms at BBC Future Media & Technology (Journalism)

Please Wait...

  • Andrew Bowden
  • 19 Dec 08, 10:33 AM

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.

Example Please Wait scene

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 screne

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.

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