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New BBC Red Button Connected Homepage

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Merv Hart Merv Hart | 16:27 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

As many of you know, if you have both broadband and a Freesat HD set top box, you can connect your box to the Internet with an Ethernet cable. This allows your Freesat box to receive content both via broadcast, and the internet! Recently we upgraded the BBC Red Button Homepage to link to Internet services such as BBC iPlayer on Freesat and we would love to hear what you think of it.

Why was this required?
The Freesat TV and Red Button service is, as the name implies, broadcast to your TV via a satellite. It's broadcast to every Freesat user in the UK simultaneously, which means we can't show video to different people at different times. With the satellite infrastructure, any video we transmit has to be on a continual loop - it's not possible for you to just pick a video to view from the start.

In the current world of Video On Demand and BBC iPlayer, this just won't do. BBC iPlayer for example, is streamed to Freesat IP-enabled devices so you can pick and choose which video to watch, whenever you want it to start playing. We wanted to offer more of these services to Freesat users but first we had to provide a gateway, hence we re-designed the Red Button Homepage.

If your box is connected to the internet and you press red from a BBC channel you'll now be taken to our new Homepage, with links to BBC iPlayer Beta and other recently launched video based services such as the World Cup, Glastonbury and Comedy.

We've changed the Homepage to include an On Now tab, as well as an Index for all our Freesat content. 'On Now' will focus on highlighting our scheduled video based services, or for pointing you in the direction of our most popular permanently available content. We've also included room here for a short description of the service, as opposed to an ambiguous one word title.

BBC Red Button Connected Homepage: On Now

BBC Red Button Connected Homepage: On Now

The 'Index' will continue to list all of our content services; you'll be able to seamlessly access Red Button content delivered by both satellite and the internet.

Freesat Connected Homepage Index

BBC Red Button Connected Homepage: Index

What's next?
We'll be bringing new video based services to Freesat, who so far have not been able to access scheduled video based services which users of other digital TV platforms are able to enjoy.

We're also beginning to develop the Connected Homepage for the Freeview HD set top boxes which are able to work with an internet connection. We aim to have this available in early 2011.

Meanwhile we'd love to hear what you think of the new look homepage, so if you have any problems or suggestions for future improvements, please leave a comment below.

Merv Hart is Development Producer, BBC FM&T TV Platforms.


  • Comment number 1.

    I know I've mentioned this before, but being able to access the whole of the news stories would be an excellent service.

    There should be a facility, when you've read one of the news stories, to be able to continue reading after the "brief" version of the story provided over "the air".

    This would stop the "Red Button" service seeming like a second-class "tabloid" service.


  • Comment number 2.

    When the Freeview service is prepared, is there any chance of sending via IPTV the streams that due to bandwidth constraints aren't available OTA on the platform?

  • Comment number 3.

    @ChrisCornwall: It's not bandwidth, it's GeoIP for rights reasons.

  • Comment number 4.

    I use the Iplayer with my Humax Freesat box regularly, it works well.
    Slightly off topic, I would like to know when the travel news on page 430 will be added to the Freesat Red Button pages

  • Comment number 5.

    #2 #3 I should have been clearer I meant Video Red Button streams.

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree with @ChrisCornwall I would also like to see these services on IPTV's (e.g. Sony Bravia and Samsung Internet@TV) which already have access to the iPlayer Beta, as well as Freeview HD set top boxes.

    I also think the bandwidth constraint he was talking about was the UHF Frequency and not the internet/network.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    This may not be an appropriate comment for this particular post but I can't find anywhere else to ask. A few months ago I bought a flat screen TV with built in HD freesat receiver built in. It gets BBC HD channel 50 very well. But now I hear announcements that "this programme is also on BBC 1 HD channel" but if I change to Channel 50 sommething else is there. Help!

  • Comment number 9.

  • Comment number 10.

    Thanks for the comments folks, I’ll answer one by one.

    Braintist, I’m afraid that feature isn’t likely to be coming any time soon. TVs are a great medium for watching video, but it’s just OK for reading text. We’ve tested adding longer articles to areas of the Red Button service but they haven’t been well received, as when you need to press down to see the next page 20 or so times, it becomes tiresome. We’d rather focus on the platform’s strengths, and leave full news articles to the BBC website.

    ChrisCornwall and James, there are no current plans to replace those broadcast streams with IPTV streams. However we will be rolling out new video based services on Freeview HD next year, which will be delivered over IP.

    Kevin, I don’t have any specific information on that I’m afraid, other than we do intend to increase our Freesat content offering in the future, and I’ll pass on your request for this section in particular.

  • Comment number 11.

    Are the additional video streams you mention in the "What next?" section broadcast or IP based. If broadcast, good to see a long standing issue being addressed.

    Love the idea of the hybrid for on demand content - just a shame that broadband speeds are still not up to scratch for everyone to use the service in the manner it's intended. Will the iPlayer on Freesat/Freeview just offer streaming content, or will you be able to download content to your hard drive - so those of us with speeds which can't handle the streaming can at least do that?

    Such services too have to complement interactive streams delivered through digital TV - rather than replace them. Although the content offered through the News Multiscreen and looped recorded content, such as the radio performances, are obviously more effectively delivered via IPTV, for live content you can't beat good old fashioned 21st century television!

  • Comment number 12.

    Brekkie, great questions, thanks. These new video services won’t have live stream capability right now, but it is an ambition to develop services with both live and complimentary ‘best of’ video content. We’ll be looking to support live IP streaming as and when this is offered by Internet-connected TV platforms, and we believe that it can be done at good value for money.

    I’m not part of the BBC iPlayer team so please don’t take this as verbatim as I’m speculating: I would be very surprised if we’re able to offer iPlayer download functionality. Regarding Freesat and Freeview platforms, the MHEG spec doesn’t support downloading. For other platforms, the problem is that there are many bespoke solutions to downloading to PVRs and it would be a huge job to develop for each individual platform. I can’t say it won’t happen in the future as your reasoning is spot on, but as it’s a difficult and lengthy development job I wouldn’t expect it any time soon.

  • Comment number 13.

    To echo Brekkies comments it's really good that the additional broadcast video streams are now being added to bring Freesat's red button offering up to the same level as that of Sky's platform.

    There's recently been a new channel appear on Freesat which has red button links to a mosaic with various video streams and works well, just as the BBC multiscreen feeds do on Sky and other platforms. I assume therefore that the necessary MHEG5 code to make all this happen within Freesat has already been written, just a case of integrating this in to the existing over-air content?

    Being able to deliver extra on-demand content via IP is also a good move. Unfortunately my Panasonic TV hadn't received it's iPlayer update last June so missed the opportunity to check out the extra World Cup and Glastonbury video streams.

  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks for your response Merv. That's the disadvantage I guess of not having a standard manufacturer in the way Sky and Virgin too - it makes such upgrades a much more complex problem. The flip side though of course is the competition between manufacturers does bring down prices - though unfortunately that generally means set top boxes are not exactly future proof, which is one reason why I'm waiting to see what happens with YouView on Freeview before upgrading to HD.

  • Comment number 15.

    I presume this is the answer to the issue of the BBC Red Button and the fact that a lot of this is not available on Freesat. See for instance the page below and all that is not available on Freesat.


    Therefore, can I presume that there will be an implementation of all of these eventually on Freesat via IPTV and that we will finally get the BBC news multiscreen (or at least the feeds from it)?

  • Comment number 16.

    Further to post 15 above, am I correct in thinking where previously much content was "not available on freesat" I can now get this content using my Humax and Internet connection as I currently view iplayer? (for example content like the additional Buzzcocks material)

  • Comment number 17.

    I hope this comes to Freeview. While you've said it can't carry live streams, the 'extra content' facility could be good for Formula One coverage. For instance, the driver interviews after qualifying or the race could be included, even though they'd be recorded. Or ar there issues with 'on demand' rights there ? You could also include interviews normally on seen on the web, or again, would there be issues with your rights to show 'on demand' coverage ?

  • Comment number 18.

    Thanks for the FreeviewHD info. I just recently (after this blog was posted first)asked about MHEG FreeviewHD iPlayer and a member of the BBC iPlayer Support team replied they had no information at present. Good to know something and that at least you "aim to have this available in early 2011".

    Can I ask, will this FreeviewHD service use the H264 streams and have the iPlayer HD channel and content (or at least the "HD version also available" option) ? As this new roll out will be for FreeviewHD boxes this should not be a problem for them ! ? ?

  • Comment number 19.

    I have just been using iplayer on my parents freesat box and the picture is very good. My only gripe is that there are no radio channels listed in iplayer, are you planning to add them soon? (also adding radio Scotland to iplayer on iPhone/iPod touch would be very welcome)

  • Comment number 20.

    I wondered why you chose to develop the functionality for Freesat first before Freeview HD? I don't have any stats to hand on the use of the two but looking at the availability of TV sets on the TV price comparison site www.buydigitaltv.co.uk, it seems that Freeview HD is pretty much standard on TVs of say £500+, but integrated Freesat on current models is limited to just a handful of Panasonics.

    Wouldn't more people benefit, and quicker if the Freeview HD development work had been prioritised? I fully support the use and promotion of Freesat of course, but as has been proved time and time before, unless there is the right combination of hardware and software/media even the most admirable ventures can fail.

    Nb is there an update as to when it is available on Freeview HD now that we're actually in 2011 of course!? :)


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