BBC Online and preparing for the Olympic Games - London 2012
Current BBC London 2012 portal, bbc.co.uk/2012
At the Media Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival I took part in a session about the BBC's plans for London 2012. BBC Director of 2012 Roger Mosey opened with an overview of our editorial ambitions for the Games, also announcing plans to capture key moments in Super Hi Vision and show these across three UK locations - reported here in The Guardian. I followed by presenting a 'sneak peek' of the BBC's online plans.
The BBC holds digital media rights for the Games, and more licence-fee payers than ever before are now connected: according to Ofcom 74% of people now have broadband; more than a quarter of adults (and half of all teens) own a smartphone; and one million internet-enabled TVs were sold during 2010. London 2012 provides an unparalleled opportunity to make the sporting and cultural celebration the most connected and inclusive yet.
This is also an opportunity to offer audiences unprecedented choice: last month we outlined our intention to deliver to audiences over 2,000 hours of live sport online via 24 High Definition streams - every sport, from every location on every day - but it's not just about choice of content. In line with our 'Delivering Quality First' strategy for BBC Online, we plan to make services available across four screens: computers, mobiles, tablets and connected TVs, or as Ralph Rivera has put it in the past "on whatever piece of glass you choose".
At Edinburgh, I talked about some of the innovations that we're experimenting with, with a view to including in the final BBC Olympics experience.
To create a more active and immersive viewing experience when you're on the web. We plan to enrich video streams by providing context-sensitive data overlays. These overlays can then allow embedding of direct links to content. So if you're watching the fencing, for instance, you could click on the athlete's name in the data overlay on the video to jump straight to his profile page. And vice versa, through sophisticated tagging you could go direct from a leader board, into the video of a winning finish, for instance.
We're developing a new publishing platform that delivers pages that are dynamically and automatically created. Content can be tagged with an identifier that can be automatically pulled into the relevant page to provide a real-time, extensive, and trusted companion to events. We delivered a page for each country, squad and player during the World Cup in 2010 using this model and we're scaling this up for next year to deliver unparalleled up to the minute detail on each athlete, country and event. Delivering such a detailed and broad service via traditional editorial curation would be cost prohibitive.
Pulling all this together is a user-experience based on horizontal navigation, consistent across all devices. This highly-visual "stream" allows us to give greater prominence to video and encourage browsing beyond this, making the breadth of content more accessible. Already popular in smartphone and tablet design, this natural and intuitive way to browse content is just like flicking through a magazine. Filters too, would enable users to tailor content on the page, like opting for more video according to their preferences.
Location-based mobile experience
Mobile will be integral to the way many follow events and interact with others. We'll be leveraging the distinct benefits of devices to improve London 2012 for audiences.
With half of teens now owning a smartphone (and 60% considering themselves to be 'highly' addicted to them - especially for social media) the mobile experience is going to be important for them. We envisage a digital experience that's as seamlessly social on mobile as on the web - with geo-location used to identify activity near to where users are and tools to share with friends on the move.
In the living room
The Independent summarised our plans to bring the Games into the living room - connected TV is another area of focus.
Analysts are forecasting that around 36 million TVs with built-in internet capability will be in homes by the end of 2016, and forthcoming innovations from the likes of Google TV and platforms such as YouView will help increase the penetration of connected TV before the games.
Our BBC iPlayer product for connected TV is available on over 300 devices (most recently Sony PS3), and we recently launched a BBC News app for connected TV which we'll be rolling out across further devices this year. For the Olympics we're developing a similarly structured product, with a navigational panel allowing users to flick between the 24 live streams via their remote control, and access stories and updates in full from the internet on the living-room TV.
Beyond London 2012
These innovations don't start and end with London 2012. Many will find feet in the other products of BBC Online over time. And, we'll continue to explore ways to improve our four-screen offer - the development of broadcast technology is iterative and we're some way from realising the connected storytelling vision that Ralph Rivera has outlined in the past (where a highly social and seamless experience is enjoyed through all four screens) - but the Games provide an opportunity to take real steps in that direction.
Phil Fearnley is General Manager for News & Knowledge, BBC Future Media responsible for the delivery of the Digital Olympics.