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Me and My TV - How Can we Connect?

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Daniel Danker Daniel Danker | 17:00 UK time, Friday, 2 March 2012

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Today, I spoke at the Digital TV Group (DTG) Summit in London. For those who don’t know, the DTG is the industry association for digital television in the UK, so I was keen to share my thoughts with them about how “Connected” or “Smart” TVs fit with our strategy, their huge potential in the future, but also the real need to improve today’s audience experience on these devices.

The aim of my presentation was to convince the group that if connected TV is going to be successful with mainstream audiences, using a connected TV needs to be no more complicated than channel flipping. And I firmly believe that this is achievable; that there’s no reason connected TV can’t be that simple to use.

Making connected TV simple requires focus and dedication to delivering on behalf of all audiences. It requires making experiences that flow elegantly and naturally from broadcast TV.

People buy TVs first and foremost so they can watch great programmes, so connected TV experiences need to focus on making those experiences better. With 98% of BBC viewing time spent on linear television, it follows that connected TV experiences should start with broadcast TV.

We’re seeing huge growth of BBC iPlayer on Connected TVs – not surprising as TV is of course best on TV. But at the moment iPlayer gets four times as much traffic on the Apple iPad alone, despite the fact there are more than twice as many connected TVs as iPads in the UK .

We know there’s an appetite out there for Connected TVs. In the last year, iPlayer on the PC grew by 14%. On the tablet, iPlayer grew an impressive 580%. But on the TV, iPlayer grew more than 10-fold.

It’s early days, and there’s far more we can do to make connected TV deliver the fullness of its potential to our audiences, but the trend is inspiring.

Today when we change channels we don’t think about the technology that lies beneath. But when we use a connected TV, we do. For connected TV to truly delight audiences in the future – to build on the last year’s impressive growth – using a connected TV needs to be dead simple. To delight audiences with what connected TV makes possible, we need to make the technology disappear.

That’s one reason why Red Button services are so successful. Their simplicity is no accident; it follows years of experimentation.

In a connected world, the Red Button can transform into an effortless way to bring what we traditionally think of as Internet services directly to our audience, right on the TV. Users need not even realise that behind the scenes, they’ve switched between broadcast and broadband technologies.

And this is great news for the roughly 25% of Red Button users who don’t use the BBC’s online services.

Simply tune into any BBC channel, press Red, and immerse yourself in enhancements around the programme you’re watching. It will be joined up with broadcast TV, not separate from it. It will combine the breadth of our online content with the simplicity of television.

If you’re interested in more from me, you can watch my presentation (above). As always, keen to hear your thoughts.

Daniel Danker is General Manager, Programmes & On-Demand


  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    It surprises me you seem… surprised at your stats for iPad vs. TV.

    Looking at it simply:
    My TV has iPlayer, yet it also has access to Sky, Netflix, a Blu-Ray player, a PS3, a multiregion DVD player that can read divx .avi files and if I hadn’t just retired it, a VHS machine.

    My PS3 has iPlayer, yet it is a gaming machine that also has iPlayer, Netflix, Lovefilm, & Mubi, but it also has access over DLNA to my server to watch all my ‘backed up’ DVDs.
    My Android phone has iPlayer, yet it can stream from the same server over DLNA, and play files I transfer onto it via USB. It has FM radio. (And I would stream more if the iplayer app wasn’t quite so clunky.)

    An iPad has iPlayer, limited video content from iTunes, Netflix, and from the apps I have tried that do DLNA, little luck playing most files on my server.

    So yeah, the fact iPad has more limited options for viewing media, might just skew your stats.

  • Comment number 4.

    Daniel I think that was a great presentation.

    That is exactly the point.

    Geeks will find this stuff - but for the mass audience it has to be as simple as changing channel.

    Cheers, Dave (daveac)

  • Comment number 5.

    I appreciate your comments about the BBC's Red Button service and it's ease of use.
    Why however does there appear to be in many areas much less detailed information than on the analogue Ceefax service. To take one example the weather forecast on Ceefax has detailed current readings from a selection of locations (page 404) and predicted readings for a variety of locations (page 406). The comparable Red button equivalents seem poor by comparison. Is there some technical reason why Red Button services seem less comprehensive than the soon to be retired Cefax service?

  • Comment number 6.

    My TV and I (!) would like to know the future of the other Ceefax content still useful to those who do not have internet access at home: for instance the Red Button Digital Text service has nothing on it concerning BBC Shop...

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi @ashdowner & Sue_Aitch,

    Thanks for your comments. But this blog post is about the interface for connected TVs, not Ceefax.

  • Comment number 8.

    Connected TV ... Wonderful idea, but where's the maintenance.

    Firstly, there's no way to report Connected TV issues with the iPlayer, there's no mention on the support report menu of the service, therefore no means to report these problems.

    Secondly, do the BBC Check it's connected operations for problems. Since October of last year the iPlayer 'Big Screen' interface on Sony BluRay players no longer identifies programmes when playing them, replacing the programme name with
    'Title Unknown' and when playing radio programmes the screen saver no longer works. If these problems and the length of time they are left outstanding is an example of 'aftercare' then it doesn't work.

    Apps ... like the BBC News one should be produced so that they are not so restricted to specific year models. Making basic versions available throughout all generations of receivers.

  • Comment number 9.

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

  • Comment number 10.


    You're absolutely right that the lack of video options on an iPad relative to a traditional television certainly skews the results, and one wouldn't expect identical results on a tablet and a TV. But the difference is stark today, and the research shows that this is very much down to the challenge of connecting a connectable TV and in using it once it's connected.

    To properly evaluate the difference, it can be helpful to compare the results on operator services which integrate broadcast and connected experiences (such as Virgin's TiVo platform or BT Vision). There is very healthy use of iPlayer on these TV platforms, even with all the other viewing options those audiences have. This shows that the appetite is there once the experience meets a higher minimum bar.

    @ashdowner & @Sue_Aitch,

    Red Button covers 90%+ of the Ceefax text service. The remainder would have been too costly or difficult to replicate, due to the complexity and age of various systems involved. Instead, the BBC opted for richer video services like Sport and News Multiscreen, and detailed local and national weather maps and video reports.


    Thanks for raising the issue on your Sony device; we'll have a look.

    While it's not possible to submit support issues from the TV, you're absolutely right that the web form for submitting an issue does not list "Connected TV" as an option. We'll get that sorted.

    Overall, the big challenge with connected TVs is fragmentation. There are many model years, firmware updates, and expectations around when manufacturers will release updates. The industry is maturing: manufacturers are spending increasing time thinking about upgrade processes and how to keep previous model years up-to-date. They're also using browsers that adhere more and more to standards, which makes it easier to support them for longer periods. Nevertheless, today the landscape remains fragmented, so there's no easy answer. It's impractical for us to go all the way back to 2010 model years in every case when we release new product updates, but it's certainly our aim to go as far back as possible.

  • Comment number 11.


    Just thinking sideways for a mo... would be good if from the content front, the full-length material from the Collections and Archives were made visible to Smart TVs as well..

    Ian - this might sound not quite on topic.. but if the Collection content was added to catchup directly on TV, it would enhance it all.. and it's then hammockable...

  • Comment number 12.

    Excellent idea from Alex. Which I support.

    info on model and software release ...
    M03.R.769 on a BDPS360

  • Comment number 13.

    Many thanks for your response, Daniel.

  • Comment number 14.


    Hi - I am Marcus from the iPlayer team. We have been able to reproduce your issue on a similar Sony device and are working with Sony to resolve this.

    We are also looking to update our help section to better support these types of devices.

    Thank you for your patience on this matter.

  • Comment number 15.

    Any chance of making Sport Programming available on Connected Devices in HD? Most items that were transmitted in HD are when available on the iPlayer only in SD.

  • Comment number 16.

    The red button is all well and good, but in its current incarnation useless for those of us who time-shift all their TV viewing.

  • Comment number 17.

    Agree with @16 - any chance of also getting Red Button content onto iPlayer - on all platforms? Would have been a real boon during stuff like Chris Moyles' marathon attempt..

    Effectively treat it like another channel?

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh - another thing - full approx-40-min versions of TOTP19xx on iPlayer Connected TV/device, please...

  • Comment number 19.

    This isn't the place for this question, but does Daniel or anyone else know when the problems with the BBC local radio stations will be fixed on iPlayer? They've been making horrible loud "popping" noises for weeks now. Try BBC York as an example, and listen to any show for a few minutes - you'll soon spot the problem. Please pass this on to the relevant person.

  • Comment number 20.


    I too was at the DTG summit representing TAG, an organisation representing the deaf community. I enjoyed your presentation and you may recall me asking about how subtitles will continue to be provided as content varies in how it is delivered. Our main concern is that providing subtitles is often an after thought. To ensure continuity for the deaf community when content is converted from broadcast to catch up then subtitles need to be included as part of the package.

    Whilst the iplayer team have done a commendable job of ensuring that the majority of content is subtitled sadly this does not apply to all platforms as the iplayer on PS3 and Wii rarely include subtitles. It is not just the platform though as content needs to include the subtitles too and, as with your own video on this blog, subtitles are often forgotten.

    I am sure you are aware that there are over 10m people in the UK with a hearing loss and over 7m people regularly using subtitles so as technology moves forward please can you help ensure that these people are not left behind?


    Simon Pearse

  • Comment number 21.

    Thank you for your comment Simon and for bringing this issue to our attention.

    We do endeavour to support subtitles for all platforms that we feature iPlayer on, where those subtitles are made available by the content creation teams. We are, however, chasing down an issue that is getting in the way of subtitles for some programs on some platforms. We have identified this on Xbox and believe it could be more widespread as you suggest.

    We will endeavour to fix this as soon as possible.

    - Daniel.


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