Archives for September 2012

What's On BBC Red Button 29th September - 6th October

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Tess Foster Tess Foster | 06:00 UK time, Saturday, 29 September 2012


6 Music Live

As part of 6 Music Celebrates... Live Music, we are hosting a week of very special live performances.

From Monday 1st to Friday 5th October 2012, the hallowed BBC Maida Vale studios in London will be home to radio shows from Lauren Laverne featuring live music and chat from some of the station's most-loved bands.

You will be able to join in all the fun by watching the sessions live on the 6 Music homepage and see highlights on the BBC Red Button from 7pm each evening. Plus, you can discuss the exclusive sessions in our live conversation on the 6 Music homepage.

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Building Connected TV Apps

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Roux Joubert | 13:04 UK time, Friday, 28 September 2012

I'm Roux Joubert, Head of the TV & Mobile Platforms team based in the BBC's new offices in MediaCityUK, Salford.

I am privileged to lead an amazing team responsible for building some cutting edge and award winning products, who brought you the BBC iPlayer on TV and mobile, as well as News, Sport and Red Button on emerging TV and mobile platforms.

Today the BBC iPlayer, News and Sport apps are available on an astonishing 650 connected TV devices, from internet-enabled or Smart TVs and set-top-boxes to media players and games consoles, delivering more than 45 million videos to 2 million users every month. Most recently, the BBC Sport app has been used by more than 200,000 users a day to watch the phenomenal London 2012 Olympic Games coverage on connected TVs alone, having only launched a few short weeks before.

While this is a remarkable achievement in itself, it certainly wasn't easy or straightforward, and I would like to share with you what challenges we have encountered, what we have learnt in the process of solving them and what we believe is important to consider for anyone looking at building applications for connected TVs.

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What's On BBC Red Button 22nd - 29th September

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Tess Foster Tess Foster | 06:00 UK time, Saturday, 22 September 2012

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Mumford and Sons

Mumford and SonsMumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons present the first of Fearne Cotton's Live Lounge specials from the BBC's Studios in Maida Vale, as part of Radio 1's Massive Month of Live Music.

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New BBC Media Player for Android phones and tablets

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Chris Yanda | 11:00 UK time, Wednesday, 19 September 2012

BBC Media Player in Google Play

BBC Media Player showing subtitles and playback controls with BBC on-demand video content

Today the BBC's mobile technical teams have begun rolling out a new way of securely playing video and audio content on Android phones and tablets. It's called BBC Media Player and we are starting to use it with the mobile view of the BBC's iPlayer website. Next week we plan to release a new version of BBC iPlayer on Android which will use this player. Other applications and websites will follow.

We want people to have the best experience possible when they're watching BBC TV programmes or listening to BBC radio programmes. This means, amongst other things, making them available on as many devices as is practical.

I want to reassure you that Android is an important platform for us. And I know (not least from the comments on David Madden's recent post) that this platform is an important one for many of our users. We've supported iPlayer on Android since June 2010 .

The Android operating system is constantly evolving and has been upgraded several times in the last two years. Back then version 2.2 (FroYo) was the latest OS. Today the latest version is 4.1 (JellyBean) and in between we've had Gingerbread, Honeycomb, and Ice Cream Sandwich.

As many of you are aware, we chose Adobe Flash as the media format to stream to Android devices. Doing so provided us with a number of cross platform efficiencies as the same infrastructure can be used for delivery on PCs, Android phones, and set-top boxes.

Adobe's strategic decision to remove support for the Flash Player plug-in meant that we had to change the way that we play back this content.

We looked at a number of solutions, but there were a few key points we had to keep in mind:

1. We needed a solution that would work on the newer Android devices running the JellyBean operating system.

2. We also had to cater for the all the devices which are still on earlier OS versions. The diagram below shows that vast majority of Android users are on Gingerbread and FroYo.

3. We needed a solution which would work both for our websites and for our native Android applications.

4. We needed a solution which would meet the security obligations we had agreed with our rights holders.

5. We needed a solution which would not require a significant and costly change to our current infrastructure.

Android platform pie chart

Platform version information from for the 14 day period prior to 4 September 2012

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BBC R&D: a summer of research and development

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Tristan Ferne | 13:11 UK time, Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I am the lead producer for BBC R&D's Internet Research & Future Services team where we use technology and design to prototype the future of media and the internet. I help develop ideas, run projects and write and talk about what we do.

I regularly write for the BBC Research & Development blog. Nick asked me to round up some of what BBC R&D have been writing about on our blog over the summer.

Out of our North Lab came the concept of Perceptive Media - adapting stories to the audience by using information about that audience and their context. As Ian blogged in July:

" takes narrative back to something more aligned to a storyteller and an audience around a campfire ... to create something closer to a personal theatre experience in your living room".

They released their first instantiation of this, a short radio play called "Breaking Out" which you can listen to here.

For the Olympics we released an Augmented Reality application to compare your performance against Olympic athletes. Robert, Bruce and Paul wrote about the technology behind it. We worked with colleagues in Japanese broadcaster NHK to bring 7680x4320 resolution, 22.2 channel sound Super Hi-Vision (SHV) screenings of the Olympics to a number of public viewing sessions. And our splashometer for diving was used during NBC's coverage, even picking up fans such as Samuel L. Jackson no less.

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CBBC Connected Studio: 10 problems to solve

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Jon Howard Jon Howard | 16:09 UK time, Monday, 17 September 2012

BBc id on CBBC

The BBC iD sign in box on the CBBC site

Mobiles, tablets and connected TVs are here. They form an ecosystem of web connected devices that provide the potential for amazing experiences. The ability to share an experience across devices brings great possibilities, but also responsibilities.

As part of its brief the CBBC Connected studio CBBC event has included a call for ideas on how to make the 'ultimate immersive experience', one that works across multiple devices.

What is the users' journey to get access to the connected content? How compelling and fun is the product? To achieve the goal some problems will need to be overcome. Here are 10 of them:

1. Low user registration rate

The number of users that sign in to BBC websites is relatively low. This is likely to be due to many reasons, but the snack-able nature of much of the content is a primary one. Online is much more of a TV experience than a cinema one. Users can quickly assess whether a page contains what they want, and navigate away if it doesn't. Any registration for access to content is a dry affair. It entails entering personal details, creating a username that fits into a specified format, coming up with a memorable and acceptable password, and sometimes waiting for a validation email. All of this can form a sizeable barrier, denying interaction with the core content for a period of time.

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What's On BBC Red Button 15th September - 22nd September

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Tess Foster Tess Foster | 06:00 UK time, Saturday, 15 September 2012

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BBC Philharmonic Presents: A James Bond Special


Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo

Watch Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo on the Red Button presenting not one, but two James Bond specials, featuring the greatest Bond film songs with the help of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and guest vocalists Ren Harvieu, Lance Ellington and Claire Moore.

On Friday 14th September, Kermode and Mayo were live from the BBC Philharmonic studio for a Film Review: James Bond Special, as they revealed the song you voted as the greatest James Bond theme ever, alongside other 007 classics.

At 8pm, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra presented a whole Friday Night Is Music Night: Bond and Beyond concert, including songs from the classic Bond films and music from well-known spy films such as Mission Impossible, Where Eagles Dare and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The Philharmonic were conducted by Robert Ziegler.

Watch highlights on the Red Button of the best Bond themes performed from the day of the live shows!

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Connected Studio: UX&D brief in context

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Ulrik Hogrebe | 17:16 UK time, Friday, 14 September 2012

UX&D sign in Broadcast Centre

The UX&D sign in the Broadcast Centre, home to the BBC UX&D team

Hi, my name is Ulrik and I'm a Senior User Experience Designer working in Personalisation and Social Platform, a service division of UX&D that works across the BBC online portfolio. I'm helping to organise the UX&D Connected Studio workshops scheduled for the 4 October, 30 October and 31 October 2012.

I'd like to give you a preview into some of the thinking that has gone into the brief for the UX&D events - as well as a little bit of wider context for the work we currently do in UX&D.

If you haven't done so already, I suggest you take a peek at the Connected Studio brief then return to this post for more on what we're trying to achieve and how.

A BBC that is bigger than the sum of its parts

The BBC online portfolio is split into 10 different products: Sport, News, iPlayer, Knowledge and Learning, CBBC and Cbeebies, Radio and Music, Homepage and Search, and Weather. While each product has a unique value for different audience sectors, we're increasingly thinking of them as components of 'One Service', a coherent and connected whole that delivers 360º value for our audience - on any device - wherever and whenever the user wants access.

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BBC Blue Room: ten things we learnt at IFA 2012

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Alison Hunter | 13:09 UK time, Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Organic LED was a hit at IFA 2012

For more information about organic LED (light-emiting diode) television read this Wikipedia entry

The BBC Blue Room team was back at IFA 2012 last week.

For those of you who haven't heard of the BBC Blue Room or indeed IFA, let me explain. The Blue Room is the BBCs consumer electronics lab, based in London W12, in a room unsurprisingly filled with a lot of the latest consumer electronics. So, if you were a developer working on the BBC Olympics App and you wanted to see it working on one of the latest connected TVs or programme maker wondering what ultra high definition looks like, then BBC Blue Room would be the place you would want to visit.

Which brings us to IFA, Europe's largest consumer electronics show that takes place annually in Berlin.

Having so many of the manufacturers located in one place is a great opportunity for information gathering and a way for us to keep our BBC colleagues up-to-date with the fast changing world of consumer electronics.

So, with this aim in mind Richard, Lindsey and myself (the team) walked the halls, listened to press conferences and soaked up the atmosphere.

At the end of three long days, we jotted down what we had learnt;

• Organic LED TVs drew the crowd

• Windows 8 was everywhere

• Expect more waving, shouting and eye control

• 3D is hanging on .... just!

• 21:9 has gone mainstream

• Cameras have got smart

• They want our homes connected

• Hybrid devices were in abundance

• The world is getting more pixels

• Things just got "see through"

From these initial thoughts, we created a PDF:

"10 Things We Have Learnt at IFA 2012"

Please download and of course share.

Alison Hunter is Senior Technology Demonstrator, BBC Technology

Follow the BBC Blue Room on Twitter at @BBCBlueRoom

What's on BBC Red Button 8th - 15th September

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James Aslett | 06:00 UK time, Saturday, 8 September 2012

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Last Night of the Proms

Hyde Park Stage

2011's Last Night of the Proms at Hyde Park

Watch Last Night of the Proms concerts from around the UK, live on Red Button. Excerpts from these four concerts will be available to watch from 7.30pm on Saturday 8 September:

• Hyde Park, London. Presented by Terry Wogan and featuring Kylie Minogue
• Titanic Slipways, Belfast. Featuring the Ulster Orchestra
• Owain Glyndwr Playing Fields, Caerphilly, Wales. Presented by Alex Jones and Tim Rhys-Evans and featuring the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales
• City Halls, Glasgow. Presented by Jamie McDougall and featuring the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Freeview viewers will have one Proms Red Button channel, which will show highlights from all four concerts.

Sky, Virgin and Freesat viewers will have two Proms Red Button channels - which will show highlights from all four concerts.

You can also watch all four concerts in full on BBC iPlayer from Sunday 9th September, for seven days.

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Search Engine Optimisation in BBC News

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Martin Asser | 11:41 UK time, Thursday, 6 September 2012

Newspaper poster board

Poster for the London Evening Standard newspaper. The storm was in the United States. Pic by Darren Shrubsole

This is the third and final in a series of posts about Search Engine Optimisation, following Duncan Bloor and Oliver Bartlett writing about optimising Knowledge and Learning websites.

Headline-writing is a journalistic skill that provokes strong feelings – and of course it is meant to.

A sub-editor writes a headline to grab attention, to compel readers.

It’s also considered something of an art form, which will often see clusters of journalists poring over headlines at length, in the knowledge that the eventual choice could spell the difference between people reading the article or not.

Good headlines are passed around newsrooms in admiration, bad ones are held up to ridicule, and the best ones go down in history – think of the Sun headlines “Gotcha” and “Freddy Starr ate my hamster”.

Given that we are talking about such a cherished institution, it’s no surprise that when I as an SEO (search engine optimiser) come along and rewrite the headline rulebook there might be a certain amount of, let’s say, polite demurral among your colleagues.

But that’s often exactly what is needed at news websites which have previously paid no attention to search traffic when composing their sacred texts.

I moved from my role as BBC web journalist specialising in the Middle East to become the BBC’s first specialist SEO journalist in late 2009.

The headline system that I took over had not even been optimised for the web originally, let alone search engines.

Back in the mid-2000s, BBC News had merged the Online and Ceefax teams to write multi-platform stories whose headline length was designed to fit neatly on the old analogue teletext pages. These 31-33 character headlines didn’t allow much room to include search keywords; they barely had enough space to tell the story. But the format has been skilfully incorporated into our web journalism and to this day we should be grateful for how it has given the News website its clean, impactful appearance and pithy, easy-to-read headlines.

Not wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater, we devised a dual-headline system, which would keep the index headlines unchanged while introducing a longer, search-optimised text that would sit at the top of articles and supply the page title meta-tags, which are what search engines take most account of.

All we had to do then was to make sure that the hundreds upon hundreds of different story headlines written every day by teams scattered across the country and the globe were optimised for search!

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Connected Studio 5: CBBC and User Experience and Design

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Adrian Woolard | 17:10 UK time, Tuesday, 4 September 2012

connected studio in salford

CBeebies Connected Studio in Q5, Quay House, MediaCityUK in Salford

It's been a while since I told you about the Connected Studio project, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy. We've been planning an exciting calendar through till next spring starting with a double header of Creative Studios. CBBC on September 20th in Salford and UX&D on October 4th in London. Both briefs are now live and ready for your perusal.

We will be heading back to MediaCityUK on September 20th, with the Build Studio in Salford on October 10-11. The UX&D Creative Studio will take place in London on the 4th October, followed by a build studio in Salford on the 30th and 31st of October. Get these dates in your diary!

Our last event seems like an age ago yet it was only back in July when we held the CBeebies Build studio up at MediaCityUK. Attendance for the Creative Studio was up at over 90 which ultimately led to 30 pitches, our highest to date. The high number of participants and the strength of ideas meant that we took ten teams through to Build, made up of 60 individuals. Thankfully the fantastic Q5 space meant that we could accommodate this number without treading on each other's toes.

I will be releasing details shortly about what we are moving forward from CBeebies, Weather & Travel and also a general Pilot Stage update, but for now, let's tuck in to CBBC and the key challenges that the Brief sets out:

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Mobile Downloads for BBC iPlayer

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David Madden | 08:53 UK time, Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Today BBC iPlayer is launching mobile downloads on smartphones and tablets.

I'd like to talk about the thinking behind this new feature, and the benefits it brings to audiences.

Part of the BBC's strategy for iPlayer in the past year has been to take it beyond the PC, and onto a host of different devices, from smartphones and tablets, to connected TVs and games consoles. BBC iPlayer is now on over 550 devices, ensuring you can enjoy BBC programmes wherever and whenever you want.

It's been something of a watershed year for on-the-go viewing: the Olympics, for example, turned into the "mobile Games" for many. For iPlayer, take-up on portable devices has been particularly impressive, with 30m requests for iPlayer content via mobile or tablet in July alone: this represented more than 20% of all requests for iPlayer programmes across all platforms.

The numbers in pink and white in the circles above represent percentages of the total amount of iPlayer requests for content on tablets and mobile e.g 34% of the requests on tablets was for Children’s content

More and more people are comfortable with watching TV across different devices depending on where they are and what they're doing. For example, our data shows that children's content is particularly popular on tablets, as they are devices kids can sit and play with wherever. BBC Three comedy is popular on smart phones, and is watched by young people while out and about or waiting for a bus or train.

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What's On BBC Red Button 1st September - 8th September

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Tess Foster Tess Foster | 06:00 UK time, Saturday, 1 September 2012

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Doctor Who

Matt Smith as The Doctor

Matt Smith as The Doctor

En route to visit the Ponds the TARDIS' Helmic Regulator malfunctions, leaving the Doctor popping up everywhere in time and space. Will he ever make it back to Amy and Rory?

This prequel is followed by a new series of Doctor Who which begins tonight at 7:20 on BBC One.

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