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Connected Red Button Launch

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Matt Coulson | 12:00 UK time, Tuesday, 4 December 2012

I'm Matt Coulson, Executive Product Manager for Red Button in BBC TV and Mobile Platforms.

Today we are launching the new BBC Connected Red Button on the Virgin TiVo service with plans to roll out the service to a range of connected TVs and operators in 2013.

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Connected Red Button video

Connected Red Button brings TV, radio and BBC online together in the simplest way possible. (See the press release for more details.)

The service is presented in a feature rich yet powerfully simple experience that is suitable for just about anyone.

It enhances the traditional Red Button service by bringing TV, news, sport, radio and weather together on the big screen enabling you to:

  • Discover more shows from your favourite channel or station.
  • Enjoy programmes from channels even when they're off air: watch programmes from BBC Three, BBC Four, CBBC or CBeebies day or night.
  • Catch programmes you missed with BBC iPlayer at the press of a button.
  • Read or watch the latest news clips and stories that matter to you.
  • Never miss the action from the sports you're passionate about including live events, highlights and headlines.
  • Find out about the weather in your area.

Yet while this is a significant milestone in the evolution of Red Button, it is only the beginning.

The journey to Connected Red Button began in 2011 with a vision for the next generation of Red Button services underscored by a number of core product principles.

The vision set out by Daniel Danker in his blog post was to reimagine Red Button for a new generation of connected TV audiences, retaining the simplicity, usability and range of content available in the original.

We aimed to harness the latest in TV and internet technology to create a personalised user experience with rich curated content and to set a new standard of interaction on the big-screen - but most of all to make the result so effortless and natural that the technology becomes invisible and the content takes centre stage.

Viewing content by channel on BBC Connected Red Button

Viewing content by channel on BBC Connected Red Button

While Connected Red Button is a long term strategic product, it in no way signals the demise of traditional BBC Red Button.

Twenty million people a month press red on the BBC and our ambition is to develop the service and increase the size of our audience.

Connected Red Button makes its debut on Virgin TiVo, an open platform that enables innovation through third party services.

Virgin set-top boxes are connected to the internet, a requirement for the new Connected Red Button. Virgin TiVo subscribers were also, until now, unable to receive traditional BBC Red Button services so we're delighted to bring Connected Red Button to this audience.

Throughout 2012 the BBC has also been engaging with a number of TV manufacturers and platform operators regarding our connected TV application plans and the related technical specifications and certification requirements.

We'll be rolling out Connected Red Button to a range of connected TV devices during 2013 and in many cases 2012 TVs will also be upgraded to Connected Red Button.

Over time, as audiences use televisions and set-top boxes which are increasingly connected we expect to migrate them from the traditional Red Button to the new Connected Red Button.

With forecasts of up to 22 million connected TVs installed in UK homes by the end of 2016 Connected Red Button is well positioned as an enhanced Red Button service for users who already have or intend to buy supported connected televisions for their homes.

There is lots of new content and features planned for the coming year including improved event support, more content from your favourite programmes and better personalisation.

Discover more BBC content

We also see a world where mobile and tablet editions team up with Connected Red Button on the big screen to deliver some truly immersive and versatile experiences.

The Connected Red Button programme was managed as a series of agile delivery projects blending concept work, user centred interaction design, testing and audience trials with iterative software development.

The product was engineered using BDD (behaviour-driven development) and TDD (test-driven development) encouraging close collaboration between product owners, testers, software engineers and designers.

Crucially engineering teams worked shoulder-to-shoulder with editorial teams to jointly create an experience that blends technology and content in a brand new way for audiences, capitalising on the BBC's unique expertise in high quality curation.

The service is a new and important addition to the BBC's Red Button portfolio. We hope you enjoy using the service and we look forward to receiving feedback over the coming days, weeks and months.

There will be a follow up post outlining the technical and UX considerations for Connected Red Button on TiVo coming soon.

Matt Coulson is the Executive Product Manager for Red Button in BBC TV and Mobile Platforms.


  • Comment number 1.

    Looks nice but sad it's not available on YouView, and instead on a pay TV service. Will it be available on YouView soon?

  • Comment number 2.

    So satellite (Sky boxes) gets its red button service cut down to a solitary red button feed to match the limitations of Freeview, but Virgin boxes get a new connected service?

    Great work BBC...

  • Comment number 3.

    Why was this rolled out on a pay-tv platform instead of Freeview+ and Freesat+?

  • Comment number 4.

    re: post number one. I would assume YouView is one of the platforms earmarked for future release.

    I guess good things come to those who wait!

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm guessing the reason it's not initially on Youview is that for any kind of interactive service there needs to be a way for user input to get back to the "server" so that it can provide the requested information. A Virgin cable box is, by definition, permanently connected to such a "server", whereas I imagine the vast majority of Youview boxes, even the ones that could be connected to a local wired or wifi network, are not so connected.

    (full disclosure: I am a member of BBC staff but not part of the Connected Red Button team at all)

  • Comment number 6.

    Sorry Iain but you seem to know very little about YouView.

    ALL YouView boxes are by definition, permanently connected to a local wired local network otherwise they wouldn't be able to access any of the On Demand and Catch Up content.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ok. Good. Does this mean that as a Virgin TiVo customer ill now be able to play along with stuff (test the nation, antiques roadshow) as well as access different content?

  • Comment number 8.

    Virgin seems an odd choice, can you provide some transparency around that decision? - are they subsidising development?

  • Comment number 9.

    Instead of trying to reinvent the internet, how about spending money on some sport to show on your channels? The Olympics were great (as we will be reminded, over and over again at SPOTY) but they've passed now, and the beebs sports output is now, frankly shocking!

  • Comment number 10.

    Good move, but also concerned at the target launching. I would expect the Corporation to have a broad range of release platforms at the start, even if this means delaying launches to accomodate this.

    I sincerely hope that HD sourced material on the non HD channels, BBC ONE HD and BBC TWO HD (soon to replace BBC HD) will be made available in HD via this platform to make up for the loss of simulcast with BBC HD's closure.

    Please reassure me that ALL 2012 vintage connected TVs will be switched to this service, and that once again early obsolescence wont be repeated, as with Sony 2010 receivers.

  • Comment number 11.


    Congratulations on the launch of a new service. Could the follow up post go heavy on the technical details please?

    E.g. API end points, protocols, technical documentation needed to implement a client.

    This would save an awful lot of time setting up a packet capture environment and putting it all back together again. Please think of the poor lowly open source PVR/TVR developers.



  • Comment number 12.

    Why has is this only being made available to Virgin Tivo users?
    Surely the BBC should be rolling this out simulataneously to all internet enabled TVs and set-top boxes, including Freeview and Youview.
    What is the justification for allowing one particular providers hardware exclusive use of a BBC provided service (even temporarily)?

  • Comment number 13.

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

  • Comment number 14.

    This is all very well but utterly pointless unless you are a Virgin customer who happens to have the Tivo box!

    Why isnt this available on SKy for example with its HD Boxes which can handle on demand services and also multiple screens via the red button?

    I quick check indicates that 44% of the UK population now has Satellite compared to just 13% having cable.. So why have the BBC chosen the smallest available platform to launch this new advanced service???

  • Comment number 15.

    Read the flippin' article!

    TiVo was chosen as it is open source, so allows easier development. Anyone who has Sky Anytime+ will tell you it took a long time for the iPlayer to launch due to development issues arising from having to work within Sky's framework.

    This will be available on all connected TV's soon - and I assume this includes Sky customers who are connected - but for now it has been rolled out for what is essentially a beta test.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Twenty million people a month press red on the BBC and our ambition is to develop the service and increase the size of our audience."

    That may have been true when Sky and Freesat had 5 red button channels but I bet you'll stop telling us how many presses now.

    Removing the extras "to be in line with Freeview" was a mistake and will ultimately reduce what the BBC covets most, viewers.

    I personally found plenty of things on the red button not broadcast elsewhere (Horrible Histories at the Proms still being the best example) but now it's rarely anything except an extension of what's on BBC1.

    Poor show all round.

  • Comment number 17.

    Firstly could I suggest you embed the video from the press release on this page? I read the article and thought "This seems like an obvious place to include a video, why is there no video?" It turns out there is one, you just buried it behind a link to the press release in the middle of the article. For those of you looking for a clearer explanation of this announcement, take a look.

    The video appears to show this new platform existing side-by-side with the current iPlayer on connected TV experience, maintaining two disparate interfaces. It seems as though one of the features of this new connected TV experience is access to on-demand programming, an obvious duplication of functionality?

    Lastly for the haters/moaners/trolls: Of course in a perfect world this would be made available to every household tomorrow, but that clearly isn't feasible. Virgin's Tivo is in 1.2 million homes (according to the aforementioned press release). In comparison TalkTalk (admittedly not the only way to get YouView) had less than 30,000 YouView customers in November. It is also a single, known hardware platform unlike Freeview/Freesat boxes. That just leaves Sky and Virgin; the article repeatedly praises the openness and ease of development Tivo offers, presumably an advantage over Sky. In that context Tivo doesn't seem like such a crazy launch platform.

    Those of you who still just want to be angry, you'll just have to wait for an expanded rollout next year... the same wait you would have had if the release was held until all platforms were ready.

  • Comment number 18.

    I hope this service doesnt get cut half way through the season as the red button did or it changes its stream 4 laps from the endof a race, i used to rate the red button untill the new bloke took over, now its rubbish

  • Comment number 19.

    cool!! I'm going home to watch it on my Tivo box now!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Good to see text stories now available in sport, but so far only headlines. It would good if there were separate sections for football, cricket, rugby etc and there is no football results, fixtures or league tables.

  • Comment number 21.

    Had a play this afternoon, big improvement on what TIVO had before, but hope to see more content soon. Although there are now text stories in the sport section, there are still no football results, fixtures and league tables. Also good that there is now a weather menu, but only a brief five day forecast is available. A good start, but hope there is plenty more to come.

  • Comment number 22.

    Seems okay, tbh it doesn't that much different to what was there before (other than screen layout changing, content seems the same)

    As for the question 'why only launch it for one particular format' Thats not unusual, most new software/apps etc once it's been through internal testing will be thrown out out to a smaller group initially before releasing it to all (good example Windows 8, was available as a RC months before the original release date). Ensures that any issues missed during initial testing (which will happen) can get addressed before general release.

  • Comment number 23.

    BBC is a shareholder of YouView. This must have been in development at the same time as YouView. Such an integrated system would have been an obvious thing to implement in YouView. The BBC has effectively given a unique selling point to a competitor.

  • Comment number 24.

    What would be really useful on red button and on DVDs for that matter would be easy access to information about the program showing. eg cast list, date made, director etc. Things that used to be in radio times!

  • Comment number 25.

    Why are you all getting hung up on service providers?

    This is undoubtedly going into smart TVs soon, so will be available whatever your platform if you have a recent set.

  • Comment number 26.

    I don't know why people are complaining about it being available on Virgin TiVo. Presumably none of you we're complaint all the while you've had services that virgin customers didn't.

  • Comment number 27.

    Oh dear.

    Yet another sign of BBC personnel thinking that change - in and of itself - equates to improvement.

    I'd be happier to pay my licence fee to keep the technical development and innovation people, etc., at home for a year (or longer) than to have so many unnecessary changes to more-than-adequate services which are already fit for purpose.

    If an innovation is needed, let the commercial sector pay the expense - and, potentialy, reap the rewards.

  • Comment number 28.

    Unless this is available on freeview, it is an outrageous theft of licence fee. The BBC should not be supporting rival pay TV operators and especially those that host and therefore fund Sky (a channel whose owners persistently lobby against proper funding of the BBC). The BBC should be spending its money on television including proper sports coverage e.g. every F1 race live, Home nations internationals live. The legacy of the Olympics should be sport coming home to the BBC not a flashy red button that the majority cannot access.

  • Comment number 29.

    So when is this going to be on Sky and Freesat?

  • Comment number 30.

    I agree with most others WHY is Virgin the service provider? Are they paying? Seems like another own goal by the BBC A positive though TV will never be the same no clashes of programmes even on Christmas day

  • Comment number 31.

    I thought the original excuse for crippling the satellite red button service was to bring it into line with the crippled freeview service. now you launch an improved service for Virgin Tivo first! Surely you should have kept the existing satellite and freeview services running, and turned them off when a suitable replacement was in place for the given service.

  • Comment number 32.

    So why do you launch it on a service that much of the country has no choice to have as cable is not in their area?
    BBC is a public service for all UK that the public fund, so you should launch this service on a platform that EVERYONE has the choice to have if they want it, like freeview, YouView or Sky!

  • Comment number 33.

    "The service is presented in a feature rich yet powerfully simple experience that is suitable for just about anyone."

    So is there any Text to speech reader or Audio Navigation included in Connected Red Button, or is it destined to be, like Ceefax, not accessible for blind people?

  • Comment number 34.

    oooo excellent - this means we'll be able to have live interactive service for the next 8 odd months of the royal baby! Can we have a live feed to an empty car park outside a hospital where we could interview a host of people who have no actual connection with the royals other than they went to the same school and a number of people who have also had a baby. Can't wait!

  • Comment number 35.

    Just to clarify for a few of the prior contributors - not everyone has YouView or Sky either. And in the case of Sky, why should licence payers' money be used to bolster an organisation that is committed to engineering the BBC's downfall?

  • Comment number 36.

    It is of some concern that the BBC seems to be cutting back services that are available to those with older and/or poorer specification devices (i.e owned by the less affluent) while rolling out services that can only be accessed by high-end, newer and more expensive devices (and platforms) mostly owned by the more affluent.

    Surely this is completely contrary to what the BBC should be about? Its not even as if it is cutting services to legacy devices. Non-connected Freeview and Freesat TVs and STBs are current products.

  • Comment number 37.

    JohnnyB67, so what are Virgin if they are not a separate commercial organisation???

  • Comment number 38.

    @35 Intertesting comment here https://www.engadget.com/2012/12/04/bbc-connected-red-button/ about Sky.

  • Comment number 39.

    What about freesat? That is suppose to be the solution to the freeview problem

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi everyone, thanks for all the interest and comments on Connected Red Button. I wanted to pick on the platform selection questions that a number of people have raised.

    We have worked closely with Virgin as a launch partner for a number of reasons. First, every Virgin TiVo set-top box is connected to a quality network. Second, Virgin TiVo runs a platform that enables partners like the BBC to deliver products and services that flow seamlessly from live broadcast telly. Third, until now Virgin TiVo subscribers have had access to a red button service with a limited set of features; Connected Red Button changes all that.

    Of course, we spent much of 2012 working closely with other device manufacturers and service providers so we can be sure the technologies that underpin BBC Connected Red Button are in place. We've made excellent progress together, and will be bringing Connected Red Button to many more platforms in 2013.

  • Comment number 41.

    @ Matt. Thank you for your comments.

    i would still like to know whether Connected Red Button has accessiblilty features for visually impaired viewers.

  • Comment number 42.

    @ Sue. Hi Sue. Connected Red Button does not currently feature the assistive technology you mention in your comment. We have designed the product to be usable for people who have visual impairments and it has been tested with a representative sample of users as well as internally reviewed by our Usability and Accessibility team.

    Going forward we are actively working with platform holders to define how text-to-speech/audio navigation could be delivered at a platform level (rather than in the Connected Red Button client itself where scalability and performance present major issues).

    The BBC does take accessibility seriously and it forms part of our Diversity strategy. I hope this helps.

  • Comment number 43.

    Thanking you.

  • Comment number 44.

    If you find it acceptable to limit red button content to the internet why not do the same with radio, thus freeing up bandwidth for a second video stream over the air which all Freeview folk would receive, but the minority with the couple of Connected TV's that can receive this service.

    I've a "connected" Humax STB (one of the most popular models around), but although it could receive the iPlayer it couldn't receive the Olympic service. Will the BBC be working to ensure any device that can currently receive the iPlayer can receive any new "connected" services, or will we be expected to line Sony or Panasonic's pockets yet again and upgrade yet again to a device which will probably be out of date in a couple of years when the next fad comes in.

  • Comment number 45.

    @ Brekkie. I do think Freeview does need the Radio Channels to make the Freeview DTTRs friendly to visually impaired viewers.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Matt - question about the news section. Why isn't the page you go to when selecting News at the top the News Home screen? It doesn't seem to make sense to click News, and then click again to get to the News Home. Would it make sense to list all the categories right there in the red panel when you first enter the news section.

    Then presumably all the text stories could be accessible from there in the new style (white text on dark background with smooth scrolling) rather than the black text on white background, where text is just nudged up or down one line per click?

  • Comment number 47.

    Sorry BBC, but I pay my licence fee to watch program's on my TV, not on virgin, sky etc etc.
    You have destroyed this years coverage of the UK snooker championship by turning the clock back some 10 years in terms of coverage, or lack of it to be precise.
    Why didn't you keep the red button as it was before until you got your new system working on other platforms then gradually reduced it as and when you had it up and running properly?
    If you are going to stream program's over the net then that's a complete waste of time for me, as I have limited Internet, useless speeds and the constant buffering renders it useless.
    I don't watch the rubbish that's put out on tv these days, but I do enjoy watching sports, all sports and the F1, snooker and tennis coverage on the red button was second to none, but you have absolutely destroyed it with the reduction in feeds. The BBC needs to seriously reassess where it's going, are you a television broadcaster or an Internet broadcaster because if you are the latter, then can somebody please explain why I am paying a TELEVISION Licence fee for?

  • Comment number 48.

    I never agreed with plans to use part of the licence fee to fund broadband roll out but if it's the way BBC are now looking to deliver their content surely they do have a responsibility to ensure ALL licence fee payers can receive the service. They hid behind "platform neutrality" to axe services on Sky and Virgin (rather than use "platform neutrality" to improve services on Freeview), but the digital divide when it comes to broadband is much greater - and unlike with TV it is generally not through viewers choice. People in poor broadband areas have to move if they want a better service.

  • Comment number 49.

    The news section has been missing on Connected red button for at least 3 hours , Do you know the reason for this ?

  • Comment number 50.

    It seems odd to have rolled this out when most platforms are not ready for it. Virgin TV is relatively small, and making no attempts to roll out fibre in to new areas, why should they get a head start over Youview?

  • Comment number 51.

    @ Martin. Hi Martin, the problem was caused by an unsupported image format being unintentionally introduced to the Connected Red Button News feed. The problem was fixed around lunchtime yesterday and we are shortly releasing a change to the software to prevent a recurrence of this issue.

  • Comment number 52.

    Isn't it time to stop using Flash content on your website when so many people now browse using iPad?


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