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New Antiques Roadshow play-along app

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Tom Williams Tom Williams | 09:45 UK time, Thursday, 3 January 2013

I'm Tom Williams, development editor for Red Button and dual screen in BBC Vision.

Today we launched the Antiques Roadshow play along app for mobiles and tablets. It's a first for the BBC and builds on the hugely successful Red Button play-along game we launched last October.

Play along with Antiques Roadshow from your mobile

Here's how it works: launch the app while you're watching Antiques Roadshow, press 'Play along with the programme' and choose a value for each of the objects featured.

A clock tells you how long you have before the expert gives their valuation. The app keeps a running total of the objects you value correctly and gives you a ranking at the end of the programme: novice, enthusiast, connoisseur or expert.

You need to get over 75% correct to get to expert level and believe me that's quite a challenge. At the end of the quiz we'll link you to more information on the top finds of the episode you've just watched and from the series so far.

Why Antiques Roadshow?

As development editor my priority was to create a companion experience that would genuinely enhance a programme for a mainstream audience.

We piloted a number of titles but Antiques Roadshow stood out. As soon as we tested the first prototype of the app with audiences we saw what a buzz it created in the living room.

The interface is simple enough not to distract from the programme and the interaction builds on existing behaviour - who doesn't shout out what they think an item's worth?

Antiques Roadshow is a key title for BBC One regularly pulling in over six million viewers on a Sunday night.

It's now in its 35th year and Simon Shaw, the series editor, and his team are constantly seeking out new ways to keep the programme fresh while maintaining the core values that audiences love.

The new app does exactly that.

Play along with Antiques Roadshow

The app is one of BBC Vision's portfolio of companion experiences - a strategy driven by Victoria Jaye and outlined in her blog last year and part of the BBC's plans announced by Daniel Danker to build on our Red Button offer in a connected world.

Viewers love playing along

The mobile and tablet app builds on the existing Red Button offer providing a much improved interface and the ability for multiple players to play along in the same room.

So far, over 1.5 million unique users have pressed red to play along and the response on Twitter has been incredibly positive. You can read some of our favourite tweets about the red button service on Tom Bedwell's Storify page (N.B: includes strong language).

Simple magic

At the heart of the app is a great bit of technology that's totally invisible to our audiences - audio watermarking.

We've embedded inaudible signals in the soundtrack of the programme that are picked up by the microphone of a phone or tablet.

These are used to identify the episode, line up the correct questions and then display them at exactly the right point in the programme.

In short it provides a way of joining up your TV and mobile/tablet without having to do anything complicated. In fact it makes the whole experience feel a bit like magic.

It has the added bonus of synchronising the app with the programme however you choose to watch it, whether on BBC One, a recording of the programme or on BBC iPlayer.

There's more information on audio watermarking and one of our early pilots in the R&D blog.


The app was built and designed in Salford by the BBC Future Media team. It's editorially driven by the television production team in Bristol, enhanced by onward journeys into the history behind the programme's top finds from Knowledge and Learning with invaluable contributions from R&D, Marketing and Audiences teams here in London.

It's been an amazing feat of collaboration across multiple teams considering that four-way video conferences were often the only way of linking the teams together.

An alternative career beckons?

Give it a go and let us know what you think

The Antiques Roadshow website has details on how to download the app and information on when the programmes go out on BBC One.

If you can't wait until Sunday, you can play along now with the programme in iPlayer. Give it a go and see how you do. Are you novice, enthusiast, connoisseur or expert? We'll be keeping an eye out for the hashtag #AntiquesRoadshow if you want to let us know.

By the way, the image above shows my score last time I had a go so beat that if you can.

The app works on Android mobile devices up to 7" running firmware 2.2 & above and iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches running iOS 5.1 and above.

Tom Williams is development editor, Red Button and IPTV.


  • Comment number 1.

    This is absolutely the future of television viewing. Good job!

  • Comment number 2.

    Tom, really an excellent development and looking forward to taking part! Have come across so many 'theoretical' articles on the technology convergence in the media space - it's great to see a working, practical application of it all.

    @Greg Tyler #1 - I agree... this is the future!

  • Comment number 3.

    The app works on Android mobile devices up to 7"

    And why exactly, is that? Unless you take specific dedicated measures to break it on purpose, an Android app that knows nothing about a ten inch tablet will run just fine on one, with the worst case scenario being slightly odd looking layout, which is clearly preferable to not working at all.

    It's so disappointing that the BBC does so much great stuff, this included, and then always finds a way to stuff it up a bit.

  • Comment number 4.

    This app sounds great, it's a pity I can;t use it as I have (and an increasing number of people have) a Windows 8 Phone. When will this platform be supported by the BBC?

  • Comment number 5.

    This is all very admirable, I'm sure - but what about all the millions of license fee payers who do not have the latest fandangles. I am sick and tired of seeing services being removed from standard digital TV, to platforms that require the purchase of a plethora of gismos that are too small for me to use, or too expensive for me to buy. Angry also that the BBC is prepared to give so much away for free to the rest of the world via the Internet, while increasing the License fee and cutting basic TV services.

  • Comment number 6.

    Antiques Roadshow app? Seriously how big is the actual market for this app?Someone I know who works for the BBC said they had at least 10 fulltime staff + contractors working on that app for at least 6 months. Shame the BBC couldn't use that resource to sorting out android iplayer/bbc media player... As usual your senior management seems to have its priorities all wrong.

  • Comment number 7.

    You know what show you should do next? Pointless. Guess why.

  • Comment number 8.

    I really enjoyed the app. It was really good fun playing along. My husband thought he was a purist and was scathing, but by the end, he was interested in it too and guessed on the Durer print. By the way, I was an Enthusiast. Plenty to work on next time!

  • Comment number 9.

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

  • Comment number 10.

    How many downloads has the app had to date, please?


  • Comment number 11.

    The Red Button play-along idea is wonderful ... except that it is totally unavailable to anyone using BT Vision and has been ever since BT "upgraded" its service many months ago. It is so frustrating to be invited week after week to play along and then find such interaction is impossible. BT says it is fixing the Red Button - but how many months do we have to wait? More importantly, why does the BBC keep inviting up to participate when participation is NOT possible?


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