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Roger Mosey | 13:14 UK time, Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Every so often I check back to the blog I wrote at the end of last year to see how we're doing collectively in terms of the landmarks we expected to pass in 2010. Pretty good so far, I'd say: we've had the Olympic ceremonies announcement and the launch of the mascots, and we learned a lot from the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

But I also identified a key moment as being the World Cup - and here, leaving aside a daft remark about how great it would be if England got past the quarter-finals, is what I said last December:

"For the BBC there'll be much to learn about our audiences' use of media. We know that video streaming on the internet is getting more and more popular - but quite how much we'll only find out when England are in action at a time when people are in the office or on the move. Similarly with mobile. How we follow the biggest sporting moments in a digital world is shaping the services we offer in 2012."

Well, now we know. Last week our colleagues in BBC Sport had an amazing week for digital media. There were six million different users of this website in one day on June 23rd - smashing all previous records. There were 1.5m users of audio and video; and when England were playing Slovenia there were 800,000 people connected to live streaming at the same time - beating a previous best for the BBC of 360,000. So something that was counted in the tens of thousands when I was Director of Sport for the 2006 World Cup is now nearing the million mark; and there can be no doubt that the digital revolution is underway.

But we should be clear that this isn't an "either/or" - television and radio or online and mobile. It's all these and more. As someone who enjoyed the heart-stopping England v Slovenia commentary on 5 Live, I know the continuing importance of radio services; and there were close to 20 million people watching England v Germany on BBC One on Sunday afternoon, with millions more in pubs and at Big Screens. I've always been clear that for London 2012 the mainstream high definition TV experience is key for success.

The BBC iPlayer
The BBC's iPlayer has proved to be a great success

However, the vastly increased amount of digital content - and the much greater choice you have available - is making us debate some of what we offer. Among that is the role of traditional TV highlights, and with the conspicuous exception of Match Of The Day - which goes from strength to strength - we've witnessed a marked decline in the numbers of people coming to highlights shows. The reasons are obvious: more live programming means less need for viewing through scheduled highlights, but also there's the massively greater availability of content that you can view at the time and in the place of your choice.

We know the great success of the BBC iPlayer, but demand is also high for the audio and video you can get to quickly on websites like BBC Sport and BBC News. At the time of writing this, I'm able to watch Andy Murray's victory on Monday or Brazil beating Chile - and there are the sports bulletins across our 24-hour news services too if you want to catch the best bits of recent action.

So thinking about 2012 - our idea is that our services will offer more than ever before, but you'll be in charge of the scheduling not us. With live action going from nine in the morning to close to midnight, and all the best of the day available on iPlayer and online and on regular BBC News programmes and the BBC News channel, is there a need for a traditional daily TV highlights programme at all? Somehow I don't think we'll lack the opportunity to see the greatest moments many, many times.


  • Comment number 1.

    My guess is that you will always use highlights programmes as they are cheap way of filling the schedules at times of day where you would otherwise be broadcasting inevitable repeats. Look at the current Wimbledon schedules: we start the day with "Wimbledon Yesterday" and end it with "Wimbledon Today". The question is what would the alternative programmes be? Repeats of "Cash In The Attic" and "Dad's Army"? Of course you will have highlights programmes.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't think highlights shows are necessary unless they provide us with interviews to add to the insight as well as analysis from the people in the know.

    In the context of the Olympics, I think it will be good to have a highlights programme since so many sports are represented.

  • Comment number 3.

    This isn't something that I'd thought about, but I can see how the use of iplayer via the TV and other mediums will eventually lead to the demise of the highlight programme at these sort of events.

    With the scheduled not yet formalised, would I be correct in thinking that everything that's being broadcast will be available online? Even if the event doesn't have any audio, still being able to view it would be an advantage. However, would the current website be able to cope with the demand, and bandwidth required for virtually 15 hours a day constant streaming of events?

  • Comment number 4.

    Those of us who don't want to watch hours of all the Olympic sports will still need a highlights package to watch all the important and/or entertaining action in one or two hours

  • Comment number 5.

    Highlights programmes are a vital aspect of every major sporting event.

    As the name suggests, they highlight the key momemts of a day, and give the viewer the opportunity to witness a wider away of sports (for the Olympics) and receive summaries and the moment of victory with more ease.

    Not every body has the time to scour through the iPlayer to see all the sporting events of the day. In terms of the Andy Murray match, while yes there is the opportunity to view the whole match, it is far more convenient to watch the Today at Wimbledon highlights, to be taken through the progress of the match at a faster pace, and still getting to see the key points, or best shots.
    Or Brazil vs Chile. I could watch the full 90 minutes, or tune in to the highlights programme with Colin Murray, to see 5-10 minutes of the best bits, plus a bit of punditry afterwards - aswell as the pointing out of something amusing, that may otherwise have been missed.

    Plus, it is still far from the case that all sport coverage goes on the iPlayer. The various interactive channels cover different matches during Wimbledon, and will show a wide array of sports during the Olympics. But unless they were also shown on one of the 'main' BBC channels (1/2/3/4) they will not appear on the iPlayer.

  • Comment number 6.

    If the 'red button' is the way forward....where were the F1 European GP highlights over the weekend?

    I missed a chunk of the race and was looking forward to hitting the 'red button' that night - but when I got there the only option was 'World Cup Highlights' and within that it was running repeats of the days WC news.....I know it was a Sunday so I wasn't expecting anything Wimbledon related but there was definitely no F1 there on Sunday or yesterday...

    That said - I absolutely love 99% of the way things are being presented to us during the WC, Wimbledon and most of the GPs - so I would have to say that most of the time your team are doing a great job taking the way we watch sport forward

  • Comment number 7.

    I've loved having the highlights available on TV and iplayer through the world cup. As 'SportingNonsense' has said above, not everyone wants to watch a whole match, and the additional punditry on highlights programmes is an additional positive element. The highlights have nicely bridged the gap between the 3 minute round-ups online, and watching a match that has already happened in its entirety.

    The highlights shows are still vital, even if many will watch them on iplayer more often than on TV.

  • Comment number 8.

    I still think highlights will be important in 2012 as the quality of action on a normal PC is not quite as good as on the telly to date. It's miles better than a few years ago, but still a bit inferior. So I'd choose highlights on the telly if the option existed.....

  • Comment number 9.

    There should always be a place for the highlights on tv especially for something as big as the 2012 Olympics.

    Working on GMT, the daytime events are going to be out of reach for a large % of people who work standard business hours.

    Website/iPlayer highlights are certainly useful for wanting to watch specifc sports coverage but a broad show on tv has to be the easiest watch and the best way to soak in the event as a whole.

    The only gripe with BBC highlights is whether they can 'limit' the amount of time spent on presenters and sports pundits talking and focus on the actual games....wasn't the most featured person on 2008 Olympic coverage the face of Gabby Logan presenting?

  • Comment number 10.

    The Olympic Highlights were good for me as I could switch on around 7 and see whats being going on.
    Do the same for Wimbledon but have not bothered for the World Cup, Too much laddish banter then the seriousness of ITV's World Cup Highlights which have been a bit better.
    Highlights have to stay but they need to be on the major channels, F1 isnt, why isnt that on BBC1 or BBC2 rather then squashed on BBC3?
    ITV showed F1 Highlights on its Main Channel, why cant the BBC do the same??

  • Comment number 11.

    Please, Please, Please do not scrap your highlights programmes!!

    The highlights are perfect for so many people who suffer from having work/college/families and many other commitments during any major sporting event. This is especially true for an event like the Olympics.
    Yes iPlayer is fantastic if you miss an event that you are particularly interested in, but the joy of the Olympics is being able to watch the 'best bits' from so many different sports. Personally, I would always watch the highlights shows (whether live or via iPlayer), however would only be able to watch a fraction of the live shows due to other commitments, and due to the fact that the Olympics are almost non-stop, would struggle to find any time to 'catch-up' using your on-demand service.

    Please keep your highlights programmes, people simply don't have the time to watch a 4 hour tennis match or 90 minute football game, unless they can fit the live event into their busy schedule.

  • Comment number 12.

    Interesting views - thank you.

    Just to clarify: I'm sure there will be highlights you can watch on your TV via the red button, and increasingly you'll be able to watch iPlayer on your main TV too. Cable customers already can, and our Project Canvas (which has just been approved by the BBC Trust) will offer a wide choice of content from the Olympic Games whenever you want it.

    What I'm questioning, then, is whether highlights should displace any continuing live action on one of the main television channels; and it may well be better if we enable people to choose their own highlights rather than packaging them ourselves in the old style.

    Just one individual point for now: leia27 in #3 - yes, the aim is to deliver all 5000+ hours of Olympic Games content online and achieving that is one of the major aims for the BBC in 2012.

  • Comment number 13.

    Ultimately it seems clear that highlight shows will be a thing of the past, but we are not upon that era yet.

    Not to get into the usual age debates, but right now the way the world operates is still largely dictated by the elder generation (50+). A large proportion of these people, perhaps not willingly or knowingly, are why analogue TV still hasn't been switched over to digital, they are why TV companies are still limited in keeping on-screen data within non-widescreen formats, and are holding back many other aspects of the modernisation of TV because Ofcom requires UK broadcasters continue to cater for the those still watching on out-dated technology - and unfortunately of all the world's generations the 50+ are the ones least capable of adapting to the modern world (big generilastion there obviously).

    Thats perhaps not a bad thing, as it allows the technology to be better developed to get it ready for when the audiance is ready, but what it essentialy means is that you won't see the real modern change in TV until my generation (25-40) have replaced the current elder generation.

    Between now and then there will be a big fundamental change to TV - it will un-doubtedly be streamed through the internet in a BBC iPlayer-style format where the audiance picks what they want to watch when they want to watch it with the only aspect of scheduling left being the time from which the programs become available. Even "live broadcasts" would be streamed, allowing the user to either watch a delayed full coverage or actually stream it live.

    We aren't talking hovering cars or cities on the moon here, this is a progression of TV that has already started happening over the last 5 years and we're effectively waiting for a higher national average broadband speed before we see the first trials. That will lead to internet TV broadcasting and digital broadcasting running side by side until the net broadcasting becomes the dominant style and it ceases to be financialy viable to keep digital.

    Because of this change, of which there is absolutely no doubt is on the (perhaps distant) horizon, a lot of traditional show formats will be lost.

  • Comment number 14.

    I wonder how many of those i-player viewers were people at work premises that dont have TV licences? Has the BBC decided to back down on its rather luddite stance that people who pay their TV licence cant watch sport at work without their employer buying a licence too?

  • Comment number 15.

    There's still the casual sports-watcher, or the suddenly-busy ex-student who doesn't have the time to keep up on the coverage across all those sports. If you're only interested in the most extraordinary events of the Olympics, then a pre-packaged highlights program is still the best place to get that.

    There's still going to be a demand for quality sports journalism, selection and presentation of clips, and content earmarked for everyone in the country to bring us all together. That niche will be filled by highlights programs for years to come, I hope.

  • Comment number 16.

    Highlights are as important now as ever as although we may have more options to watch content we want to see live, it still means we're watching that at the expense of other action. And of course on the oh-so wonderful iPlayer (yes, I am being ironic) viewers choosing to watch on-demand are much more likely to be looking for a highlights show rather than the 15 hours or so of live coverage for the day.

    No reason at all to change the status quo for 2012 - kick off with Olympic Breakfast to preview the day, have Olympic Report around 12.30pm and 5.30pm and then the highlights around 11pm to round up the day.

  • Comment number 17.


    And also note the Olympics isn't the World Cup. They've just got roughly three games a day to cover in highlights whilst with the Olympics there are literally hundreds of events to cover each day - and viewers can't see them all live, whether or not they stick with BBC1/2 or watch the interactive/online streams.

    Highlights are also crucial for bringing to attention moments which probably wouldn't attract people live either - for example a surprising achievement in one of the less popular Olympic sports (the Taekwando Brits come to mind from Beijing). It's also a time to reflect on the day, bring in the medalists and preview forthcoming events - something which shouldn't intrude too much on the live coverage.

  • Comment number 18.

    From a personal point of view, the World Cup highlights shows have been redundant to me. Even if I missed a daytime game, you always get a couple of minutes during the live coverage of the evening game.

    Of course, the problem is, for the slightly less dedicated viewer in 2012, they don't want to sit down for 3 hours just to see that Gold medal they heard about earlier. And if they don't want to do that - they probably can't be bothered to go hunting it out online.

    I suspect it will all come down to scheduling. Essentially, highlights serve a more casual TV audience who would be less inclined to spend hours watching live coverage or finding what they wanted online. If the scheduling of events pushes a highlights show so late of an evening that it no longer reaches these casual viewers, there's really little point in it at all.

  • Comment number 19.

    Anapplefellonmyhead in #18 hits the, er, nail on the head in the final sentence.

    But another key point emerging through many of your comments is about navigation - how people find the content they want. In an analogue world it was pretty simple: in Sydney in 2000 we only broadcast 300 hours of host content and there were the live programmes and then conventionally scheduled highlights.

    For London, the commitment to offer more than 5,000 hours of host content has the challenge of "how do you find what and where?" If, in the example I often cite, you want to watch table tennis round the clock: what's the easy way of finding it? But equally - if you want to watch the 5 best British medal moments of the day, where are they? Our teams are working on these issues now.

    Meanwhile, Phil Wells in #13 has some very interesting thoughts - though as someone who's 52 myself I don't quite buy that generational divide! The serious point is that some of the fastest-growing sectors online are now driven by older people and really we want everyone to share the fantastic choice that's now available.

  • Comment number 20.

    It's not just about the casual viewer though - you've also got an obligation to provide the service to the fans who expect it and will be still watching towards the midnight hour and soaking up every second of it. Plus exactly what else will the BBC be showing - much better to show highlights of the biggest event this country has ever seen than some old American film as usual.

    What time do we expect live action to be continuing too during the games - considering London's record with major events, I'd imagine the local authorities probably want everyone tucked up in bed by about 10.30pm.

  • Comment number 21.

    Brekkie in #20: the point about fans, surely, is that they'll opt for the sport and event of their choice. So there's not a great virtue in a traditional highlights package in which we choose to showcase swimming at the top if what you really want is rowing?

    We're expecting live action in some sports to continue until close to midnight. It currently looks like a range from 0900-2400, but you're probably right about 2230 being a likely end time for the big blockbusters like athletics. More details of that are likely next month when the World Broadcasters meet in London.

  • Comment number 22.

    I was perhaps a little too eager in my age generalisation, but I think the point still stands whether the age group in question is 50+ or 70+ or 90+ etc.

    The BBC did a piece on the digital switchover a while back and in it they predicted 1000's of people, mostly those of pensioner age, will discover their TV no longer working when analogue is switched off because, even despite all the advertising, there are still sizeable collections of people that either don't understand or aren't even aware of it.

    In the same report, they also mentioned how the BBC collected data suggesting that there are still 1000's of people watching the BBC in black and white. That was from last year.

    These are the people that are unlikely to have a computer or anything else connected to the internet, and if they're watching in black and white then the only "red button" for them turns the TV off.

    These people are also still license fee payers, and I would expect Ofcom will be on the BBC's back to ensure it still caters for them - so for that reason alone I would be somewhat surprised if something like a highlights show stops anytime soon.

    That said, I do honestly believe that, as I said above, the concept of "TV broadcasting" will eventualy become a thing of the past.

    As you mentioned, there is a question about how to access all the new content on offer via things like BBC iPlayer - and its that accessability that will ultimately drive the change. People want all that the iPlayer offers, and more, but while the iPlayer remains a seperate entity to the TV broadcast, which is still the case even on Virgin Media while its accessable from the red button, its going to remain somewhat long-winded to find what you want - and that gets made worse by each broadcaster having a different system.

    That is what will change, and broadcast schedules as whole will be lost as a result, I feel.

    So instead of switching on your TV and flicking to BBC1, you would instead bring up a menu that offers the "broadcasters" alphabeticaly - so you pick "BBC" and then you'd be faced with one menu system that allows you to stream any BBC show currently available, similar to the iPlayer.

    Essentialy its a merge of everything on the red button, everything on the iPlayer, everything currently in a normal broadcast schedule - all acessable from one TV menu but with no fixed scheduling.

    When that happens, there is no longer any real point to a highlight show because there is no longer any way to miss any coverage at all.

  • Comment number 23.

    Roger - many Olympic fans would like to watch both the Swimming and the Rowing though, but if they clash in the schedules (as athletics and swimming usually does over the middle weekend) you can't watch both - so the highlights are still needed.

    I understand though now the question you're asking if lesser events will continue through to midnight - there is a huge difference between highlights at 10.35pm (or later if the news is pushed back), and after midnight. I think though you have to play it like Today at Wimbledon - schedule the highlights in the expectation the "big blockbusters" ending at 10.35pm, but be flexible enough to continue with live coverage if something of note is happening elsewhere.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi Roger,

    Appreciate the dilemma regarding the highlights and you can't please everybody, but live action has to take precedent.

    However I hope to be going to the Games as will no doubt a few million people over the 16 days, so when getting back to my hotel I would still want a highlights show to catch up on what I have missed. If I am at the cycling, I want to know how the athletics got on and vice versa. A late night 11pm to midnight slot is the obvious answer, perhaps repeated the following breakfast time before the live action begins again.

    Personally I would love to go to two or three different events each day, but I love all of the Olympic sports, and what puts me off is that I would be missing other events whilst I am at one event. I have an ipod touch and would love to be able to get live streaming of say the athletics in the evening whilst I am at the cycling, to keep abreast of what is going on elsewhere. Is there any chance that the various venues could include free wifi connection, as otherwise it will be very costly?

    Another reason for retaining some sort of highlights show is that I love to keep an archive of the major events for my own personal collection. Come the build up to London, I love getting out my DVDs of the games in Beijing etc and my old VHS from Seoul and watch some memorable moments again. The only way to capture the best bits for me is by recording your highlights shows to keep for posterity! If you have highlights on the red button only then I can't tape them on my Sky+ box as you cannot record the interactive streams - unless that will be sorted by 2012 in line with the ability to do so on Sky's football first programme when you can record an interactive stream of any game you choose?

    Finally, slightly off-topic, but I love the theme tunes from the BBC for the major events, although for the first time I am hugely disappointed by the BBCs effort for the World Cup which is much too short and much less memorable than ITVs on this occasion (in my opinion). Not a criticism, as BBC usually wins 9 times out of 10. My point is, how about getting some public involvement for suggestions of what iconic British tune to use for the theme to London 2012 to make sure it is one that most of us will love and cherish, rather than risk choosing your own and a facing possible backlash if it is not popular?


  • Comment number 25.

    Phil in #22: good points again. This is, of course, a wider dilemma for the UK and other countries as more and more services go online. So 'digital inclusion' for everyone in society is high on the agenda.

    Andy in #24, and picking up points from Brekkie and others: there definitely will be highlights whether on a red button loop or on the BBC News Channel where World Cup Sportsday has been a success - as well as online. The question we were ventilating is simply about a long-form network TV highlights programme when there will be other conflicting demands on airtime after the late News programmes and when audiences for that kind of programming are falling.

    I sometimes have a look at what's being said on TV Home Forum or Digital Spy, and I think the important thing to underline is we haven't made any decisions yet. But part of the point of this blog is to share externally what we're discussing internally - and the comments you've been making were part of a chat I had yesterday with Dave Gordon, BBC Sport's head of major events, who'd been reading them too.

    On a couple of detailed points from Andy: (1) I'm sure there will be an expanded wi-fi network by 2012 but it's not yet clear how this will be sourced and funded - and it's part of the discussions with the mobile industry and the ISPs; and (2) on music - we're not going to think about music for at least another year. However, while I'm a supporter of democracy in all significant respects - I'm not sure a public vote is the best way of choosing? It really boils down to would the public have chosen Damon Albarn for Beijing or Pavarotti for Italia 90 - and whether sometimes a single creative decision can turn out to be the best one (which I think it was in both those cases).

  • Comment number 26.

    Probably for the best not to let the public choose the theme tune! I'd back a return of Chariots of Fire myself, but the BBC do more often than not end up getting it right by not going for the blatantly obvious.

    Re: highlights on the news channel. I think there needs to be a distinction between what I'd call Olympic News and Olympic Highlights. Usually a sports news programme would be rounding up the events, while "highlights" will include some events being played out as they were broadcast.

    If the news channel is to be involved I think it's better it becomes the home of Newsnight for the fortnight and that BBC2 carries on with live coverage through to midnight or so whilst BBC1 switches to highlights after the late news. (I'm hoping if things like athletics continue past 10pm, the news would be pushed back accordingly to keep channel hopping to a minimum.)

    And with highlights possibly running late, it is very important they are scheduled on a channel rather than on the red button. It's surprising to see World Cup Football Focus on the red button (but not on Freeview) whilst BBC1 airs Bargain Hunt. Apart from the news, there is absolutely nothing during the Olympic fortnight which should take priority over the games - whether that's at midday or midnight.

  • Comment number 27.

    What is important about a 'highlights' show is that it concentrates on the actual events and has absoilutly NO waffle by the so called experts about what someines victory 'means' to them or how they 'felt'. This needs to be at the end of the day and needs to include ALL the medal winning events at the very least.

    Lets have the proper highlights on the main BBC channels and leave the touchy feely stuff to the red button.

    I was in the US during part of the winter olympics and the prime time evening shows on NBC were dire because they often missed out on the live action and prefered to show the 'emotional' stuff rather than the action.

  • Comment number 28.

    yes iplayer and the net are fine for watching one off sporting contests, ie football or rugby games etc, but for a multi event occasions like the olympics or the commenwealth games, i would much rather be able to sit down and watch well presented highlights show on my nice big telly in glorious HD, with analysis and interviews.
    The only down side the highlights show is that they tend to concentrate on the sports like athletics and swimming which i probably already seen, what i want to to catch up, and see more of, the ones i have'nt like shooting canoeing archery etc.


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