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How to find the BBC's Olympic content

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Roger Mosey | 09:10 UK time, Tuesday, 25 October 2011

I often get asked - most recently at a meeting with students last week - what we think the toughest challenges are for the London Olympics and the BBC.

Externally it's not difficult to spot them - transport, security, the sheer scale of the organisation needed. But internally there's one that crops up a lot that we haven't previously shared. So as part of the occasional series where we seek your feedback on our planning for 2012, it's time to talk about "navigation".

The story starts from our pledge to deliver more content from the London Games than ever before. At peak times we intend to bring in 24 streams of live content to the BBC's website - which is four times more than Beijing - and we'll cover every venue from first thing in the morning to the close of the session.

If you want to watch table tennis live all day, you'll be able to. But there's still the traditional service taking you to the moments that matter on our flagship channels BBC One and Radio 5 Live, though this time supplemented by BBC Three running all day and an extra digital radio service alongside 5 Live Sports Extra.

British table tennis player Darius Knight

Darius Knight is expected to be one of Britain's table tennis stars at London 2012. Pic: Getty

Just that paragraph alone illustrates the challenge of navigation. We'll need to point to what's happening in the next hour or so on BBC One - or the fact the 100 metres final's on that night - but also to what's on BBC Three at the same time or available via the red button and how our HD services are being configured.

For the first Games of the post-analogue era, almost everyone will have more choice than ever before; and you can see precisely how much in our online guide.

But with choice comes complexity and we know that audiences have sometimes struggled with the pace of change.

On the humourous side, there was anecdotal evidence that some people responding to a red button prompt for the first time turned their set off because the power on/off was coloured red. But we also saw research a couple of years back that suggested more people thought they were watching in HD than there were HD subscribers - because of a confusion between "HD ready" sets and actual HD services.

And all of us, if we're honest, have different aptitudes with technology. I was thinking about this a few days ago when my service provider asked for feedback on getting to grips with a digital video recorder, and questioned whether the main assistance was the online help modules or user guides or emails - or trial and error. For me, it's mainly the latter: I try a few menus and see what works.

But there are some bits of technology that I don't exploit at all - as, for instance, with the "connected TV" in the kitchen that remains unconnected to wifi and simply churns out channels from the built-in Freeview.

For 2012, though, we want to spread the message about the multitude of ways you can receive content at a time when it's at its richest. It's part of a legacy of a more digitally-aware UK; and connected TV - the power of the internet alongside your conventional choice of channels - has real potential.

But if you want the BBC iPlayer on X-Box, PlayStation or Wii - it's there. If you want to catch up with the best of the action, there's also the BBC Sport website or clips on your mobile.

There will be round-the-clock HD on your TV but also the possibility of some 3D and we want to make sure that people can find the new DAB service on their digital radio. Not to forget alerting them to where they can find Big Screens in cities across the UK showing the Games live to thousands of people, or the special Super Hi Vision screenings in Glasgow, Bradford and London.

The question, of course, is how we do this without a torrent of messages that annoys more than clarifies. Technical sophisticates - many of the people on this site - would know the main points already; while for people who want to sit back on the sofa and watch the BBC One HD action it might seem like needless detail.

So this is where we'd appreciate your comments.

What are the key things you'd like to know about to help you find your way through the thousands of hours of BBC Olympics? And where would you expect to find guidance about how to find the athletics from two nights ago, or how to connect your TV or games console to wifi? What might help you personally around the schedule - is it Tweets or fuller EPG listings or something different again?

The worst thing for us, of course, would be if we delivered all these services and nobody could find them. But the opportunity for audiences is finding their digital way in 2012 through the allure of the Olympics that then allows longer-term enjoyment of the programmes, platforms and devices that are on offer.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm interested how you're planning to use the data you get from this blog post. As you've pretty much already explained, the people who comment here are already in your top few percent of technical ability by the fact that they follow a BBC blog.

    It seems like the opinions you really need are people who
    a) Aren't especially tech-savvy, and aren't used to navigating the BBC websites, and
    b) appreciate the amount of data coming in, and the need to segment it in a useful way.

    Now I don't know how many people are Venn diagram fans, but I can't see a lot of overlap in those two sets. Comments here, as well-natured as they may be, are probably just going to be self-reinforcing for the ideas you already have?

  • Comment number 2.

    "For the first Games of the post-analogue era, almost everyone will have more choice than ever before;"

    Well, aside from those in Northern Ireland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne of course.

  • Comment number 3.

    @Gareth Adams: we're asking the questions because it's work in progress. We use a variety of audience research methods to make sure we reach as wide a cross-section of people as possible, but individual items of feedback on this blog are often really helpful.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm sure they'll be plenty of information on your website etc, which will be great for people like me who will use it a lot.

    However it's vital to remember as well the older generation or the one's who are less technical, who will just use their TV magazines. My mum and dad for example will get the vast majority of their info form the Radio Times or from a newspaper. So don't forget to provide a lot of information to these publications, as well as all the modern ways of doing things.

  • Comment number 5.

    What would be useful would be a Radio Times pullout, also downloadable from the website, giving a daily sport by sport listing, with the relevant BBC channel coverage underneath each, rather than a channel by channel guide. For example, if you want to watch an England hockey qualifier, you can look up the hockey listing and go straight to the correct channel to view. If you can also show coverage by other non BBC channels where BBC may not be covering, that would also be useful.

  • Comment number 6.

    Will you be providing extra coverage on local radio/tv of those sports held locally? For example, the Ricoh Arena in Coventry is hosting some of the football matches. Will BBC Coventry and Warwickshire be providing commentary on all these matches, and not just the ones deemed to be of wider interest?

  • Comment number 7.

    Oh dear no mention of BBC World Service. Does this mean the excellent Olympic Sportsworld is no more ? I listen here in the US to Sportsworld every weekend and have listened to the Olympic programme they do from Sydney, Athens and Beijing. Really the BBC at its best - I think they won an award for their coverage in 2008. London won't be the same without this programme. Is it a victim of the BBC cuts ?

  • Comment number 8.

    As someone who will be getting information from the website rather than the Radio Times, I agree with the suggestion for a daily listing for each sport. A channel listing can also be useful, for example, for knowing if it is possible to record something while at work, etc.

    Is there any plan to make feeds that can be viewed via the red button content recordable by Sky+?

    Maybe an obvious comment, but keep all listings as up to date as possible. With hockey for example, while the fixture lists for the pool matches are known well in advance, ensure that descriptions of the knockout matches inform us which teams are playing once this information is known. It's a bit annoying to be informed that a semi-final is going to be between Winner Pool 1 and Runner-up Pool 2, and have to go elsewhere to find out who the teams are.

    @ReadingDave: Surely you mean GB rather than England?!

  • Comment number 9.

    "If you want to watch table tennis live all day, you'll be able to."

    Great News - It's good to know that I'll be able to watch all the table tennis. It's usually ignored by the BBC, so I'll be making the most of this opportunity (except when I'm at the Excel to watch it live of course).

  • Comment number 10.

    Just to second ReadingDave's comment (#5). I think a lot of people will be starting from the base of knowing what they want to see, and wanting to know where to find it, rather than having to trawl through the channel lists circling what they want to see. I'm sure your IT bods can come up with some mega-interactive online planner!

  • Comment number 11.

    To those asking about a daily guide to what can be viewed online, we currently have this ... ... and we will be launching a new (in fact completely different) version of that next year, ahead of the Games. But that may help for now as you plan when to be in front of your laptop!

    Lewis Wiltshire,
    Digital Olympics Editor,
    BBC Sport.

  • Comment number 12.

    Just to add my voice to what has already been sggested. I think a dedicated printed TV guide for your coverage throughout all platforms would be great, distributed through the national and local newspapers. Despite the likes of Sky TV guides and online guides, I still prefer to see what's on and plan what I watch through reading my tv guide I get with my paper.

  • Comment number 13.

    My question regards the iplayer.

    With so many events on at the same time, and with some viewers actually attending events while other events are on, iPlayer could become a heavily used tool. How much of the content you show - be it BBC1, 2, 3 or interactive, will actually end up on the iPlayer?

  • Comment number 14.

    Please spare a thought for the older generations who may be housebound in front of their TVs, and maybe aren't internet-savy, or have a computer, and can't follow twitter, but still love the Olympics (I have a large number of elderly friends in mind, who fit this category). They grew up with the Radio Times, and would be very happy thumbing through a paper listing, which can live on their armrest, or in the zimmer pocket, and which they can pick up and read with a magnifying glass. Please, please, in this push for technology, dont' ignore the generations who gave birth to our athletes' parents...

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm intrigued with the comment about "the athletics from 2 days ago." Does this mean we will also have a very large contingent of sports available on iPlayer too? Or only repeats of the highlights/summary shows on the flagship channels?

    If the content can be found in a lot of places *and* a lot of times, you need more than a listing. How about an online query system that you can ask for a sport, and it gives you options? Or you specify a broadcast, and it tells you alternatives. Accessed via text, email, or twitter perhaps.

    I'll hopefully be volunteering - so I'll be wanting to know what's going on around me as well as at other venues. Perhaps you can pre-register somes times & sports, and be sent updates as to what can be seen online; perhaps even getting updates when written stories are posted - a kind of multi-media RSS.

  • Comment number 16.

    My view is that people will want the information in two ways:
    1) I want to watch this sport/event, when is it on
    2) What is on at this time
    Online of course this information is easy to supply but there should be a printed guide which has the information in both formats. This could be distributed with the Radio Times and hopefully national newspapers would allow you to distribute with them as well (preferably without charging you for the privilege). Local radio/tv could help with the distribution as they'll be at events like the torch relay in the few weeks leading up to the games. This should be available in other formats such as large print.

    The other important thing to communicate is any changes once the guide has gone to print. If there is no sailing due to lack of wind or a whole day of archery is cancelled due to heavy snow (we are talking about the UK in August) people will want to know when the rescheduled events are on. Again the media that will be most effective are the website and the national newspapers.
    Can you talk to other broadcasters (e.g. Sky) about changing users recording settings and recording the rescheduleded programmes as well?

  • Comment number 17.

    You mention HD and put a link to BBC hd. Most content will be on BBC One HD, and BBC HD is planned to be a simulcast channel of BBC Two in the DQF plans.

    Can you now tell us if the simulcast will be postponed until after the Olympics and that BBC HD will be used for Olympics and for the limited 3D coverage.

  • Comment number 18.

    Thanks for the comments. Working backwards:

    @Piet Boon: the plan is that the Olympics will be on both HD channels

    @Stackey83 and others: I'm sure Radio Times will read your suggestions with interest!

    @pomwombat & SportingNonsense: all the action should be available as catch-up on this site and the iPlayer

    @adamuk: we're expecting BBC World Service to have a similar offering to Beijing 2008, bolstered by being broadcast from the host city.

    @ChrisRamsbottom: I'm told that's under consideration, but nothing firm yet.

  • Comment number 19.

    Navigation under these circumstances is very tricky. I recommend that you keep things in the same place. for example the different channels are always in the same place on screen, showing whatever they are showing; sports are always in the same place with a po-up window showing what they are showing. Key event (100m final) are also in the same place, but you need to ensure that very busy days are catered for by ensuring space for multiple events. It is very tough for you, but I have every confidence you will produce an outstanding web experience. Oh, by the way, don't forget that it all needs to look good (for instance, live scoring on golf is usually really bad on the BBC site).

  • Comment number 20.

    i hope put as much enthusiam in the tennis and football(i love both) as they do with the swimming(i hate swimming,it takes way to long to complete all the stupid classes eg butterfly,why not the frog.)

    the olympics for me is the mens 100 metre final,nothing else realy matters,especially the womens 100 metre.people wants to know the fastest human not the 5000th(probably more than the fastest women)

  • Comment number 21.

    I guess there are probably already plans to have "here's what's on now over on BBC Three and the red button" from time to time between events, a little like when they go around the courts at Wimbledon.

    I think it'd be useful to have a run down of what's happening that day and when/where to find it during the Olympic Breakfast programme, perhaps a "six to watch" or something similar, with a mix of popular and offbeat-but-interesting events.

  • Comment number 22.

    Roger you talk about in your Blog on how to find Olympic Content on the BBC and how various BBC Outlets will be devoting large amount of airtime to the Olympics, however after the Olympics how is the BBC going keep the profile up of Minority Events on its Outlets, is the BBC going to pledge more support for such events, even a Major Sport like Football is being hit hard in terms of BBC Coverage, this is shown by the BBC not bidding for FA Cup and England matches, as well as 5live announcing that from next season they are going to drop the 2 Commentators set up, instead only using 1 Commentator for every game, how do Minority Sports stand any chance after the Olympics, when a major Sport like Football is being hit hard?

    This article is quite relevant to my above Questions:

    BBC should do more for minority sports, says rival

    The BBC has been urged to create a permanent legacy to the 2012 Olympics with a long-term commitment to minority sports.

    The corporation has announced plans for a so-called "pop-up" digital radio station, BBC 5 Live Olympics Extra, to broadcast for about 20 days during the London games next year.

    But UTV Media, owner of BBC 5 Live rival TalkSport, said it was relatively straightforward for the BBC to showcase less popular sports during the biggest multidiscipline event ever staged in the UK.

    UTV called on the corporation to "grasp its longer-term responsibilities to support a permanent legacy for the Olympics".

    The rival broadcaster also called on the BBC to share its exclusive rights to sporting events such as the Olympics.

    A number of sports organisations backed UTV's call, including Badminton England, the England Hockey Board, the Angling Trust and the Rugby Football Union for Women. The groups signed a separate letter to the BBC Trust asking it to "codify BBC radio's responsibility to sport in all its guises, not just popular sports such as Premier League football".

    Even Sport groups are attacking the BBC, for there lack of interest in Minority Events, do you agree with the sentiments by UTV?

  • Comment number 23.

    I would hope that the BBC wouldnt be going on too muchj about the BIGGER events on all day, a really annoying thing about Beijing was the Presenters obessed with the main events rather than the one they were showing.
    Good to have a main event schedule on the BBC Website, Magazines and such plus what about the various Interactive options? Prehaps a small graphic at the bottom when 'in the Studio'.
    I agree with Chrisramsbottom's post, we should get the Local BBC Sports Teams involved in the local area in their events such as my local station being the same (BBC Cov & Warks) plus would help the Stations provide coverage to the national BBC Radio networks with match reports and such to make sure the Olympic Football isnt missed out.

  • Comment number 24.

    @Fedster - I'm not going to comment on UTV since I gather it's a submission to the BBC Trust. But on the general points:

    1. Our coverage of Olympic sports is extensive as Claire Stocks' blog post made clear:

    2. I hear excellent stuff about Olympic sports on 5 Live in London Calling; and I watch World Olympic Dreams and British Olympic Dreams, which cover a wide range of athletes and events. There's already discussion about how some of this continues to Glasgow 2014 and beyond.

    But 3. Audiences clearly expect major sports to be on the BBC. I'm not going to revisit the controversy about you-know-what, but licence fee payers unquestionably want us to continue with Premier League football (on Match Of The Day, 5 Live), Wimbledon etc - which inevitably means we have to prioritise those against other events in terms of airtime and resources.

  • Comment number 25.

    In response to what Roger has written - Minority Sports havent had the best coverage on the BBC since 'you know what' was taken off the TV?
    Minority Sports are usually crammed onto the red button under 'Sports Multiscreen' with no attempt to advertise the Sports available on there or highlights crammed into the midnight hour on BBC2.
    Minority Sports used to flourish on the BBC in the past but theres no banner, no major Sports show like you know what when it was available.
    It seems the BBC does want the Major events - 6 Nations, PL Football, Open Golf, Wimbledon, F1 (or half of it) but why at a price for Minority Sports?

  • Comment number 26.

    @Foxes - I actually meant the more recent controversy about motor-racing... But on our age-old argument: unfortunately there's just not strong enough audience support for multi-sport highlight programmes, and we ended the other you-know-what because its format was no longer viable.

  • Comment number 27.

    Roger, even with the BBC prioritising Major Sports against other events in terms of airtime and resources, the BBC is still losing out, take 5live for example last Sunday the massive Manchester Derby was covered live on talkSPORT, with 5live relegated to Studio updates, the recent Rugby World Cup was also covered by talkSPORT, on TV,ITV has annouced that it has clinched the Rights to French Open tennis, also it is expected that the BBC will lose out on the England/FA Cup Games, and they never even bid ( yes i know that speculation could be wrong, but i will eat humble pie on this Blog, if the BBC win the Rights), so with all that i forsee the BBC losing more events in the near future, which begs the Question seeing as the BBC are not winning the rights to Major events, you might as well in the future try to get some of the rights to the smaller Sports, something is better tha nothing, right?

  • Comment number 28.

    @Fedster: If what you say is true, I'm not then computing "the rival broadcaster also called on the BBC to share its exclusive rights to sporting events"?

  • Comment number 29.

    If the BBC, who is non-commercial with its Public Purposes, will not broadcast a program like Grandstand (oops I said it), then who will. I thought that was what a public broadcaster was about. It is absurd to spend 50 million one tournament that only lasts a fortnight when millions of people play minority sports.

  • Comment number 30.

    And yes Roger, I remember who "killed" Grandstand. But my remark above is not an attack on you.

  • Comment number 31.

    Piet Millions may play Minority Sports, but will Millions watch them i somehow doubt it, yet a World Cup which attracts Tens of millions in Viewing figures, is also played by Millions.

    As Roger said, you cannot justify money and resources to Events which attract low viewing figures.

  • Comment number 32.

    Similar to the recent World Championships, I'd appreciate a daily digest, with timings of interesting events and where I could find them. Due to the dynamic nature of the Olympics (IE we won't know who is contesting medal events until quite close to the time for a lot of sports), this would probably need to be hosted online and posted each morning.

    I'm hoping that everything will be available on the iPlayer so I can grab as much of the highlights as I can....

  • Comment number 33.

    @PaulyBoy - yes, everything will be on iPlayer. And it's a good idea to have daily online schedule updates, along with alerts to very late changes in the transmission plan.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Roger, not exactly in relation to your current blog but can I ask this question please about the broadcasting team?

    You have said that the plan is for all the coverage of all the sports to be available via sport online and red button. How will these be covered, will we see large amounts of the coverage without commentary or will there be any sort of world feed commentary similiar to that used at the last commonwealth games?

    Also when will the presentation, reporting and commentary team details be announced? Thanks.

  • Comment number 35.

    Roger i throughly enjoy reading your Blogs, but may i ask a Question that is slightly of-topic, you are always the Man in the know, and are highly respected, with that in mind could you tell us, is there a massive difference in Cost in sending 2 Commentators 2 a Match instead of 1, i am of course talking about 5live and there recent news, i was always under the impression that the 2nd Commentator would do the post match interviews, and attend the press confrences, as Mike Ingham does when he is paired with Alan Green.

    Could you shed some light on this?

    Are you in favour of the move?

  • Comment number 36.

    @Fedster: you say the kindest things, but I'm not going into my old territory...

    @David Shield: it'll be a mix of UK-only commentary with some world feed, and we'll be announcing some of our 2012 talent line-up in the coming weeks.

  • Comment number 37.

    Can I suggest a red-button service similar to the "Red Zone" offered by Sky Sports during NFL games?

    This would be a great way for TV viewers to see anything important happening either live or soon after. This could be used in tandem with the Sports multiscreen, allowing the audience to switch to a direct single-sport stream if preferred.

    I know that BBC1 coverage will take all the major events live, but this service could cater for the many events happening simultaneously. The previous red button streams tended to take just one sport at a time, this option would allow many different sports' key moments the platform they deserve.

    A competent team of directors and and analysts/commentators should be able to produce a compelling day-long programme that both informs and entertains.

    Is this a possibility, or do I need to find Rover another Oak?

  • Comment number 38.

    Well this isn't going to be easy given the amount of coverage. I suppose you should release full details to the Radio Times and similar outlets and ask them to do a pull out as suggested above. Conceivably you could pay for an insert, but I assume that would be expensive to do. A full and up to date listing on the Sport website is a must, since this is the first place many people will look. Details currently provided by Red Button text are usually unreliable-goodness knows who updates it-but if a special effort could be made to keep this updated say as to what's on in the next 24 hours, this could be used as well.

  • Comment number 39.

    "but I'm not going into my old territory..."

    Worth a try, only reason i asked was because trying to get an answer from the 5live guys, is like banging your head against a wall.

  • Comment number 40.

    @ianp1970 - not sure we can do this with the red button, but there are some great new designs emerging from our online team...

    @jbc336 - thanks, and to take us back to the question in #1: your comments and others in this blog have been read by Radio Times and they're thinking about the best response.

    @Fedster - well, you've certainly expressed your views on the 5 Live blog. My reply wasn't seeking to be hush-hush: it's just the subject was off-topic for 2012, and 5 Live are the right people to ask.

  • Comment number 41.

    Thanks for the reply Roger, looking forward to the announcements.

  • Comment number 42.

    Sounds like the coverage is going to include something for everybody which is great for me notso much for my Mrs who will become an olympic widow.
    As everybody will have there favourite sports and competetitors I would like to be able to enter the key factors on to the website and then receive a txt when certain events or athletes are taking place and which channel I can watch it on.
    For example I would add in what media I have available to me, which athletes or sports I want to watch submit that info then receive a txt reminding me when and what channel it is available to view on. That way I can make sure I get to watch all the medals and personal bests of British athletes and key finals of sports I am interested in.


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