BBC BLOGS - Sport Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Changes to BBC Sport on the red button

Post categories:

Ben Gallop Ben Gallop | 15:28 UK time, Thursday, 22 October 2009

Next week the BBC will be making some changes to the Freeview service which will have an impact on our sports coverage.

My colleague Rahul Chakkara, who runs the red button platform for the BBC, has explained on his blog that High Definition is being launched on Freeview.

We know from the feedback we get that HD is increasingly popular with sports fans and this development will mean that even more viewers get to watch BBC Sport's big events in the best possible quality. Next year promises to be a big year for sport - the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Open golf will all now be broadcast in HD on Freeview.

What the arrival of HD does mean, though, is that there will be a reduction in the amount of capacity available on Freeview for our interactive services. So for sports fans we will not be able to offer as much additional sport as we have up to now.

Our approach to big sporting events like Formula 1, Wimbledon or the World Snooker Championships, has been to offer as much extra choice as possible - and on Freeview that has often meant providing two additional video streams. Similarly, during busy periods there are times when the red button allows us to broadcast more than one sport simultaneously.

The red button on a remote control
The BBC's red button coverage is changing

With the arrival of HD, one of those red button streams will be going from Freeview. So unfortunately this will limit the number of choices we can offer.

There are some important points to make here:

Firstly, and crucially, it is worth stressing that this change only applies to Freeview. The other digital TV platforms, that is satellite (including Freesat), and cable - which for technical reasons have always offered more choice than Freeview on the red button - are unaffected.

Secondly, the sport that will be going from Freeview will still be available online. The BBC Sport website offers the full range of video streams that you see on satellite and cable - and the internet is an increasingly popular means for fans to follow their favourite sport. Hundreds of thousands of people now watch sport on this website every day.

Thirdly, we are looking to provide alternative ways to cover big events - including options to broadcast more sport on the BBC's linear digital channels.

BBC Sport has always tried hard to ensure that a schedule of sport coverage is available both Online, in TV listings magazines; within the Red Button service and via the Now/Next option on your on-screen electronic programme guides. This latter option will help you to find the Sport content that you are looking for and record it if your Freeview device allows it.

And finally we are working with colleagues in the BBC and beyond to develop the next generation of technologies that will help provide even more choice for viewers. The buzzword here is IPTV but in practical terms this simply means the amount of choice that is currently provided on the web would in future be available on TV as well. The aim is that the first set-top boxes with this kind of capability will be in the shops some time next year.

So, in conclusion, from October 27 the Red Button sport video on Freeview will be impacted - but despite the limitations of this platform, BBC Sport remains committed to finding other ways to bring the latest action to our audience.


  • Comment number 1.

    Useless. The BBC have no commitment to Freeview any more or they would be trying to acquire more space for the red button instead of HD services most of us won't get for 2 years and will require equipment upgrades.

  • Comment number 2.

    Can you replicate F1 HQ streams for the 'lost' material that will only be online?

  • Comment number 3.

    Why does 'Free'view have so many pay channels on it, the BBC should lobby ofcom to get all the topup, gambling, chatline garbage removed, I would have thought it more important for the BBC to be on the number 1 platform for terrestrial TV, rather than abandoning a red button stream and poncing off to satellite.

  • Comment number 4.

    Snooker and motogp is the one that will suffer from this. Plus I wont be able to watch Strum V on freeview next Friday

  • Comment number 5.

    Overall it's not too bad, I watch the majority of the sports on my computer anyway where available, and plan to have freesat installed soon...losing one small stream on freeview isn't the worst news in the world :D

  • Comment number 6.

    Pre-moderation - every single message is checked before it appears on the board. All of the BBC's children's message boards are supervised in this way.
    Why are you treating us like kids?

  • Comment number 7.

    First, you cut Grandstand and Roger Mosey said...we will offer more to viewers on the red button, now you cut services on the red button via Freeview.
    Im very angry that the BBC can keep slicing Sports coverage.
    The again, some days, the red button is pathetic, just the sports news.
    So BBC, you think people will watch via the Internet...are you the new Kentaro?
    Thinking that the TV is not a good platform, now the Internet....sorry BBC, people will watch on TV regardless, but who, WHO wants HD on Freeview...not me leave that to Sky and Virgin Media.
    Because Sports are shown in HD...oh yeh...the 'major' events...once every year or every 4 years....what about when theres no Sports on HD? Waste of time it will be, why scrap a freeview Sports feed for HD?

  • Comment number 8.

    does this mean we'll get HD on freeview then?

  • Comment number 9.

    Watching sport live on the internet just isn't the same, and should not be treated as a viable alternative to TV coverage. Not everyone, especially in rural areas, has good enough broadband to watch without the video stalling all the time you know!

    Considering the public finance the BBC and it is an organsiation which is supposed to reflect the public's interests, I think a BBC Sport channel should replace BBC Parliament on Freeview. It will be more watched and be of more interest to more people than a recording of some debates on a tedious topic from two weeks ago. I suspect the first victims of this re-shuffle will be the 125cc/250cc shown before MotoGP races, and Magners League rugby. Two sports which are shown exclusively free on the red button, and which are completely unsuitable for internet viewing.

    That said, obviously the arrival of HD to Freeview is good news, and I hope sports events will play a big part in the HD schedule. Word is that Mr Ecclestone is bringing F1 into HD next year, now that demand for it is high enough. Also hoping Six Nations and Rugby Autumn Internationals will be HD too.

  • Comment number 10.

    When i first heard this, as a big user of the red button and and as i only have access to Freeview, i was pretty annoyed.... but actually most of the stuff on it is just looped which is totally unnecessary cos we can record the red button on freeview, which is its advantage over Sky/cable.

    So what it now needs is clear scheduling in the listings mags etc so we know exactly whats on when. So tomorrow on the red button on freeview could be like this....

    6.00-6.40 125cc
    6.55-7.55 MotoGP
    8.10-8.55 250cc
    11.00 Robbie Williams
    12.00 Dizzee Rascal
    1.00-2.00 Doves
    2.30pm FINAL SCORE
    Derby v QPR - Audio options.
    7.30 Robbie Williams
    8.30 Dizzee Rascal
    9.30 Doves
    11.00 Robbie Williams
    12.00 Dizzee Rascal
    1.00 Doves
    2.00-3.00 Shirley Bassey
    3.45am-6.15am MOTOGP: MALAYSIA LIVE
    4.00 125cc Race Live
    5.15 250cc Race Live

    That actually has more than we are getting tomoro with 2 streams (Freeview wont get Danny Baker or the Football audio options tomoro even tho theyre on Sky/Cable cos of the electric proms) - but with this theres a lot less looping.

    So will there be some more intelligent scheduling and more info on schedules so you can cram more in please?

  • Comment number 11.

    although i now have sky, i was once stuck with freeview. the whole hd debacle is a discrace and the interactive services on freeview should not have suffered, if people want hd they should get sky or freesat, hd on freeview for *everyone* wont be available for years, as usual manchester or london get the best service

  • Comment number 12.

    Thank you for boasting about all your fancy changes to video delivery. As someone outside the UK, I *love* being told of all the new toys I can't play with.

  • Comment number 13.

    People wanted HDTV on the DTT platform, now they're getting it they are to dim to grasp the fact that you can't get a quart into a pint pot.

    You wanted HD on the DTT platform - now start living with it!

  • Comment number 14.

    'Its digital its better' ...... no it isn't! I have not bothered with digital Ceefax for years now, its just 'slow', and the best bit about the digital platform was the red button, and now that's being eroded. And just how many people realize that all of their present set top boxes are 'HD' redundant and they need new ones?

  • Comment number 15.

    Frankly, there is still only a small minority of pople with HD tvs, and in the middle of the longest recession in recorded history, people don't want to go out and buy new tvs. You claim that these services are available on satellite and online. Howver, you neglect to think about the fact that a) It can be expensive for people to stream long periods of video (If people use more than their allowance in a quarter they can be charged a fee by their ISP). Also, not everyone has the opportunity to get freesat (Those in rented accomodation), and a large proportion of people can't afford to pay for cable.

    Remember, we ALL PAY THE SAME LICENCE FEE!!! That should mean a homogenous service for everyone. If that means not moving towards HD, then so be it! The BBC have recently been cutting budgets all over the shop, and now is not the time to be investing in HD broadcasting!

  • Comment number 16.

    I think the reaction to Rahul Chakkara's blogs will tell you what people think of this decision. If, like me, people want HD coverage, get Sky or Freesat, who offer it without compromising other services. Considering the amount of rubbish of Freeview, it's scandalous that the BBC are removing a popular service to accommodate HD. Not to mention the fact that, for now, it's only going to be available in London/Manchester, and will require a new box. I bet STB manufacturers love this decision.

    I don't even use Freeview, but I hope the BBC seriously reconsider this move.

  • Comment number 17.

    Although i said earlier this would be ok with a bit of well thought out, intelligent scheduling, i also think it would be a very good idea if a second red button stream was made available at weekends by sharing with BBC Parliament. Parliament can run 6am Mon - 6pm Fri, with the second red button stream running over the weekend.

    Seems like a good idea to me, any chance of this happening?

  • Comment number 18.

    Will I need a new set top box or will the box built in to my HDTV work fine?

  • Comment number 19.

    Apologies for the delay in moderating your comments. We should be back up and running now. Thanks for your patience.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Ben - Can you give us an assurance that 301 will remain fully available to interactive services? There have been reports on Digital Spy and other media-savvy outlets that BBC Three and CBBC will be increasing their hours, and that 301 may be given over to them. Losing 302 is clearly a blow to Sport. Losing 301 as well would be utterly disastrous.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm a student - there is no way I can afford more than the set-top box I've already invested in. Which, incidentally, I bought primarily for the sports on the red button - mindful of the Winter Olympics and Wimbledon in particular.

    I also often try and do work on my computer while keeping an eye on the sport on the TV - guess I won't be able to do that any more!

  • Comment number 22.

    Isn't this precisely the sort of decision where the BBC could have consulted its viewers? I know we can't have everything, and I know the majority can't always decide, or there would be wall to wall football and no cycling. But given a choice between two red button streams and one stream alongside HD, we can give an opinion. The BBC can't be bound by it, but it could show it had listened.

  • Comment number 23.

    Just to clarify... 302 and News Red Button services are being scrapped this month. To get HD you will need a new Freeview HD box. HD won't be available in the whole of the UK until 2012.

    So by removing red button services for HD they are not only taking away service everyone can receive on a Freeview box for something only a very small % of viewers will be able to get. And it won't be ready for another two years in the whole of the UK.

    Also, HD will only work properly if you have a really good signal. Whereas the red buttons will.

    Makes you wonder who the BBC actually consulted about this.

  • Comment number 24.

    Bit of extra info here- although the freeview HD starts in the London area in December, some other areas won't get it until their area switches over completeley to digital. That, for me here in North Yorkshire, means a wait of over 2 years, til 2012. And that will be the case for many more too. We will be losing 2 years of freeview coverage for no gain. Disgraceful

    I demand that the BBC refund part of my license fee, or buy me a freesat box and dish.

  • Comment number 25.

    We know from the feedback we get that HD is increasingly popular with sports fans and this development will mean that even more viewers get to watch BBC Sport's big events in the best possible quality.

    Your commitment to HD doesn't seem to extend to some of the championship matches you've won the right to this season - like tonight's for example.

  • Comment number 26.

    BBC 3 + 4 do not transmit during the day. Why are they not used for sport etc during the day instead of red button or in addition to this?

  • Comment number 27.

    @ wrustle

    BBC 3/4 share space with CBBC/CBeebies so can't be used during the day.

  • Comment number 28.

    "BBC 3 + 4 do not transmit during the day. Why are they not used for sport etc during the day instead of red button or in addition to this?"

    Because the space that's used for BBC3 and BBC4 in the evening is used for CBBC and Cbeebies during the day.

  • Comment number 29.

    Grr, this is a complete and utter joke. You're putting something on the red button that nobody will use, in place of sport streams that evrybody watches?? Smart move BBC. So now when i go to channels 301 and 302 for snooker streams i'm going to get the BBC's favourite players on 301and pointless HD on 302. So i won't get to watch my favourites anymore, thanks BBC..glad to see the license fee is being used wisely.

  • Comment number 30.

    Talk about an over-reaction! Seems to me the BBC are just tinkering with the services they offer a little, in order to compete with sky and cable.
    It's pathetic that you're all getting so annoyed! It's not as though we're losing an actual channel.
    On the red button now we're only getting extended final score extra. What a loss that'll be!?!

  • Comment number 31.

    I read on one of the comments that the News Red button is going - Why?
    Who wants HD anyway? Not me. Also, is it just me who gets absolutely nothing on Freeview Channel 305?
    I'm starting to agree with my mother; digital tv is ill thought out and stupid compared to the simple analogue system that my Pembrokeshire family home lost in September.

  • Comment number 32.

    #13 When Ofcom announced the plan with BBC and ITV agreement, there was NO mention of losing BBC services. CH4 were to vacate a channel on the ITV/4 mux for BBC use. This is not happening and therefore we are not getting what was promised in the deal. The BBC losing two services WAS NOT planned at all. I suspect that the furore over ITV3 and ITV4 being lost by Freeview Lite has made CH4 go back on the BBC Space on that MUX.

  • Comment number 33.

    ... and of course the real villain in this is the Government and their servants Ofcom taking bandwidth from UHF TV for other purposes post switchover. The Broadcasters should have protested more over this.

  • Comment number 34.

    What on earth are you doing? This is the most ridiculous decision I have heard in a while. Why should we lose sporting coverage on freeview, unfortunately the downfall of freeview is that you receive less channels. So you now are taking one of these channels away from us, that sounds fair. So people with satelite or cable don't suffer, woopdeedoo. Thank you BBC for taking more sport away, I'm sure this will impact on tennis coverage, moto gp and snooker. Oh yes, but lets make way for a weeks highlights of the same F1 race again (Boring!)
    And just for the record, sometimes computers are slow and therefore the coverage is disrupted so the sporting footage we are losing will be of a poorer quality. Once again, thanks a lot. 21st century and we are taking a step backwards in a way. Rant over.

  • Comment number 35.

    I imagine the BBC sports people are as upset about this vile decision as the viewers. Freeview should have the full range of "interactive" additional channels, same as satellite. Reducing to a mere one to make way for a semi-HD service that isn't yet broadcast, requires equipment which isn't yet available, and which most people don't want is so obviously wrong as to beggar believe. There are also questions regarding free space on the C4 multiplex which the BBC could use, and some technical measures which could be taken to free up space for HD while allowing 302 to continue.

    There's something far deeper and darker afoot here I think, and sports broadcasters and viewers alike are the losers.

  • Comment number 36.

    "We know from the feedback we get that HD is increasingly popular with sports fans and this development will mean that even more viewers get to watch BBC Sport's big events in the best possible quality. Next year promises to be a big year for sport - the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Open golf will all now be broadcast in HD on Freeview."

    Only trouble with that statement is that it is blatantly untrue, the BBC knows full well that only a small minority will be able to get a HD DVB-T (Freeview HD) service once the service starts and the new STBs become available in the High Street - which will not be for some time anyway. Those who want their sport in HD can already access it via HD Freesat - when the BBC chooses to actually buy/broadcast such content - by making these changes, and I accept that the BBC has had both it's arms and legs twisted by Ofcom and their commercial partners, the BBC is actually removing available sports coverage, are you seriously suggesting that if sports fans can't see it in HD they would prefer not to see it at all?!...

  • Comment number 37.

    Why are you selling on the space in areas that aren't getting HD for a while instead of continuing to broadcast the service until they get it?

    This all reeks of something especially because the BBC were given an extra space on Channel 4's multiplex to avoid this problem.

    Why not get rid of some of these useless babe/shopping/gambling/BBC Three channels instead?

  • Comment number 38.

    Ben isn't in the office at the moment and we notice that there have been a lot of questions. We suggest that the following postings may provide you with some useful answers so please take a look:

    Pete Clifton:

    Rahul Chakkara:

  • Comment number 39.

    Folks - got a bit confused. Rahul Chakkara's first blog has already been linked to in Ben's original piece, the second is a follow up to the first. Sorry for the error.

  • Comment number 40.

    You will regret this

  • Comment number 41.

    Was shocked and disappointed to see this happen. I don't have HD and am only losing here. Surely the point of Freeview is to be an entry level digital service, but you upgrade the bit people have to pay out extra money to receive and reduce the already limited terrestrial sports coverage.

  • Comment number 42.

    Will this affect red button coverage of the Bowls in Scotland next week? Currently red button is the only way viewers south of the border have been able to view this event. Likewise the Welsh tournament in February next year.

    It seems a waste for BBC production teams to attend these two events when only BBC Scotland and BBC Wales viewers can see them. Come on BBC, either show them on terrestial so everyone can see the events or keep them on the red button.

  • Comment number 43.

    This is mad. Why are you doing this?

  • Comment number 44.

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

  • Comment number 45.

    What a well thought out decision.

    grahambrack in message 22 is spot on.

    It would have been nice to let the licence payers have an opinion on the plans. The survey currently being undertaken by the BBC Trust on the licence payers views of the Red Button service ( appears to be a little bit late as the decision about the service has already been made for Freeview users.

    As r1_fan says in #10 a clearer thought out strategy for using the remaining space on 301 and less of the continual looping would be at least some help. Although I have doubts that 301 will last too much longer.

  • Comment number 46.

    There's a saying "Nothing in life is free" This certainly applies here. I support the "Unique" way the BBC is funded and begrudgingly pay to have top-up services via cable to get the best of both worlds because I live in one of the areas NOT covered by Freeview services. Oh how I waited for the day that I could watch it all for free, but,alas, no longer. Pay for the licence that provides the service, pay again to watch it. TOTAL CON.

  • Comment number 47.

    In addition to boilerplated's points in post 36, the suggestion that viewers want HD over extra channels is a nonsense. The last survey I know of shows the public want the exact opposite by a considerable margin (40% extra channels to 23% HD)

    Perhaps Ben can point us to some more recent research that suggests Freeview viewers now want HD over extra channels? Judging by the responses in these blogs, though, I somehow doubt it.

  • Comment number 48.

    Yet to hear one sensible argument for this change.
    Don't know whether it is BBC fault, Ofcoms or the Governments but I do not care about HD and would like more red button options not less.

  • Comment number 49.

    Well this coming weekend looks like we will be missing
    Saturday 7
    Rugby Union

    1700-1930 Live coverage of Wales v New Zealand, with commentary options. (Not available on Freeview.)

    while on Sunday 8

    the Football League Show will finish early so they can show the Moto gp

    So not as bad as this weekend just gone (obviously stopped showing Shirley Bassey) but bad news for those wanting the rugby or get up late for the football league show.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi Ben, you are very quiet on this subject. Perhaps it would be a good idea to respond to the questions and criticism of this.

  • Comment number 51.

    Already this weekend (on a rather quiet weekend for sport really) this has severely affected coverage on Freeview, and the space needs to be found ASAP, by February at the latest in time for the Winter Olympics.

  • Comment number 52.

    Hi there - I can answer a few of the specific queries here.

    2. As it stands, we can only offer HQ video online on a limited number of live events. However, we are working on expanding this in the very near future so more live sports are available in HQ.
    4. We still hope to be able to offer Scrum V as often as possible - certainly the majority of Scrum V matches will remain available.
    29. Admittedly, the two-table offering from major snooker events will be a difficult one for us. Where possible, we will aim to offer the alternative table to that being shown on the network channel, so two tables will be on offer for at least some of the time.
    49. For absolute clarity, Freeview viewers can of course watch the Wales v New Zealand rugby union match this Saturday as it is available on BBC Two. What will be unavailable are the commentary options.

  • Comment number 53.

    May as well ask this quesiotn here as it's not been answered where I posted it last time: what coverage will there be of the Winter Paralympics this time round? It was a few years ago when all we got was two hours' highlights on BBC Two on a Sunday afternoon some time after the closing ceremony ...

  • Comment number 54.

    I have just had a look and found the freeview HD does not start until March 2010 so why have we lost the extra red button feeds so soon.
    As somebody whos broadband is very slow 1mp on a good day trying to watch on the internet does not work.

  • Comment number 55.

    Typical - Like analogue to digital services before - no consultation just a cursory explaination about what is being done to OUR Services that we pay for -
    Does the BBC still maintain that they have a public mandate because there are a few "commoners" in the BBC trust?

  • Comment number 56.

    52. At 5:32pm on 03 Nov 2009, Matt Millington - BBC Sport Video Portals Editor wrote:
    4. We still hope to be able to offer Scrum V as often as possible - certainly the majority of Scrum V matches will remain available.

    pity Eastenders is more important


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.