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What is BBC Red Button? The interactive window to extra TV and more

What is BBC Red Button?

Latest news for the BBC Red ButtonBBC Red Button is an interactive service which lets you access extra live streams and features on the BBC’s digital channels, available on Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media and YouView.

BBC Red Button mainly provides access to live broadcasts of sporting events like Wimbledon and Formula 1 races as well as live music events like Glastonbury.

Much of the live coverage of events from the London 2012 Olympic Games was broadcast through the BBC Red Button, with over 24 million people in the UK watching events via Red Button.

What is BBC Red Button? The interactive window to extra TV and more
The Connected Red Button integrates online services like iPlayer on TiVo and Smart TVs

BBC Red Button also brings interactive services like a Antiques Roadshow game, behind the scenes footage, extra scenes, quizzes and extra programme information – not at all dissimilar to the extra content you’d expect to find on the bonus features of a DVD or Blu-ray.

Launched way back in 1999 as BBC Text, the BBC Red Button has a long history and has evolved significantly from its original incarnation. 

What is BBC Connected Red Button?

Connected Red Button is an experimental service, currently confined to Virgin Media TiVo boxes. It provides a new interface with direct links to both traditional Red Button content such as news and weather, to extra video streams, and to the BBC iPlayer.

The BBC plans to roll out Connected Red Button to other broadband-connected platforms such as Freeview HD, YouView, BT Vision, smart TVs and Sky, but there’s currently no public timetable for this. 

What is BBC Red Button HD?

Viewers on Freeview HD, Freesat HD, YouView, and Virgin Media’s HD boxes can get an extra HD stream via the red button, or by going to Freeview channel 303, Freesat channel 980 or Virgin Media channel 994. The BBC said it’s currently negotiating to add the service for Sky+HD viewers.

Latest news for the BBC Red Button

Connected Red Button launching on Virgin Media TiVo

The BBC has dramatically revamped Red Button and will be relaunching it on Virgin Media TiVo.

The new-look ‘Connected Red Button’ service brings up a fresh new menu letting viewers quickly jump to news headlines, other BBC channels and access catch-up content from the iPlayer all through one press of the red button.

News updates, shortcuts to other live broadcast channels and on-demand programmes are layered over the current programme and let you cycle through left and right on your TiVo remote.

What is BBC Red Button? Refreshed Red Button launching on Virgin Media TiVo

Much like YouView blends broadcast with on-demand content over your broadband connection, Connected Red Button aims to provide “a world where the kind of seamlessness from live TV to the connected environment,” in the words of Daniel Danker, BBC general manager of programmes and on demand.

As well as jumping to catch-up episodes of EastEnders or Strictly, Connected Red Button can call up local weather reports and manually search for live weather updates elsewhere in the UK.

Danker said that Red Button is familiar to millions of viewers and refreshing the service was a logical step. Right now, Red Button is accessed by over 20 million viewers a month.

But why Virgin Media TiVo first? Cindy Rose, Virgin Media executive director of digital entertainment spoke of the “deep philosophical alignment” between the BBC and Virgin Media and pointed to services like the BBC News and Sport apps landing on TiVo, as well as the launch of BBC iPlayer on Virgin years before main competitor Sky had it.

Danker also hinted that the working relationship with Virgin Media was easier than with Sky which is a comparatively “closed service.”

Virgin Media TiVo is installed in 1.2 million UK homes and is currently adding over 2,000 new customers a day. TiVo also accounts for 14 per cent of all total iPlayer traffic, so its a significant market.

Compared to connected Smart TV’s Victoria Jaye said that the new Red Button on Virgin Media offered an easier experience rather than having to go through “hubs and menus and app stores.”

While TiVo subscribers will be getting first dibs on Connected Red Button, the BBC has said that other platforms including connected Freeview HD boxes, Free Time from Freesat, BT Vision and YouView would be getting the new service next year.

Danker said that the BBC had been in contact with several smart TV manufacturers but declined to name names so we can expect to see connected set-top boxes, smart TVs and a “whole breadth of devices in 2013.”

The ‘Live Restart’ feature, which lets you press red and go back to beginning of programme, will be headed to Virgin Media TiVo and other services and devices next year.

Again there’s no better ETA on this other than ‘sometime in 2013’ – Connected Red Button is rolling out to Virgin Media TiVo customers now. 

We’ll be back soon with a video of Daniel Danker taking us through the Connected Red Button process on Virgin Media TiVo – stay tuned.

Update: Our hands-on demo of the new BBC Red Button service is now live.

December 4, 2012 

Live streams cut from 5 to 1 on Sky, Virgin Media and Freesat

The BBC has announced that it’s going to drastically overhaul its Red Button services for Sky, Virgin Media and Freesat.

More features and services will become available to viewers but at the expense of cutting down on the number of live streams available.

From the October 15, the number of Live Streams available will drop from five to one. While this will be a blow to sports fans, the trade-off is that a Live Restart feature, which will let you jump back to the start of an episode of, say, EastEnders if you’ve missed the start will be arriving in the coming months.

What is BBC Red Button? Live Restart coming to Sky, Virgin Media and Freesat October 15

Earlier this year, we saw Live Restart arriving as a feature on the web-based BBC iPlayer so it’s good to see this rolled out to Sky, Virgin and Freesat viewers too.

From the new Red Button menu you’ll also be able to jump to a BBC iPlayer style menu where you can pick and choose from what else is currently on the BBC.

The BBC’s development editor for Red Button services Tom Williams says the new changes will come into effect on October 15, and will also include Strictly Come Dancing live commentary, an Antiques Roadshow game and more live music accompanying the 1Xtra and Radio 2 station channels.

BBC Sport output, albeit diminished, will continue to cover Formula One and UK Championship Snooker and live events such as Wimbledon. The BBC Sport website will continue to host multiple streams of live events as before, as will BBC Sport smart TV apps.

Update: Edited on 08/10/2012 – to clarify that live streams available via Red Button will be dropping from five to one on the 15th of October. Live Restart and other interactive services will rollout later this year.

October 3, 2012


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