Thursday, 18 October 2012

BBC scales back Red Button video ahead of connected TV service

The BBC has recently announced that they’re scaling back their use of “red button” video ahead of a wider deployment of their connected TV service.  Given the success of iPlayer, this isn’t entirely surprising.  The use of broadcast services for delivering alternative video streams is both expensive, because you have to pay for the spectrum to broadcast it, and inherently limited because there are only so many alternative streams that you can carry at any time.

The BBC’s excellent coverage of the Olympics showed the value of alternative streams, by allowing everyone to choose which Olympic events they wanted to watch.  While this is feasible as a one-off for high-profile events such as the Olympics (if you’ve got a satellite or cable subscription that can handle all of the extra channels that are needed), it doesn’t work so well in day-to-day situations because of the limited number of streams that you can carry.  Broadcasters end up having to make a choice of what alternative streams to provide - not only to fit them into the available channels, but also to maximise the use of those channels.

The success of catch-up services on smart TVs has shown that customers will accept streamed video, and services such as the “Tagesschau” service in Germany (which provides news on demand) show the advantages of a connected approach, especially as the adoption of connected TVs grows.  The flexibility of connected TV services offer a big advantage over broadcast-based alternative video streams, and over time users will see real benefits from this through the increased availability of alternative content.

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