Olympics drives more than 24m viewers to BBC Red Button
Considering the media winners of the London 2012 Olympics after its Closing Ceremony, I ventured it had signalled a “coming of age” for digital TV’s Red Button, this sentiment has since been bolstered by some welcome hard facts.
The 2012 Games, with its 26 individual sports, provided the ideal springboard for the BBC to develop the interface of its digital Red Button service and expand its six channel offering to 24.
Aaron Scullion, executive product manager at BBC Future Media, who led the Red Button overhaul, reports a “fantastic uptake”, with more than 24 million people (42% of the UK population) watching at least 15 minutes of Olympics coverage via its interactive service.
He explains: “We focussed on two tasks – help viewers find something to watch now, and help them decide what to watch later.
“We rejected other features – such as a full schedule, or news stories – that would have added complexity. During the Olympics there is live video for approximately 16 hours each day, so we focused on the one thing viewers would really want to do – watch it.”
More than 10 years in the making
It’s easy to forget this “nascent” television service has actually been more than a decade in the making, with the BBC having launched its first interactive digital service, BBC Text, back in 1999.
The service’s new-found significance has only been made possible by the Government-led rollout of digital television. The Games coincided with the country’s final push in its four year digital switchover, on track to be completed by 24 October.
According to Ofcom’s Communications Report last month, almost all (96%) of UK homes were able to receive digital TV, and its additional services, in the first quarter of 2012.
The uptake, according to research from Starcom MediaVest, has helped contribute to nothing short of “a watershed in media behaviour”, with 6.6 million people using the Red Button function during the Olympics for the very first time.
The agency adds that 90% of the UK’s population had followed the Games through a combination of TV, PC, mobile, tablet and social media, based on a sample size of 1,010 adults (aged 18+).
With 2,500 hours of live coverage beamed across the 24 dedicated video feeds, Scott Thompson, digital research manager at SMG, believes the BBC’s broad coverage has clearly introduced new media technologies and behaviours to new audiences.
And Thompson believes this is just the beginning: “Once people have cleared the initial hurdle of experimenting with new technologies or behaviours, the barrier to repeating them is lowered as they have a clearer understanding of the benefits, and the confidence to use them again,” he says. “We expect to see more evidence of these sorts of behaviours in the future.”
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