Red-Button Interactive TV Functionality Added to BBC HD

The BBC has added red-button interactive TV functionality (i.e. the ability to access interactive TV applications and services and supplemental programming content through the red button on the remote control) to BBC HD, an HDTV channel that it operates on the UK's Sky satellite and Virgin Media cable platforms, as well as on the UK's free-to-air satellite TV platform, Freesat. According to the corporation, the launch was scheduled to ensure that BBC HD viewers can benefit from the line-up of extra coverage of the Wimbledon tennis championship that is available through the red button: that coverage includes a multiscreen app with a choice of up to five live matches, as well as a highlights service and replays of top matches; the ability to switch between commentary and no-commentary options on the live matches; and the ability to access a digital text service offering news, results and score updates.

All the additional video inside the BBC Red Button service will continue to be in standard-definition, even for BBC HD viewers, the corporation says. "Our code too is built in standard definition as the majority of set-top boxes don't allow us to write HD versions of our software," a posting on the BBC Red Button team's blog explains. "Most set-top boxes automatically scale the red button service up to HD, which after much consideration, we believe is of good enough quality." The BBC says that it has decided not to display a "Press Red" call-to-action icon on BBC HD on the Sky satellite platform "as some boxes cannot time these out and we know that this can spoil your viewing." However, it says, on Freesat and Virgin Media, the icon will appear each time the viewer tunes to the channel and will time out "after a short while."