BBC Unveils its Red-Button Interactive TV Schedule for Next Two Weeks

--New Version of BBC iPlayer Launched on Nintendo Wii

The BBC announced last week the line-up of content that will be available through its red-button interactive TV service for the next two weeks and beyond:

  • At 8:00PM on November 18th, during BBC Three's re-run of "Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars," digital viewers will be able to press red to access episode commentary from the long-running scifi show's producers, Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner, as well as from the actor who currently plays its title role (he is the 10th Doctor Who to date), David Tennant. In addition, from November 21st through 28th on Sky and Virgin, and at various times on Freeview, viewers will be able to press red to access a special animated "Doctor Who" series, "Doctor Who: Dreamland," that is premiering on the red button--for more on the latter, see the article that was published on, November 12th. (Note: neither red-button "Doctor Who" offering is available on the UK's free-to-air satellite TV service, Freesat.)
  • The BBC's popular auto-enthusiast show, "Top Gear," is offering its first-ever red-button service: "viewers pressing red will be treated to a heady mix of stunts, road tests and the plain outrageous as [the show's hosts] Jeremy, James and Richard race, launch, lose, inflate and blow away some of the finest and most familiar cars of all time in a specially commissioned interactive quiz," the BBC promises. The quiz will be available on Sky and Virgin at the following times: November 17th, 11:00PM-November 18th, 7:00PM; November 18th, 11:00PM-November 21st, 4:30PM; and November 21st, 7:45PM-November 23rd, 4:00AM. It will be available on Freeview at the following times: November 16th, 10:10PM-November 17th, 7:00PM; November 19th, 5:10AM-6:20PM; November 20th, 4:10AM-12:00PM; November 21st, 4:10AM-8:50AM and 11:10AM-2:20PM; and November 22nd, 10PM-Midnight. (Note: not available on Freesat.)
  • From November 16th-22nd, viewers on Sky will be able to use the red button to donate to the annual BBC Children in Need Appeal.
  • At 10:25PM, following the show's Wednesday night broadcast, digital viewers can press red to see Noel Fielding and Phill Jupitus, the stars of the BBC Two satirical music series, "Never Mind the Buzzcocks," debating what the BBC calls "an Issue of Cultural Importance." According to the corporation, the debates to date have "revolved around the relative merits of Brian Ferry and ferries, and just who is the greatest: legendary glam-rockers Wizzard or, er, wizards." Sky and Virgin viewers can additionally access the debates through the red button on the evenings of November 20th, 24th, 25th, and 27th. (Note: not available on Freesat.)
  • At 10:35PM, following the show's Saturday night broadcast, digital viewers can press red to access exclusive additional content from Armando Ianucci's political comedy, "The Thick of It." Sky and Virgin viewers can additionally access the content through the red button on the evenings of November 16th, 17th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, and 26th. (Note: not available on Freesat.)
  • From 9:00AM-11:00AM on November 21st, digital viewers can press red to watch a "visualization" of BBC Radio Five's "The Danny Baker Show." The visualization app presents viewers with video of Baker as he hosts his show, as well as text messages and pictures sent in by other viewers; access to a range of informational content, including the weekend's soccer tables, fixture lists, information on upcoming commentaries, sports news, and details of upcoming red-button content; and a range of what the BBC calls "unexpected content," including "spoof fixtures and unique animations as Danny sets up audience head-to-heads on the phone." (Note: not available on Freesat.)
  • On November 19th and 26th, starting at 6:30PM, digital viewers in Scotland can press red to access uninterrupted coverage of "Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two" (note: in other areas, the show can be seen on BBC Two). (Note: not available on Freesat.)
  • During the November 19th and 26th broadcasts of the BBC One political panel talk show, "Question Time," viewers will, as always, be able to view information on the show's panelists and discussion topics, as well as a selection of comments texted in by viewers, on Red Button page 155.
  • On weekdays, around the clock, digital viewers can press red to access Video Choice, a recently launched feature on the BBC News Multiscreen application. The feature consists of a two-minute package of highlights which is billed as featuring the day's best picture stories, and which is put together by BBC News's On Demand team. On weekends, the daily highlights package is replaced by a topical video interview, entitled "Five Minutes with..." (Note: not available on Freesat or Freeview.)
  • A range of soccer-themed programming continues to be available through the red button: on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, Sky and Virgin viewers can press red to access "Lawro's Friday Focus," a show in which commentator, Mark Lawrenson, shares his predictions for the weekend's games; from 2:30PM on Saturday afternoons and on select midweek evenings, Sky, Virgin and Freeview viewers can press red to access the soccer results show, "Final Score"; and on Sunday mornings until noon, Sky and Virgin viewers can press red to access the BBC One Football League round-up show, "The Football League Show."
  • From 3:00PM, November 16th through 6:30PM, November 20th, Sky and Virgin viewers can press red to access a show that reviews the most recent MotoGP season.
  • The BBC is offering extensive live and highlights coverage of Rugby's Autumn Internationals through the red button (though it warns that the coverage will have "limited availability" on Freeview). Throughout the week, digital viewers can press red to access highlights from the past weekend's games, and at 5:00PM on November 21st, digital viewers will be able to press red to access live coverage of Ireland vs. Fiji. In addition, viewers on Sky, Virgin and Freesat will be able to press red to access live coverage of Wales vs. Argentina (2:00PM, November 21st) and Scotland vs. Australia (5:00PM, November 21st). This coverage, and all the sports coverage listed above, is offered through the BBC Sport Multiscreen, a 24/7 red-button application that provides up to five screens of extra coverage as well as round-the-clock headlines.

In other BBC news: The corporation and Nintendo UK last week unveiled a new version of the BBC iPlayer catch-up service on the Wii games console. While the BBC iPlayer has been available on the Wii's Internet channel since April (note: it is also available on the Sony PlayStation 3), the new implementation of the service, which is slated to roll out just after midnight on November 18th, makes it available as a dedicated "Wii Channel."

According to the BBC, since the iPlayer first launched on the Wii, it has generated over 900,000 requests for TV and radio programs--despite the fact that, as the BBC itself admits, there have been numerous complaints about its interface on that platform. The corporation says that the new version has been designed to provide a higher-quality experience, with a new full-screen user interface better suited for family viewing. "We're pleased that we've been able to work with Nintendo to evolve BBC iPlayer on the Wii, providing a faster, high-quality and improved viewing experience," Erik Huggers, director of BBC Future Media & Technology, said in a prepared statement. "It's important that we offer audiences more ways to access the huge range of BBC content available, and this improved version of BBC iPlayer underlines our commitment to reaching new audiences by making BBC iPlayer available on as many platforms as possible." Added David Yarnton, general manager of Nintendo UK: "Our partnership with the BBC is another way in which Nintendo is looking to broaden the market for its products by offering compelling and relevant content to families. BBC iPlayer offers Wii owners another reason to turn their console on every day and adds to the already established non-gaming content on Wii that includes Wii Channels for news, weather forecasts and an Internet browser."

In order to use the new version of the BBC iPlayer, Wii users must first download the BBC iPlayer Wii Channel from the menu screen of the Wii Shop Channel. They then click on the BBC iPlayer icon to launch the new full-screen service.