BBC Says 2009 Has Been Most Successful Year to Date for its BBC Red Button Interactive TV Service

--Claims Over 11 Million Viewers Press Red Each Week
--UK Round-Up: SeeSaw, Simon Cowell, Clearcast

The BBC said Tuesday that 2009 has been the most successful year to date for its BBC Red Button interactive TV service, with an average of over 11 million viewers pressing the red button each week, and with more content launched through the service than ever before. The corporation--which recently reduced the amount of red-button content available on the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial platform, Freeview, in order to make room for HD services (see the article published on, October 20th)--also said that the Red Button team is "gearing up to end the year with a bang," with exclusive Christmas content including 24 "how-to" guides on creating a "Victorian Christmas" (see the article published on, December 14th) and the return of the karaoke application, "Christmas Top of the Pops."

Over the course of the year, the BBC Red Button service, which celebrated its 11th anniversary last month, has, among other things, provided interactive coverage of Wimbledon and the Eurovision Song Contest, and launched new services such as the BBC Proms "Maestro-Cam" and a new service for the BBC's digital children's channel, CBeebies, that is tailored to each digital TV platform (note: see the articles published on, July 29th and August 31st). Other 2009 BBC Red Button highlights included "Dreamland," an animated six-part spin-off of the long-running scifi series, "Doctor Who," that premiered through the red button and that the BBC says was accessed by almost a million viewers (note: see the article published on, November 12th); and three exclusive tracks from Robbie Williams, that were made available under the red button as part of the singer's appearance on "Friday Night with Jonathan Ross," and that the BBC says were accessed by over a million viewers (note: see the article published on, November 2nd). "This year has proven that audiences love choice and enjoy the extra interactivity that the red button service can provide, and we're pleased that, as UK television becomes fully digital, we've been able to take this incredible performance to even more viewers," John Denton, managing editor for BBC Red Button, said in a prepared statement (note: for more from Denton, see the interview with him that was published on, July 23rd).

According to the BBC, "it's not just the amount of people using the service that has made this year so successful" for the red-button platform: this year has also seen BBC software engineers extend red-button technology to deliver the BBC iPlayer online catch-up service to new audiences via the Virgin Media cable service and the UK's free-to-air satellite platform, Freesat, the corporation points out. "From the initial development work conducted by the BBC Research & Development team, followed up by the breakthrough innovation of our 2001 Wimbledon coverage, the red-button service has redefined what was possible on the television screen," Rahul Chakkara, controller of TV platforms for BBC Future Media & Technology, said in a prepared statement. "Today the BBC offers one of the leading interactive television services in the world. With the internet reaching television devices, we aim to produce more innovative and valuable services that will continue to delight our audience."

The BBC has also provided lists of the most successful red-button services for 2009, organized by content category. According to the corporation, the most popular music offerings on BBC Red Button, in terms of audience, were: Glastonbury 2009 (6.06 million), Electric Proms (2.56 million), T in the Park (2.05 million), Reading and Leeds Music Festival (1.85 million), and Robbie Williams on "Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (1.19 million); the most popular sports offerings were: Wimbledon (7.51 million), Snooker World Championship (3.96 million), Formula 1 (3.69 million), Cricket: The Ashes (3.08 million), and Golf: The Open (2.4 million); and the most popular general entertainment offerings were: the Eurovision Song Contest (1.69 million), National Lottery: Guesstimation (1.5 million), National Lottery: In It to Win It (1.46 million), National Lottery: 1 vs. 100 (1.25 million), and CBBC Extra (1.08 million).

The BBC has published a list of what it considers to be the top-10 BBC Red Button achievements for the past decade or so:

  • "November 1998: First pilot of Digital Text services on TV.
  • 1998 onwards: More than £8m has been donated to BBC Children In Need via the Red Button over the 10 years.
  • 2001: BAFTA won for the first multiscreen Red Button coverage of Wimbledon.
  • 2001: BAFTA, RTS and Electronic Multimedia Award (EMMA) won for BBC One's 'Walking With Beasts Interactive.' Throughout the duration of the series viewers could access four screens and choose between watching additional footage, such as the science behind the series and the making of, and change the commentary if they wished.
  • 2002: 'Test The Nation' awarded an EMMA and is Highly Commended at the Broadcast Awards the following year.
  • 2005: Red Button coverage of the Athens Olympics earns a BAFTA nomination and a RTS Sports Innovation award.
  • 2005: 'Spooks' wins a BAFTA for Best Interactive Service, a D&AD award for Outstanding Achievement Enhanced TV and a Grand Prix and Best Game prizes at the Milia Awards.
  • 2007: AFDESI Award for Best Innovation & Design for 'Waking The Dead.' Following the second part of the two-part films, Red Button viewers were transported behind the scenes and into the world of the cold case unit.
  • 2007: International Interactive Emmy award to BBC Red Button for Best Interactive Service.
  • 2008: Red Button launches the BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media."

In other news from the UK:

  • SeeSaw, the broadband VOD service that broadcast transmission company, Arqiva, is building following its acquisition of the platform assets of Project Kangaroo, the VOD platform developed by UKVOD, a joint venture between the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, and terrestrial broadcasters, ITV and Channel 4, for a price believed to be in the £8 million range (note: Project Kangaroo was believed to be close to launch, when it was nixed in February by the Competition Commission, an independent public body that investigates mergers, markets and regulated industries at the UK government's behest), has begun inviting visitors to its Web site to sign up for a beta. "We're starting small and letting people in gradually," a statement on the service's Web site reads. "That's why SeeSaw Beta is currently invitation-only. We'd like to see what people think of our service then make it even better. So, if you're one of the lucky people with an invite, you can sign in now and start watching. If you'd like to join us, please request an invite by giving us your email address. We hope to be in touch soon." To date, only one content deal has been announced for SeeSaw--with the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.
  • In an interview with the BBC program "Newsnight," Monday, reality TV guru, Simon Cowell, stated that he is interested in developing a politics/current affairs program that would feature debates and viewer voting. "Finding in the Internet age, when you can shop and travel at the click of a mouse, finding something that makes politics link more directly to people is a very good idea," he said. "I think trying to increase the level of people power in politics is a really good thing and big thing and something I've tried to do." The Daily Mail has more.
  • Clearcast, a company that provides broadcasters with pre-transmission clearance of TV ads in order to ensure that they are in compliance with their licensing agreements with UK media regulator, Ofcom (note: the company is owned and funded by eight commercial broadcasters), has begun providing compliance services to VOD providers whose offerings carry advertising. The service has been launched in response to the European Union's new Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which requires that "TV-like" VOD services should be regulated as of December 19th, 2009 (note: for more on the directive and on Ofcom's efforts to implement it, see the article published on, September 14th). More information is available here and here.