Interactive TV News Round-Up (I): BBC Red Button, Channel 4's 4oD, Civolution

--BBC Releases Red-Button Programming Schedule through September 12th
--October 7th Transponder Closure to Result in Reductions in BBC Red Button Service
--Channel 4 Relaunches 4oD Catch-Up Service with New Personalization Features

Because the [itvt] editorial team has been working on TVOT NYC Intensive 2011, we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary format. We anticipate that it will take us several days to catch up with all the recent news: so if your company has sent us a press release or briefed us on an announcement, and you don't yet see your news covered in this issue, please bear with us.

  • The BBC has released the schedule of programming and interactive content that will be available via the BBC Red Button service through September 12th. General programming highlights, according to an email from a BBC spokesperson, include: "1) First Click: BBC One's smash hit genealogy series 'Who Do You Think You Are?' is encouraging computer novices to go online and research their own genealogy as part of the BBC's First Click campaign. 2) 'Summer of Melas': BBC Red Button and the Asian Network invite you to join in this year's 'Summer of Melas' with performances and interviews from artists including Jay Sean and Mumzy Stranger. 3) 'EastEnders': As a prelude to Amira's return to Albert Square you can watch special scenes on the red button which answer some of the questions posed by her dramatic exit from Walford in 2010. 4) 'Reel History': Discover how life in Britain used to be, through the film collections of the British Film Institute and other national and regional film archives. 5) Reading and Leeds Festival Highlights: Watch highlights of more than 40 sets, including headliners My Chemical Romance, The Stokes, Pulp and Muse, from across the Main, NME/Radio 1 and BBC Introducing stages. 6) BBC Last Night of the Proms: Follow the concerts and press red to be part of the biggest musical party of the year. 7) 'Dragons' Den': An exclusive opportunity to find out how and why the Dragons choose which entrepreneurs to invest in, and hear more from the entrepreneurs themselves. 8) 'Secret Fortune' Play-Along Quiz: The return of 'The National Lottery: Secret Fortune' on BBC1, hosted by Nick Knowles." Red-button sports coverage highlights, according to the BBC spokesperson, include: "1) Football: Midweek and Final Score. 2) Basketball: Live coverage of EuroBasket matches. 3) Cricket: TMS England vs. India. 4) Rowing: World championships from Bled, Slovenia. 5) Rugby: Scrum V (Ospreys vs. Leinster Magners League match). 6) MotoGP: Misano 125cc, Moto2 and MotoGP qualifying sessions. 7) Formula 1: Italian Grand Prix. 8) Athletics: Live coverage of the World Series Triathlon from Beijing."
  • In other BBC news: In a posting on a BBC blog, the corporation's director of distribution, Alix Pryde, has detailed some reductions in the Red Button service on satellite and cable that will result from the closing of satellite transponder DSat3 (Astra 2B transponder 38) on October 7th. "The BBC Trust's review of the BBC Red Button service, published in November 2010, challenged the BBC to reduce the cost of the Red Button service, particularly its distribution costs," Pryde writes. "The review also highlighted the disparity in the number of video streams offered to satellite and cable viewers compared with terrestrial viewers. By closing a few of the Red Button video streams on satellite (and hence cable), and moving some TV channels between transponders, we will be able to close a transponder and reduce our distribution costs. This also reduces the disparity in level of service across different digital TV platforms: 1) At the moment we broadcast seven 'enhanced TV' (ETV) video streams, which are used to provide enhanced coverage of BBC programs (for example, sporting and music events). But outside of busy periods the streams are not all fully utilized. As a result of this change, the number of ETV streams on satellite and, consequently, cable, will reduce to five. By comparison, viewers of digital terrestrial television (e.g., Freeview) receive only one ETV stream. 2) We will also be closing one of the mosaic video streams used to provide embedded content in some Red Button applications. The News video mosaic stream, or 'multiscreen,' is unaffected by these changes. 3) We won't be closing any of our TV channels or radio stations as a result of these changes, but the BBC News, BBC Parliament and BBC Alba TV channels will move onto different satellite transponders, helping us to make more efficient use of our satellite capacity. The transponder they are on at the moment, DSat 3, has a footprint wider than the UK. They will be moving onto transponders with a UK footprint, which is the same footprint that BBC One has." (Note: A further phase-out of BBC Red Button video services is expected to take place after the 2012 Olympics--see the article published on itvt.com, August 25th. [itvt] plans to run an in-depth feature on this phase-out and other elements of the BBC's interactive TV roadmap in the near future.)
  • UK terrestrial broadcaster, Channel 4, will today (Wednesday) relaunch its online programming catch-up service, 4oD, with new discovery and personalization features. "With 215 million long-form video views in the first half of 2011, Channel 4 remains the biggest commercial broadcaster in the UK VOD market," the broadcaster states in its press materials. "Unlike other broadcaster services, 4oD not only offers a 30-day catch-up but boasts an extensive back catalog of programs permanently available to view on-demand. New features include a fast and efficient predictive search and viewer-driven recommendations, which significantly improve the discoverability of content in the extensive archive. The all new 4oD will also include 'My 4oD' for the first time, where registered users can sign in to access a number of enhanced features, helping them to manage and create their own on-demand experience. 'My 4oD' will allow users to: 1) Create playlists of episodes and schedule an evening's viewing or simply create a list of shows they want to remember to watch (My 4oD Playlist). 2) Keep track of episodes they've watched or started watching (My 4oD History). 3) Save favorites in a single place and get in-page reminders from Channel 4 whenever a new 4oD episode is available for them to watch (My 4oD Favorite Shows). The new 4oD player is optimized for in-page viewing, with the player now the focal point. The new player design enables users to: 1) Discover related and viewer-recommended shows from our catch-up and archive--now organized in more easily accessible categories, as well as by channel. 2) Get recommendations via the 'People Also Watched' feature that highlights related shows watched by other 4oD users. 3) Experience a market-leading, truly immersive full-screen experience that allows users to access and manage 'My 4oD' and even switch the show they're watching--all without ever having to leave full screen." 4oD is currently available through Channel4.com, YouTube, Virgin Media, BT Vision, TalkTalk, the PlayStation3 and an iPad app. An iPhone/iPod touch app is slated to launch next month. (Note: New Media Age's Jessica Davies has published two articles that explain how Channel 4 plans to use the revamped 4oD to generate more data on its viewers and thus implement demographic ad targeting on the portal.)
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