BBC Red Button Underperforms Websites And Must Cut Costs

The BBC’s pseudo-interactive Red Button TV service has high reach but is appreciated by viewers less than BBC online services and must cut costs by moving from text services to video-centricity, the BBC Trust has concluded.

The Trust started reviewing the service back in September 2009. Today it published its conclusions (release, full review PDF).

BBC Red Button facts…
— Cost £39.3 million in 2009/10.
— 12 million users per week.
— 5 million of those don’t use BBC Online.
— Digital text is the most used feature.

The Trust and BBC management say it’s not yet clear how Red Button will figure in YouView’s IPTV future, and that Red Button could become a signpost to BBC TV apps like iPlayer, but that migration costs for such a project must come from existing budget.


“It has a substantial cost, however, particularly as a result of its high distribution costs, and appreciation of the service is moderate rather than high.”

“Although overall reach is high, a large number of BBC Red Button programmes achieve very low reach.”

“Audience appreciation of BBC Red Button is moderate and it does not achieve the same high quality scores as other BBC interactive services like BBC Online and BBC iPlayer. This is also true of interactive TV services from other broadcasters, suggesting that in general this type of service in general does not currently have the same level of appeal to audiences as other interactive technologies.”

“Other features (of Red Button) have attempted to use the technology to provide a more immersive interactive experience outside the live transmission. These typically simulated a website experience, offering additional video, information or games intended to deepen viewers’ relationships with the programme by allowing them to explore related content after the end of the linear transmission. Although these experiments have been popular with a minority and sometimes gained critical acclaim, they have generally proved expensive without achieving mainstream success.”

“It should seek to reduce its broadcast content costs where possible by increasing the focus of the service on these areas, and we also expect it to reduce its distribution costs by providing a more consistent level of service across different digital TV platforms.”

The Red Button, over the last year, had already been moving away from special Red Button features, to merely providing multiple choices of TV streams from live events like Wimbledon, Olympics and Glastonbury.

“(Management should continue the) trend within BBC Red Button towards re-versioning content from other BBC services and away from stand-alone commissions should help to reduce the service’s broadcast content costs over time.”