BBC downsizing Red Button broadcast service to move multi-stream online

Twenty million viewers are about to see a reduction in extra content the BBC pushes to TVs, as the corporation focuses on using the internet to deliver the extras instead. Currently, the BBC’s Red Button service delivers up to five additional live streams of select BBC shows via regular UK satellite and cable.

But from October 15, the BBC is reducing the service to just one stream as part of a 25 percent cut (£36 million) to its Online and Red Button budgets. At the same time, the corporation is planning to replicate elements of the service, along with a host of next-generation ideas, by “re-inventing” it as Connected Red Button on internet-connected TV platforms.

It has already built such apps for internet TV sets and Virgin Media’s latest set top box. But the first proper Connected Red Button TV service will not launch until later this year.

The BBC will take credit for focusing on new-wave ideas, and even for cutting costs, the bulk of which come because Red Button’s existing multiple video streams are delivered via broadcast channels that are expensive to own, license and manage. With some of the redundant streams, in addition, the BBC will be broadcasting UK nations-and-regions versions of its BBC One HD channel.

However, internet TV ownership and connection rates are low today, so few people will see Connected Red Button for some years. The majority of viewers with just a regular TV are about to see fewer viewing options unless they upgrade to an internet set.

The BBC Red Button is clicked by 20 million viewers each month and adds value to big-event broadcasts like Wimbledon, Glastonbury and the Olympics.

The BBC tells GigaOM:

“Red Button will continue to be a vibrant and valuable BBC service with one video stream, drawing in large audiences with high quality content across all genres.

“Red Button in its current form is not a cost-effective or flexible service for the future, as it relies on linear broadcast technologies. The BBC will be reinventing red button as a new, internet-based service for connected TVs – Connected Red Button – that will seamlessly bring audiences the best BBC content, multiple video streams and interactive services by still pressing red.”

Via Daniel Danker’s blog post, his earlier blog post, Tom Williams’ blog post and Alix Pryde’s blog post.