Friday, August 03, 2012

London 2012 Olympics: Defining Success

Updated: correcting a misunderstanding sent in by James Cridland in the comments. Thanks.

The Daily Mail, well known for it's anti-BBC stance, has been having a go at the first results of the corporations streaming results. The 26 channels from the games are producing mixed results is their conclusion.

"Some pulled in average audiences of around 3,000 during the first five days. So far half of the 24 ‘red button’ channels are averaging fewer than 10,000 viewers, according to figures from the ratings experts Attentional. But at their peak some are attracting more than a million, which is better than some digital stations on Freeview. The corporation’s flagship channels BBC1 and BBC3 are dominating viewing, with the former securing peak-time ratings of more than 10 million".

Did we expect anything else? BBC Red button services don't have much priority these days on the terrestrial digital TV service called Freeview, having been restricted so the BBC can use the same bandwidth for HD services. The old near video on demand news loops that we used to see from BBC News and Sports closed down in 2009. This past week, the only alternative channel during the opening ceremony of the Olympics via Freeview (DTT) was audio only. However, as James Cridland points out below, the same BBC Red Button service via satellite and cable services has a much wider offering, including alternative HD channels during the Olympics. However, I'm guessing a lot of people haven't discovered them.

Long since gone. BBC Red Button News on Freeview
Personally, I expect Red Button services to be folded into a much broader offering. The material broadcast over these channels is only accessible live when it's on the air. That's fine (and essential) during major sporting events. But for every day transmission of news and current affairs, it's not a very efficient use of bandwidth.

Instead it's all about building the BBC iPlayer to integrate both live and on-demand content and delivering this type of niche content through the web rather than expensive dedicated broadcast bandwidth. It means the BBC doesn't have to foot the bandwidth bill. The audience is doing that by paying the IP bill. 
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