After more than a decade of interactive television in the United Kingdom, the BBC is continuing to extend its services. Although perhaps no longer as fashionable as it once was, the red button is increasingly popular, now that 90% of the population have digital television. The BBC reports that over 11 million people press the red button each week.
Wimbledon remains the most successful interactive service, since its launch in 2001, reaching over 7.5 million people in 2009. That was followed by Glastonbury, reaching just over 6 million. Snooker and Formula 1 reached 3.9 and 3.6 million respectively, followed by Cricket at 3 million and Golf at 2.4 million, according to audience estimates.
Many people now use the red button to access news, sport and weather information, using the digital text replacement for teletext, although the web and interactive programme guides mean such services are less essential than they once were.
The BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media cable television is also accessible through the red button and is becoming available on Freesat.
“From the initial development work conducted by the BBC Research and 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,” said Rahul Chakkara of the BBC Future Media and Technology division.
“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.”
John Denton, Managing Editor, BBC Red Button, said: “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.”
Over the past 10 years the interactive television services from the BBC have won over 15 awards, including four Baftas and an International Emmy.
William Cooper, the founder of informitv, was operationally responsible for the launch of the first enhanced television services from the BBC. “The red button has become synonymous with interactive television and has passed into the language in the United Kingdom,” he said. “These services continue to attract large audiences. New standards will enable further innovation in interactive television and the integration of true video on demand services through broadband connected devices and displays.”
Other countries have since followed the United Kingdom in offering interactive television services through the red button. A new generation of hybrid broadcast and broadband services is likely to offer significantly enhanced services in the future.