Sky is to stop offering red button transactional services to third-party broadcasters on its satellite platform, due to lack of demand. ITV, the main commercial broadcaster in the United Kingdom, will drop its red-button voting as a result and focus on alternative platforms, including connected televisions. After the initial excitement of the “red button revolution” nearly a decade ago, viewers now have many more opportunities to interact with television.
Sky has previously provided back-end services for third-party broadcasters like ITV to support transactional services, including votes and competitions.
However, the use of the red button on the remote control for such interactions has waned, as broadcasters have instead promoted more lucrative telephone voting, which works irrespective of the television platform.
Mismanagement of premium rate telephony by many broadcasters and phoney competitions caused considerable reputational damage. Although votes and competitions have returned, the red button is now viewed as less commercially attractive than other mechanisms.
“Due to a declining number of third-party broadcasters taking interactive services from Sky, we have taken the decision to stop providing them,” said a sky spokesman. “However, our regulated platform services remain entirely unaffected. This means that other broadcasters still have the opportunity to offer red-button voting and competitions on Sky’s digital satellite platform.” To do so, broadcasters would need to seek an alternative provider of transactional services, or invest in their own infrastructure.
In April 2010 Sky announced that it was to stop selling red button interactive advertising on its channels, again citing lack of demand for the service.
“Following Sky’s decision to cease the transactional platform that allows voting and competitions for third parties, we have reviewed our current red-button service and decided to withdraw it early in 2012,” a representative of ITV told New Media Age. “With the arrival of connected TV services, interactivity is entering an exciting new era and we are looking at ways that we can embrace that opportunity in a commercially sustainable way.”
Although the red button emerged as a particular way of responding to a call to action through interactive television, it was a peculiarly British phenomenon, based on a long tradition of teletext services.
With a proliferation of devices with which viewers can interact, many of which do not have coloured buttons, or even any buttons, the days of the red button may be numbered.
In theory, web standards and internet protocols can provide a means to consolidate so-called return path applications across different devices and displays.
However, this will still require significant investment in interactive infrastructure platforms and customer relationship management systems, an area that free to air broadcasters have long neglected.