BBCi Happenings (Part 1)

Posted on 24 November 2005 in BBC red button, Interactive TV (No comments)

On Wednesday we killed off the TV and radio listings on the satellite version of BBCi.

It's something I first suggested about two years ago when there was a suggestion that if we trimmed off some of our content, the service might go faster. I was dispatched to review the service - see if there were anything in the service that we could probably live without.

What I found was little more than some help pages that told you all about how to select an item from a menu, which cunningly you could only get to if you'd selected that particular item from a menu (quite), were probably the most memorable. The only big thing I spotted was the TV and Radio listings.

There was a reason why it stood out in my mind at the time. For starters it was slower and harder to get to than the in-built Sky EPG. It had around 40 channels, whilst Sky had... well all channels. And its listings ended arbitrarily at 6am. Sky's EPG has 7 days.

It didn't get axed at this point, but about a year ago we started discussing building a replacement system for pumping out TV listings. Whilst we try to keep the same content available on all our platforms, there's times when it doesn't make sense. If Sky's EPG does listings well and everyone uses it, why would they want to go anywhere else?

Whilst I was writing this, I took a look at the satellite version of "Teletext on ITV". It features listings for the ITV channels and nothing more. And as a user, I can't help but wonder why. Is it there just because Teletext want to offer some notion of having the same range of content on all its services - so if someone puts in the relevant page number on satellite, it works just as it would on analogue or Freeview. Or is it some corporate vanity issue for ITV? The thought of not having its TV listings on its "own" Teletext service was just too much to consider perhaps.

Who knows. Well not me anyway. But the bigger question is, how many users are going to bother to use it?

It's stating the obvious, but people don't plan their viewing around the concept of "Tonight, I will be mostly watching Sky Travel" and then rush off to Sky Text to get their listings accordingly. They go to somewhere like the Sky EPG where they can browse through all the channels and pick the programme they want to watch.

BBCi was never going to be the primary destination for TV listings on Sky - and providing a service which did just BBC channels would have been just filling the service with listings for the sake of having some listings.

There's never any delight in turning something off - after all, there may be people using it who you'll annoy. But sometimes things have to be done. You have to take a good, hard look at something, ask whether it even needs to be there.

In this case it didn't. And the bandwidth it takes up will go off somewhere else - hopefully for something which people will use more.

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