Advanced Television

BBC: Green button programme restart

July 26, 2018

The BBC says it has made it even easier for viewers to make sure they never miss a moment of BBC TV shows.

A new function lets TV viewers with a connected and capable smart TV start watching programmes from the beginning, whilst they’re still being broadcast, simply by pressing the green button on their TV’s remote control.

When viewers switch over to a BBC channel a small graphic appears on screen prompting viewers to restart the programme, just as it appears for the millions of people who press the red button to find extra content from the BBC. When they press the green button, the TV instantly loads BBC iPlayer and plays the programme from the start.

The new feature is available now across BBC One and BBC One HD, BBC Two and BBC Two HD, BBC Four, and will be rolled out to BBC Four HD in the future.

“Live restart is one of BBC iPlayer’s most valued features, and we’ve now made it even easier to access from our broadcast TV channels,” advised Dan Taylor-Watt, head of BBC iPlayer. “We’re hoping pressing the green button to restart will become a natural part of watching TV, much as pressing the red button has for millions of people each week.”

Live restart was pioneered by BBC iPlayer, and has been available to viewers on connected TVs and for web and mobile browsers for some time. Already more than half of people watching BBC iPlayer live on TVs use live restart, and almost one in five BBC iPlayer viewers across all platforms use it.

In a Technology + Creativity Blog post, Jennifer Richardson, Senior Product Manager, Interactive TV at the BBC, noted that connected TVs have become the most popular way of accessing BBC iPlayer.

“Whilst this feature is already available via Red Button+ and the BBC iPlayer app, we felt that it could be given more prominence by providing it where the audience needs it most: when they change channels. And we have made this as seamless as possible through the press of one button, the green colour button on the remote control,” she explains.

“When asked, users who hadn’t used our connected services before were delighted when we showed them the feature and said that it would be a key driver for using BBC iPlayer on their TV. We found that our audiences tend to restart a programme at different times of the day and for different programmes, but the peaks were usually a few minutes into a programme. We also found that usage increases when we hit a so-called ‘schedule conflict’ – in other words where programmes don’t end at the traditional on-the-hour or half-past-the-hour junctures,” she advises.

“For example when the Great British Bake Off finished on Channel 4 and Doctor Foster on BBC One had started 15 minutes ago – we saw a huge peak in our audience launching BBC iPlayer to restart it. So with this knowledge we decided to display the trigger when the user turns to the BBC channel. That way we display the trigger when the user is most likely to need to restart. After 30 seconds the trigger clears from the screen, but the viewer can press green at any point whilst on the channel,” she confirms.

“This feature works for Smart TVs that are connected to the Internet and devices that can ‘seek’ to the start. We’ve built a ‘smart’ trigger that will only display if the device is capable of supporting the functionality. This covers many LG, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Vestel, Phillips, Hisense TVs along with Humax and Netgem set-top boxes,” she reports.

“Whilst on the surface this is a simple and straightforward feature, under the hood we’ve had to contend with considerable complexity. Working at the BBC always means you’re building to scale and I love that about my role, but this time it came with a warning: ‘You might break the whole of BBC iPlayer’, she admits.

The challenge came on two fronts – both concerned with capacity. Firstly, there’s a finite number of simultaneous streams the BBC can safely support and secondly, there’s an upper limit to the speed at which it can provide them. “First, imagine that the entire audience of EastEnders decided they wanted to restart the programme. Second, imagine that they all decided they wanted to restart it within the same five-second period,” she says.

“These are unique, scaling problems at a national level and it’s inspiring to work with teams who try to solve them. Mitigating the risk of a reduced audience experience has taken the majority of our time on this project. We’ve built a monitoring service so that we can measure traffic in a more timely fashion, ensuring we protect and maintain quality for the current viewers in the stream. Alongside this, we worked with our distribution and media services colleagues to trial the feature on BBC Two and BBC One regions to build a traffic profile,” she says, confirming that the BBC will be looking to learn from the data and provide the best quality experience it can.

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