• BBC to axe text services from red-button
  • Also cuts two smart TV apps, but launches Sounds app
  • CTO Postgate blames “funding pressure” for cuts

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Red button: BBC to revamp interactive services

The BBC has unveiled a number of changes to the interactive services it offers on UK TV which it is set to introduce next year.

From the end of January 2020, the British broadcaster will make three significant changes to its interactive services on TV, accessed in the UK through the “red button” on TV remotes.

The Beeb said it will remove the text-based element of its red button service - which currently allows users to access text-based news and other information by pressing the red button on their TV remote control.

It also unveiled plans to consolidate the range of apps it offers on smart TVs. Currently, the BBC offers three smart TV apps: BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport and BBC News. But the corporation said it will retire the latter two, as it carries out a revamp of iPlayer that was announced last month.

Instead, the BBC will launch a new connected TV app, called BBC Sounds. The app follows the launch of the BBC Sounds app for smartphones and devices, which launched last year. The connected TV service will bring over 80,000 hours of radio, music and podcasts from across the BBC.

Explaining the changes in a BBC Blog, BBC CTO Matthew Postgate blamed “financial pressure and the continued need to spend the licence fee as effectively as possible” for scrapping some of the services.

Keeping the red-button text services “would require significant technical effort and cost” he added, which would mean transferring money from other services.

The decision does not affect the majority of red-button services, which include video elements like extra games at Wimbledon.

It comes as the BBC is facing increasing political and financial pressures. It has already announced a cut to free licence fees for some over-75s, a move criticised by the UK parliament last month.