The Evolution of The Red Button

by Dale Wright

Do you remember when the red button on your Freeview remote was a really exciting new invention? This will make you feel old: the red button was introduced to BBC TV for Wimbledon 13 years ago.

Nowadays one in three people use the red button each week, although it arguably has more of an established place in sports broadcasts than in other areas. Some experiments were done into showing radio broadcasts on TV, but listeners use webcams for this purpose – if at all.
redbutton The Evolution of The Red Button

However, all of this may change in the not-too-distant future. The BBC think their interactive service is due an update, and they’ve hinted at a big update for the humble red button service.

The ‘new’ red button (known as the ‘connected red button’) will integrate your TV experience with your other entertainment devices. Instead of displaying picture-in-picture red button experiences, you’ll eventually be able to view an additional stream or service on another device, such as an iPad. This may mean that you can trigger your iPlayer app on your tablet PC by pressing the red button on your TV remote, or send details of an outfit to your Android smartphone while watching a fashion programme. Clever stuff.

Competition is closing in on the BBC, with Google TV getting a pre-Olympic launch date and YouView hitting stores… well, eventually. Whatever you think of the Games, London 2012 has really pushed gadget and tech companies and organisations forward over the last year. The BBC will be running 24 HD channels for the Olympics, but the new ‘connected red button’ will be launched far too late to take advantage.

We can expect to get some more information about ‘connected red button’ at the end of 2012. Let’s hope the BBC don’t leave it too late: interactive content is one race that Google, YouView or Apple could easily win.