BBCi Happenings (Part 2)

Published on 24 November 2005 in , , , ,

It feels like just as I’m winding down slightly at work in preperation for having next week off (hurray!), the launches and the changes have been ramping up! Yesterday it was removing TV and Radio listings, today it was improving them as we relaunched our What’s On Service on DTT (or Freeview if you must).

The revised service is completely different behind the scenes, but for the user looks pretty much like it did before, offering TV and Radio channel listings as well as beefing up the popular Now and Next service – all on page 6000. But whilst at a glance it looks the same, we took the chance to make a few little improvements.

More sensible arrangement of listings

Due to a very old legacy issue, we used to split our TV and radio listings into “BBC” and “Not BBC”. It was a technical limitation that really made no sense to users. The technical reason for doing it that way was actually fixed about a year ago, but we never reorganised things to a more sensible structure until now. So now it’s just TV Listings (page 600) and Radio Listings (page 640). Much more sensible.

A full 24 hours worth of listings at any one time

Under the old system, you saw the schedules from the time you were viewing until 6am. So if you viewed them at 10 in the morning, you got 20 hours worth of schedules, but if you viewed them at 3am, you got just 3.

The reason for this was that the schedules come in files which have one days worth at a time – based on a broadcast day which is usually 6am-6am (although some channels use different times) – so it was easier to programme the system to just cut off at 6am.

Not wanting to make life easy for my techies, we opted for 24 hours worth of listings instead – so you view the schedules at 3am, you can see programmes broadcast up to 3am the next day.

More descriptions of programmes

Before we only put in descriptions between some arbitary time like 7pm and 11pm. Any other time of the day you had to just rely on the title!

More channels in the listings

We added the Top Up TV subscription channels to the listings

More regional variations for BBC One

For some reason we used to just have Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Now we’ve got the full set. Hurrah! Yes, now you can see North West Tonight in the listings!

Search TV removed!

Well okay, some might not see this as an improvement, but we removed the old Search TV section, which provided listings based on a handfull of programme genres.

It was all a bit arbitary and had a tendancy to break. One day I came in and found the Tweenies in the Light Entertainment section, whilst the News and Current affairs page was generally filled with either News 24 or teleshopping. Plus it had a silly, meaningless name. I mean, Search TV? What on earth does that mean to anyone?

More importantly, it was quite complex to build and used up a fair amount of bandwidth on the service. Given its usefulness wasn’t huge, it was decided that this was one section that wouldn’t be replaced.

New ‘Films on TV’ page

Okay, not all genre schedules have gone – we’ve kept a Films listing, now called the sensible name of ‘Films on TV’. It’s on page 522. Ironically just as we launched it, I read that Ceefax will be axing their Films Choice page.

New abreviations for signed programmes, audio description and subtitles

If you can remember that far back, the reason why I was talking about the new Ofcom standards back in March was because I was planning all the changes that launched this week. A part of me had really hoped we’d be the first interactive service to use them in their TV listings, but Teletext beat us to it. Confound them!

I’d actually like it so that we didn’t have to have these listings – that they’d end up being unnecessary like they were on satellite, but alas the Freeview EPG is a real pain in the neck – on my box it can take ten minutes just to load enough data to show what’s on now and next, yet alone enough for planning your evenings viewing. And many boxes don’t have an EPG at all. So I guess the new What’s On (page 6000 by the way) will be around for a while to come. And at least now I’ll be able to see what’s on TV the following morning at 9am.

Actually that wasn’t the only launch we did today – our new Travel service went up on DTT too. It’s not actually my project, but there’s now more data in there, and the railways are now all broken up by railway company which will make information a lot easier to find. I’ve suffered too many weekends in the past scrolling through 50 pages of engineering work just trying to find out if one line to Suffolk is open or not, so this should be a huge improvement!