What’s (Not) On

Published on 10 October 2008 in , , , ,

This time last year I did a review of the BBC red button service comparing the number of text pages which went with each section.

The statistics were quite interesting – especially on Freeview where 23% of the service consisted of text pages, and 16% News (including Business). Meanwhile our Movies section was as big as our Sport section, as was the What’s On TV and Radio Listings service.

The Movies section closed earlier this year, along with its web equivalent. And then yesterday, that other big chunk went, as the What’s On section was closed down to make way for other new content.

What's On in 2005

Building a new listings processing engine was one of my early projects in BBCi, however times have changed. When we launched that new system three years ago, a huge number of Freeview boxes still didn’t have electronic programme guides. Now those boxes are dying out and increasingly people didn’t press their red button for TV information. After all, when you have a button marked “GUIDE” on your remote, why go anywhere else? And that’s a lot of bandwidth that could be used for something else�

Still, it was a great project to work on. The team consisted really of just three of us, and it was one of those rare projects where we could just do whatever we felt was best without interference. A rare project indeed. All we had to do was replace the existing, rather clumsy method of receiving listings and hopefully improve on it a bit. I was also keen to ensure that operationally, it just ran. And run it did – it rarely seemed to fall over or complain, coped perfectly with new TV stations being added to the feed, and just required the odd database flush when a channel closed down.

I was always really happy with what we produced. Bar the fact that we didn’t bother changing the dreadfully brown colour scheme.

Still, all good things must come to an end. But not before a toast.

To What’s On.



  • William T says:

    Who’s actually responsible for running the Freeview EPG (ie receiving and parsing the data)? Is there a small BBC team that does it under contract, or is it some other company most will never have heard of?

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    As I recall, each broadcaster is responsible for its own data in the EPG and feeds it in as part of their broadcast process. The BBC’s is handled by Red Bee Media, which was of course, formerly part of the BBC.

  • James Clark says:

    I’m already missing the red button What’s on listing. I’m not able to receive one of the multiplexes on digital so my EPG doesn’t list the channels on the missing multiplex.
    So to find out what’s on ITV and Channel 4 I always used the red button. I tried to do this to find out when the F1 Grand Prix was at the weekend and discovered the listing had gone. At least the F1 is coming to BBC next year!
    I hope the “new content” is worth the loss!

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    You’ll have to decide whether its worth it yourself! I couldn’t possibly comment.