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BBC defends its interactive services

The BBC's head of interactive TV has defended the corporation's red button services, warning that the new technology will fail to entice viewers without sufficient on-screen marketing and promotion.

Scott Gronmark, speaking at the inTELEgence conference in London today, said flagging up the new interactive services was crucial to their success – or failure.

{We have found time and again that if you just stick the red icon in the corner of the screen, the most you will get is 15 or 20 per cent of the audience [accessing interactive services].

{But if a presenter makes a reference to it then that figure goes up to 30 or 35 per cent. That’s the main lesson so far – mention it on air and the figures go through the roof.

{If I don’t get a guarantee [from producers] that interactive services will get a mention on the programme then I say forget it. I’m not going to let interactive apologetically sit in the background.{ The same point was emphasised by Julian Ellison, cto at interactive specialist Red Fig, in an earlier presentation.

Gronmark said interactive digital TV {enables us to give viewers more streams and more video, which is basically more channels, but we don’t call them channels because then you have got to go to the government [for approval].{

The BBC has so far broadcast more than 6,000 hours of extra video across its interactive channels this year, with more than nine million viewers accessing the services so far. {The evidence is that once people have got used to interactive they become hooked and expect to have it from the beginning,{ he said.

Despite a poor response to the BBC1’s flagship reality talent show, Fame Academy – dubbed {Lame Academy{ because of low ratings – Gronmark said more than a million people had so far used its interactive features, including live streaming from the academy house.

However, nearly 200 viewers complained when an interactive quiz based around the BBC1 documentary Pyramid, broadcast on Monday night, failed at the last minute.

Gronmark said broadcaster’s biggest mistake was to associate interactive TV with the web. {A lot of broadcasters think interactive TV is an extension of the web; they think we are webheads. But we are not. The services we are developing are for Mr and Mrs Average.{


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