- Almost half of Red Button budget spent on distributing the service before cutbacks in late 2012.
The BBC Trust has today published its findings following a review of the BBC Red Button service, alongside BBC Online. Broadly, the service was found to be in good health, but the Red Button's increased connectivity to internet services means the Trust wants to merge the Red Button and Online service licences.
Ten years ago, the Red Button and Online services all came under the "BBCi" banner, before being re-branded into separate services.
The Trust found that the BBC Red Button service reaches a "very large audience of over 17 million adults each week". It stated that "audiences value the service as a good option for getting news, sport, weather and other information in a straightforward manner on their TV screens. The convenience of being able to access this information is appreciated, particularly amongst those who have no or limited access to the internet", before acknowledging that the service attracts an older audience than BBC Online.
However, in its study of the service, the BBC Trust received "concerns about the reduction of videostreams", with the BBC receiving some complaints about the changes that took place on digital satellite and cable services last year.
To enable the Red Button service to begin to offer more choice again, the BBC Trust confirmed its approval of the "Connected Red Button", currently being trailed in some Virgin Media households, as a future method of delivering extra content - but this time via the internet to TV sets. On the subject, the Trust added: "We believe the Connected Red Button could increase delivery of the public purposes, by making existing online content more convenient to access on TV sets. The development also contributes to the BBC's digital purpose, by encouraging audiences to make the most of new technologies."
Cost savings as a result of the changes to the Red Button last year have yet to kick in. In 2011-12, it cost £18.3 million to distribute BBC Red Button content across all digital TV platforms. This rose during the previous financial year - 2012-13 - due to the extra Olympic channels, reaching £19.6 million. Nearly half of the BBC Red Button budget was spent on distributing the service. Following the changes that kicked in last autumn, figures for the 2013-14 financial year are expected to be dramatically lower.
The BBC Trust is separately reviewing how the BBC distributes its services and audience expectations of how BBC services should be available on various digital platforms. The outcome of this review - and how it may affect BBC Red Button/BBC Online in the future - is expected later this year.