How the BBC will flex its digital and Red Button muscles this weekend

Rain or shine, the corporation will cement its position as an innovator in British TV this weekend thanks to vast amounts of coverage from Glastonbury and Wimbledon, says Mark Jefferies

Criticism over paying executive bonuses, a public outcry after abandoning a £100million digital archive; it has not been a great few weeks for the BBC.


But on Sunday evening there may well be some quiet celebrating as they showcase some of their new tricks with the Red Button and interactive technology.

This weekend, in case you have been living under a rock, sees The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury, Andy Murray in with a great chance of continuing on his quest to win Wimbledon and even a Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone.

All three will use the latest technology to enhance viewers’ experience and millions will benefit from the service. It is without doubt the biggest weekend of live TV since the Olympics for the Beeb.

If you don’t want to watch the Stones at Glasto on TV, your red button will allow you to watch dozens of other bands on other Glastonbury stages. In total, more than 120 live performances will be broadcast by the BBC, with six live streams from different stages and over 250 hours of footage.

And if you miss an act, you’ll be able to watch them back on iPlayer, hear them on the radio or rewatch performances using your red button.

Mark Friend, the BBC Controller of all things Multiplatform across Radio and Music, said: “Just as we did with sport at the Olympics, our ambition this year is to bring our audiences even closer to the music they love at Glastonbury, with access to all the BBC’s coverage – live and on-demand – at home, at work and on the go.”

If music isn’t your thing, the tennis all seems to be going Murray’s way at the moment. And if you hit the net, the BBC is offering access to TEN courts to view online for the first time. All the main games will be covered by BBC1 and BBC2 with extra footage, again via that red button, and a total of more than 80 cameras.

BBC’s director of Sport Barbara Slater told me earlier this week that she thinks the quality of what the BBC is able to offer viewers now is “fantastic” and has changed greatly from when she used to direct the Wimbledon programmes.

They use remote controlled cameras on the outside courts, with around a dozen other cameras on centre for Murray and co. By the final there will be 20 lenses getting shots of the winner (hopefully Murray) falling to the floor in tears and then lifting the trophy.

Viewing figures will be big this weekend and I predict if Murray continues to the final it will break records. The current highest ratings are 13.1m when Tim Henman beat Michel Kratochvil in 2002 in the fourth round.

Last but not least, petrol heads not only have Top Gear back on Sunday but at Silverstone they have the British Grand Prix.

Suzi Perry and the team are live on TV, and coverage is now available on the new BBC Sport smartphone app. It brings together BBC Sport’s live and on-demand video coverage, along with the latest news, features and stats.

After the race on the Red Button there is also the F1 forum, which I am told is popular with fans.

So although they won’t say it out loud, the best thing that could happen for the BBC this weekend would be rain (perhaps with a break in the clouds over SW19), so that millions more would stay in and watch all this live music and sport on TV.


Mark Jefferies is Deputy TV and Showbiz editor at the Daily Mirror