The BBC has relaunched its red button service - initially as a Virgin Media TiVo box exclusive - bringing increased amounts of content, a more streamlined experience and catch up capabilities.
Called the "connected red button", the new BBC service lets you watch content from all BBC channels using just the red button. Unlike previous red button services, the new BBC set-up requires an internet connection in order to function.
Hitting the red button will bring up a new-look user interface. Along the bottom of the screen are boxes of content being pulled in from iPlayer. Channels which are not transmitting will still display catch-up content. Say you hit the red button on BBC Four during the daytime, then links to iPlayer BBC Four content will appear. Hit one and then the iPlayer app will open up.
The idea is that you can skip between live TV and catch-up in a much more seamless way. The rest of the red button experience is centred around bringing live content from the rest of the BBC. At the top of the screen is a series of tabs, including topics like news and sport. Choosing one of these will bring up lists of news stories which you can then read while watching TV, the UI overlaying them over the left hand side of the screen.
There is also video content which links through to other BBC apps. So news stories with video content will go through to the BBC News app.
Sport also works in a similar manner, with a red button press bringing up links to various pieces of sport related video. You can see brief highlights from matches or snippets from players. There are also links to any live sport-related streams running at the time. The app used for the Olympics has now been turned into a catch-up hub for BBC Sport and is linked to red button presses.
Read: Virgin Media TiVo review
Radio streams are now also included as well as catch-up radio. Again this is linked through to iPlayer and uses either boxes of catch-up content or a list of each radio station, depending on what you want.
Weather has also been integrated. You can search via city and save your location. The weather part of red button will then give you a seven-day forecast for your local area.
The whole experience is being curated by the BBC's scheduling and media-planning teams. The lists shown on each red button section aren't just random bits of content, they are the BBC showing off the best it has to offer.
The new red button functionality is headed first to Virgin Media's TiVo box and was due to go live this morning. Plans are for the red button to extend to multiple TV manufacturers in 2013, although the BBC didn't go into specifics. We expect, given the way it works, that it should start integrating with any TV that already has the BBC iPlayer and Sport apps built in.
Sky is looking a touch less hopeful, given the way it receives its BBC iPlayer catch-up content, which has only just come to the platform. The BBC tells us that the connected red button is essentially "sipping from the firehouse" of iPlayer, rather than adopting Sky's approach, which draws content from the BBC then pushes it out via its own platform.
YouView will be getting the service in 2013, further adding to its IPTV functionality. But we don't have a specific date yet.