BBC gears up for interactive services

BBC’s first live net sports bulletin

The BBC has unveiled a new video bulletin on its sports website as it gears up to launch its first interactive TV services later this year.

Four bulletins, each lasting up to four minutes, will be available on weekdays on the site giving a round-up of sports news. Online users will be able to watch the bulletins live and also catch up on previous editions.

The launch came as Peter Salmon, the BBC’s head of sport, met with the corporation’s governors to outline his strategy. If plans for interactive television get the go-ahead, Wimbledon will be the first sporting event during which TV viewers will be able to use the service.

The launch would come a full year after Sky News unveiled its interactive service for digital viewers.

"It’s fair to say that in recent years our competition has moved forward faster than we have," said Andrew Thompson, Salmon’s appointee as head of new media, sports news. "But this will send the signal that the BBC is no longer at the back of the pack." Editor of BBC news and sport online, Pete Clifton, said the new online sports bulletins and other interactive elements on the site were a "model for the future".

"A lot of the interactive stuff we have done online will serve as a blueprint for what the BBC does with interactive TV," he said.  "The video service will be ideal for interactive TV and in time it could be offered on broadband."

Produced by the BBC’s News 24 team, it is planned that, by the end of the year, the bulletins will be going out hourly. A weekend bulletin is also expected to be added.

Stronger links between TV and online operations are already being developed, with interviews which can be watched online after major sporting events and which are flagged up by the TV presenters.

But the main problem for online video news remains picture rights. BBC sports online has secured the rights to show highlights of the World Snooker Championships, the Boat Race and the Derby, but rights to football, boxing and Formula One racing remain elusive.

"Gradually, sports rights owners are beginning to play ball, but they are still uncertain about where things are going on the net," said Clifton. "But we have one of the best archives there is, so it means we have to be creative when putting bulletins together."

by Julie Tomlin

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