Red Light Spells Danger

The BBC has (at last count) nine broadcast channels, but still puts a lot of sporting coverage on its 'red button' or Interactive service. This is an approach that works well (although it doesn't seem to stop endless snooker from disrupting the BBC2 schedule) and is seemingly vindicated by the figures published today of 11 million weekly users of the service.

Commercial broadcaster have singularly failed to capitalise on the red button - something that was, once upon a time, seen as a boon to advertisers, enabling viewers to request more information. But viewers don't want more information when they're watching a TV programme. And there is a lesson here for online video ads. Television advertising isn't a 'below the line' activity, with 'calls to action'. What television seems to do (and no one is actually sure exactly how despite decades of research) is to build brands and awareness.

There were even companies, such as the original Two Way TV, set up to capitalise on the opportunities that the red button offered, but it all amounted to very little.

Eight years ago I fully expected TVs to have the ability to add 'additional' channels by using broadband, but this type of hybrid service seems to be still a while away. In the meantime, the red button has life in it yet, if only for sports on a public service broadcaster.