The rollout of BBC regions in HD won’t be completed until ‘early 2023’, in a new delay for the introduction of BBC One HD regions in England.
Sky Glass and Virgin Media viewers already have access to a fully regionalised version of BBC One HD, and no longer have to switch channel during regional programmes.
But the rollout is yet to complete on Freeview, Freesat and Sky. During regional shows, a red screen directs viewers to the standard definition version.
According to the BBC’s Annual Plan, which lays out the BBC’s work for the 12 months commencing April 2022, the broadcaster will “ensure all regional variants of BBC One HD in England are available by early 2023”.
Previously, the BBC’s head of Distribution, Kieran Clifton said the BBC ‘aimed’ to launch BBC One HD regions by the end of this year.
Upgrading BBC One HD regions on satellite involves using additional satellite capacity. On Freeview, the infrastructure that underpins the HD service needs to be fully regionalised. Freeview HD limitations already mean ITV isn’t able to offer every regional HD service on the terrestrial TV platform.
As part of the HD upgrade, regional streams of BBC One, plus BBC Alba and Parliament will also be upgraded on the BBC iPlayer.
Parallel to the project, production equipment in the English regions is being upgraded to support HD. A number of regions are now broadcasting in HD on Virgin Media and Sky Glass, while others are still upscaled.
And the BBC has also confirmed its regional news programmes will be revamped later this year. This is in recognition of the 6:30pm bulletin often being the most watched news programme of the day. The refresh forms part of a wider but gradual revamp of BBC News.
One of the reasons why changes to BBC services is taking longer than expected is the recent licence fee freeze. This means work is being spread out over several financial years.