BBC Olympics coverage

Andrew Rowland | 8 August 2016 | comments

The Olympics have started, and as you will have seen from the news item I linked to, BBC Launches Additional Services for Olympics Coverage, the BBC has eight additional channels for the Olympics.

What is remarkable is the difference between terrestrial (FreeView) and satellite (Freesat) — the latter offers far higher quality and better coverage in time (though with the games in Rio taking place largely during our night, that is maybe not so important). The coverage in FreeView is particularly poor if you only have SD (standard definition) receiving equipment, and that includes TVs that are only ‘HD ready’.

If your television or set-top box does not pick up channel changes automatically, you need to retune it (channel scan). However, viewers who only have standard definition Freeview do not need to retune, providing you have BBC RB 0 on channel 600. This is because BBC 4 and CBBC have changed frequency (but not channel numbers). CBBC HD moves to channel 97 and some viewers (e.g. those entirely dependent on the Congleton relay) will lose it entirely until Aug 23. If you had any recordings set for those channels, you will have to set them again. On the plus side, BBC Four HD will start broadcasting at 1:00pm during the Olympics, and be available to more viewers.

The Olympic streams are available through the red button on any BBC channel, or by dialling in directly the channel numbers given below.

 Broadcast TimesFreeViewFreesat Sky Virgin
BBC RB 0 †From 7pm600  
BBC RB 1 †From 9pm601  
BBC RB 1 / BBC Olympics 124 hour608271480571
BBC RB 2 / BBC Olympics 224 hour602272481572
BBC RB 3 / BBC Olympics 324 hour603273482573
BBC RB 4 / BBC Olympics 424 hour604274483574
BBC RB 5 / BBC Olympics 524 hour605275484575
BBC RB 6 / BBC Olympics 624 hour606276485576
BBC RB 7 / BBC Olympics 724 hour607277486577
BBC Olympics 8 ‡24 hour608278487578
BBC Olympics HDFrom 7pm114---
BBC Olympics 1 HD24 hour261472561
BBC Olympics 2 HD24 hour262473562
BBC Olympics 3 HD24 hour263474563
BBC Olympics 4 HD24 hour264475564
BBC Olympics 5 HD24 hour265476565
BBC Olympics 6 HD24 hour266477566
BBC Olympics 7 HD24 hour267478567
BBC Olympics 8 HD24 hour268479568

† These are the only channels (apart from coverage on BBC 1 and 4) available to people without HD sets.
‡ May be labelled RB0 or RB1 at times.

One thing the table makes clear — on FreeView, if you haven't got an HD receiver, the only extra channels you get are the part-time red button channels RB0 and RB1. And even if you have, the extra channels channels are only broadcast in SD. On satellite and cable, you get eight extra channels in SD and HD. It really shows up the limitations of terrestrial broadcasting: capacity is pretty limited (and what there is is filled with rubbish, but that is another argument). And there had to be some other movements to make way for those eight. It had been intended to use the space occupied by BBC Parliament, as parliament is in recess over the summer, but following the Brexit surprise, the BBC decided to leave it available in case of a recall of parliament. They probably wouldn't be worried about that if they were planning now.

But there is an answer. Remember that there are 24 live HD streams on the Web, mobile and on connected TV. These streams will be available from, through the BBC Sport apps for mobiles and tablets and via Red Button+ (the Internet-connected Red Button service) and the BBC Sport App on connected TVs and media streaming devices.

As always, GoggleboxTech is ready to offer advice. Call or email now.

© Andrew Rowland 2016

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