BBC trialling use of content chapters

Monday, September 28 2009,

The BBC has revealed that it is currently trialling the use of chapters to help viewers and listeners more easily navigate to key moments in its programming.

Writing on the BBC Internet Blog, BBC Audio & Interactive executive producer Sarah Prag said that the chapters would be similar to those already found on DVDs.

She explained that this feature would enable users to easily locate points of interest in programming, but also track down other interesting items in BBC shows that they may not have noticed.

BBC 5Live was first to introduce the technology, with links available on the station's homepage for listeners to find a particular chapter or search for a person or subject covered in all programmes.

Prag confirmed that chapters are not appearing in official BBC Search results as yet, but they will be introduced later in the year.

"In the future you might be able to download those chapters, or embed them in a blog, or sign up to get a podcast of all items on a particular subject... but we're only just starting to think about these possibilities," she explained.

"Right now it's still early days, and we're interested in experimenting and learning. We're not even sure whether 'chapters' is the right way to describe this and we plan to keep working on improving how chapters look and work, based on user testing and audience research."

Testing for the chapters service has started on a "limited selection of programmes" so that the BBC team can better understand what works and what doesn't.

However, factors such as rights agreements and editorial constraints could limit the scope of the scheme, meaning that its growth would come in a "controlled and measured way".

Prag continued: "We also need to do some work behind the scenes to make it as easy and efficient as possible for producers to add chapters.

"At the moment they're having to type the info in by hand, but we are aiming to tap into existing data from around the BBC like running orders and subtitles. This work is really vital if we want to make chapters an everyday feature of"