As an original joint French-German initiative in 2009 that gained early success as an OTT and broadcast syndicated standard, HbbTV has matured into a harmonising open standard facilitating the delivery of content to a wide range of compatible devices, leading increasing numbers of operators to rethink their multiscreen strategy. In an effort to make the platform even more open and to expand its functionality, HbbTV announced last year the launch of HbbTV2.0, and even more recently, that it is developing specifications for operator applications.
Freeview Play in the UK was one of the first adopters of HbbTV 2.0, which enabled it to add catch-up and on-demand services to Freeview’s traditional Electronic Program Guide (EPG) in a standards based way rather than using a proprietary approach. Since its deployment, users have been afforded access to a rich set of advanced TV services like catchup TV, interactive advertising, enhanced electronic program guides and Video on Demand (VoD) from leading broadcasters – BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5 – complementing their respective broadcast content.
ACCESS, Pixsan and Strategy & Technology supported this initiative through “Project Uno”, our shared source code base for DVB and Over-The-Top (OTT) hybrid TV platforms offering European HbbTV providers and their partners opportunities to accelerate future device deployments and innovation. Our joint solution combines Pixsan’s UTK framework for core DVB functionality with Strategy & Technology’s Redkey MHEG5 software receiver engine for interactive overlays and backwards compatibility. These features are complemented by ACCESS’ NetFront™ Browser HbbTV profile, a WebKit or Chromium based browser solution extended with HbbTV components and optimized for embedded devices to execute HTML5-based services.
Building on the original success of Freeview Play, the HbbTV Association is taking the standard a step further with the announcement of the upcoming HbbTV 2.0 specifications for operator applications, which we welcome with open arms, as it enables TV operators to develop their set-top box or TV set applications using commonly used web technologies. This facilitates the development of a single branded user experience across multiple screens for the delivery of any kind of TV service, including free-to-air and payTV, delivered over satellite, terrestrial, cable and IPTV.
While the new specifications have yet to be unveiled, the advantages for operators looking to offer both free-to-air and payTV across Europe are clear: consumers now expect to get a seamless experience regardless of the device used to access the service or the content watched, which HbbTV 2.0 enables operators to deliver.
As TV standards evolve to adapt to new consumer behaviours, this new chapter in the history of HbbTV will make it a much stronger proposition across the whole of Europe and beyond – including emerging markets that are starting to deploy free-to-air and OTT/VoD multiscreen service, such as the Middle East, Africa and India, who do not yet have clear standards.
Written by Robert Guest, Global Product Director at ACCESS; Jon Williams, Founder and Director, Pixsan; David Cutts, Managing Director and co-founder, S&T