Everyone Following their Own Path with HBB

Do not expect rationalisation of standards and anything close to a pan-European, let alone a global specification for hybrid broadcast broadband (HBB). That was the message from a panel of experts at the OTT TV World Summit on Wednesday.

Anthony Smith-Chaigneau, Chairman of the DVB-GEM Commercial Module, which determines what the DVB interactive TV standard needs to deliver for the market, suggested the problem is not a technical one but a human one.

“There are plenty of standards but nobody is choosing them,” he said. “Everyone is fighting each other and following their own path.”

Dr Klaus Illgner-Fehns, IRT Director and Chair at the HbbTV Consortium, disagreed with the analysis that the problem is down to people and organisations getting in the way of progress towards harmonisation. He explains the lack of conformity by the fact that different markets have different needs.

Illgner-Fehns highlighted the progress of HbbTV, which looks to have the best chance of pan-regional adoption. This ETSI standard has strong support in Germany and France and he says there is even interest in Japan, China and the U.S. He attributes the success of HbbTV to meeting the need for a solution that accommodated Internet services and applications but was also available quickly and was not over-engineered. Importantly, the standard also left room for device manufacturers to provide some differentiation. Now the standard can provide economies of scale for smaller CE vendors looking to promote their own branded portals via hybrid solutions.

Richard Lindsay-Davies, Director General at the Digital TV Group, the body responsible for developing and maintaining the DTT specifications in the UK, also noted the lack of uniformity and pointed out that even HbbTV, which could potentially deliver a one-size-fits-all standard, is being implemented using different profiles in different countries.

“It seems that everyone wants a standard as long as it is their standard.”

And this is just the hybrid broadcast broadband market. In connected TV there are multiple manufacturer platforms and as pointed out on another panel at the conference, even TV models from the same vendor in different years are not fully compatible. There is also an interesting dynamic between the connected TV market, characterized by CE vendor content portals that stand separate to linear TV, and the HBB market, notable for the way linear TV content links seamlessly via ‘Red button’ type links to interactive and catch-up TV services.

Antonio Gioia, Project Manager at DTT Content Factory for Mediaset in Italy, said the CE vendors are trying to push the broadcaster towards their own ‘widgets platforms’ to host their content and services – something that on the face of it is attractive because these platforms are already built and deployed. But the company is not convinced, with Gioia saying,

“All that glistens is not gold. We try to keep our content integrity and avoid the division of our brand, which is why we are trying to push the idea of a common [broadcast-centric] platform like in the UK, Spain, France and Germany.”

DVB-GEM is being used as the basis for HBB services in Italy.

By John Moulding, Videonet