Europe Tries Hard to Find a Way in Digital Terrestrial Advanced Services

There is no doubt that the world of television is becoming very complex.  There is no doubt that there is very little technology that has not been discovered for Digital Television especially in Interactive Services or Value added Services.  If only the powers that be (European Commission) were to step up to the plate and create a platform so that business could push ahead I believe I could sleep well at night.

The European Broadcasting Union has created confusion by backing HbbTV then backing off and adjusting the backing to HBB whilst citing HbbTV, MHP, CTV and Canvas in the mix of competing standards for that illustrious marriage of Broadcast and Internet.  As the Internet (or Back-Channel) is the only frontier that is not actually owned by anyone then there is only one place to go – Down an Internet route.  HDTV has been done – 3D-TV is on its way so what is left for all those engineers to do?  Play with the open frontier of Internat and marry that to the TV.  Well we have done that but it was not liked so it has to be done again because the flavour of the technology wasn’t what the Internet gurus understood.  Corporate Politics, Not Invented Here Syndrome and a whole host of competitive issues came into play at the same time.

DTT can offer the following: (In green you do not actually need a Back Channel – In Red you do).

  1. Linear TV
  2. Linear TV + Bound Applications (Play-along quizzes, voting etc. that is tied to the show)
  3. Stand Alone Applications (News, Weather, Stock Tickers etc.)
  4. PVR and Push VOD to the PVR
  5. Streaming VOD over the Back Channel (PPV)
  6. Linear TV and Applications that ties-in Associated Back-Channel Video
  7. Access to Widgets & 3rd Party Applications

The “fly in the ointment” to what looks like a beautiful mix of advanced services in DTT  is that the owner of the Back-Channel (Internet Pipe) is not the owner per-se and this is the battleground and final frontier that many companies have seen as their market-place to implement.

  • The Broadcasters want to use it for their offering.
  • The CE manufacturers want to use it for their offering thus circumnavigating the Broadcasters.
  • Other “On-Line Companies” want to own it as well leading to a very complex market-place.
  • IPTV companies want to own it entirely.

Quite frankly there will be no success as wished by the EBU for a Broadcast – Broadband wished just because someone invented a new technical way (HbbTV) to offer those services that I have listed above…there has already been a full technical solution (DVB-MHP) but that has not found favour in DTT – Not because of the technology inadequacies but simply in a wild frontier like TV and Intenet the battle for supremacy is still ongoing and those who support their flavour will fight at all costs to see their company as the winner.  The EBU needs to get to grips with “business models” and standardisation at EC level – rather than support a particular flavours of a technolgy and talk about further harmonisation as in there ” Common Core” statement.

Above and beyond the EBU Technical Committee:  Broadcasters in the main cannot see a way to monnetize the offerings above unless they become “VERTIZONTAL” (Both Free to Air – Horizontal and PAYTV – Vertical) and  it and that will be no different in any HBB world.  Their costs will increase in order to build the services they have to offer…they need to become a PayTV operator (this is not feasible for all).  The Public Service Broadcasters are confused as to how far they can or should go – look at the BBC…The Advertising driven revenue Broadcasters are seeing dilution of revenue and that is another fact of this dilution and OTT services…

Perhaps the European Commission will eventually wake up and tackle the issues of  Digital Terrestrial TV and all its Problemeatic Areas & Boundaries.  Open Internet is one thing but it has thrown a huge spanner in the spokes of all the wheels of  Digital Terrestrial Television.

I welcome Neely Kroes into the battle…will her armour be as deflective as Viviane Redings?

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