The Never Ending Call For Digital TV Standardisation – “Young man, the ‘market’ will decide”!

When is a Standard not a Standard? It would seem that it is when it is officially recognised by a Standards Body…after that it just becomes a pawn in the marketing and lobbying of Support Groups for their preferred flavour. First of all it was MHEG which was standardised and not taken up globally for DTT, then came the turn of ACAP & MHP, now its the turn of HbbTV…HTML5 is on the horizon some say Android will reign supreme!

At the recent OTT World Summit held in London where the “worlds television executives” gathered to hear the latest and greatest sales pitches from all & sundry there was yet another Standards discussion. We hear it all the time – We need a Standard! Actually what we get is – My TV system is better than your TV system, My Standard is better than your TV Standard etc. This is not grown up, nor intelligent, always arguing that we do it this way because it’s better than your way! What is at stake? All that SDOs are trying to fix the age old problem of implementing Value Added Services on top of Programming nothing more! It will not help world peace, it will not feed starving families it is just Interactive TV – STOP the fighting! Reunite the SDOs and let’s agree and get on with it so we can develop decent value added services that make a difference! And by the way they are not news portals, nor teletext with pictures thank you very much, we did that 20 years ago!!

It is a fairly tiresome business keeping up with all of this infighting that has taken place over those last 20 years or more, WHY? Because little has changed. As mentioned above the latest proponents of a World Standard for Digital TV is the HbbTV Forum. Their presentation did not have any earth shattering statements, they did not discuss how the particular “product” is made or how it matches up to other Standards – nor the miserable amount of expensive receivers that have NOT been shipped into Germany. They only managed a few stretched truths about its success, but lobbyists and supporters are are guilty of that. (Yes me too!) Despite the announcement today from Spain that it has selected this latest and greatest technology (It is not news it is lobbying) it changes nothing to the overall problem. Take-up and use of Advanced Services needs only one thing – Good and Useful Value Added Services that bring added value to the consumer. Teletext and URLs to video links will just not cut the mustard at 200 Euros a STB! Spanish TV will not flourish because of this selection. France and Germany are a gauge! Counter Lobbying haha!?

Back to the problem of people and standards! During the ensuing OTTWS Panel discussion I stated that the basic technology is still the same. There is a Presentation Engine and a Execution Engine and they either work together or they don’t depending on your chosen poison. Nothing has changed since Digital TV ever appeared. Android is the latest sexy STB & iDTV middleware that we all race to implement as is HTML5 but what are they if they are not Presentation and Execution Engines? Who owns or controls the IPR? You see where this might be heading.

So here is the solution – With Hybrid & Convergence being axiomatic for Digital TV solutions we should ultimately look at CONVERGING Standards Development Organisations and Standards Bodies as well. Do we need different groups rubber stamping a technology? Do we need SDOs all feeding off of each others work? Do we need multiple Standards? Most of all do we need to waste Company time, effort and money on following these different strains of the same thing? And more so is it right that we have disingenuous people sitting on one organisation who have influence, also sitting on the competing one, also in a position of influence, just so their Company ultimately gets their technology (IPR) into one or the other or both of the Standards! Not to mention the ‘blockers’ who attend so their Company can get about selling as much as possible of its proprietary implementation before a standard can be achieved. Because that is all that this is about in reality – Selling stuff.

Standards have become a pawn in the IPR game and the more we move along the more we go backwards to a fully disparate systems all pretending to be “the solution”. But then again why worry about any of this because as I have been told by the authorities that do have the power to change all of this – “Young man, the ‘market’ will decide”! – However from what I personally experienced at the OTTWS which is symptomatic of the Digital TV business, I may never get to see that happen!

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