HbbTV Needs to Up Its Game If It Wants To Win!


There is many a debate (especially on the TV Forums of LinkedIn) surrounding the Interactive TV Specification of HbbTV.  Many people are already hailing its success due to the fact that it has been selected in a handful of countries with interest and deployment growing elsewhere.  Even the DTG in the UK has added an HbbTV profile to its D-Book Spec.

Like Docsis versus the DVB-Return Channel specification the industry driven HbbTV spec has beaten a DVB consortium developed product.  Notably the same supporting Companies are in both camps in order to hedge their bets.  Actually  they are merely choosing sides and subversively working against the specification that they do not actually support as a business?  I have, in the past complained about this act to no avail.  I have also highlighted this issue of fragmentation at SDO level, to no avail, especially as the world of TV and Broadband collide!  No organization (i.e EU/EC) has evoked any initiatives around the need to  ‘merge’ these disparitive groups in order to harmonise all the work, thus avoiding, in the main, huge Corporate wastage of effort and manpower.  Millions upon millions of dollars are spent in duplicated tracks of work.  We live with it.   The DVB and OIPF/HbbTV divergence will possibly cause more fragmentation than is necessary despite liaison between the groups.  The DVB must address this issue quickly in order to help the market roll-out of this homogenised interactive system for DVB networks – Perhaps it is too late for that?  Docsis managed to be successful without the DVB, so was CI+ until it was pulled back in to the consortium.  Has a precedence been set?

I was an evangelist for MHP in those heady days, which now bear a striking resemblance to the HbbTV rollout. I am still a firm believer in Interactive Value Added Services for the viewer and therefore it is good that HbbTV appears to be growing in stature. I said it is moving ahead in the same way as MHP did 10+ years ago i.e. a disparitive smattering of Countries, Channels, Broadcasters, Operators – Many, Many Tech suppliers – a further smattering of Content Developers and several all encompassing HbbTV experts such as HTTV in France.

However like the MHP initiative there is no cohesive nation-wide plan in any country despite what others may think; nor any EU mandate (nor will they ever mandate anything in this area now the market has reached such massive digital fragmentation) – the digital Interactive TV horse has truly bolted!  This may cause a problem for HbbTV to become a true nationwide or global standard.

As I have also previously highlighted the very nature of TV software evolution (HTML5, Companion Screen, Second Screen, Zeebox,  SaaS technology etc.) and the margin fueled business of high volume selling at retail i.e. Zappers and alternative solutions (Hulu, Netflix, AppleTV and all the varieties of Connected TV, WebTV and the Toys-R-Us channel type offerings) it may take longer for it to be fully mainstream in Retail…

However for the first time it has a larger ‘Broadcaster’ following than any other previous standard. The EBU is firmly behind it. The markets are the problem. Where there is an incumbent like the lonely MHP in Italy, change will take longer, but there will be change; it is inevitable!  Unification with a forward drive at a higher level is required.  Someone needs to really drive it forward but NOT as a technology; which is the present modus operandi!  One of the biggest problems of HbbTV is that  after tens of years of experience, we know full well that selling Technology Acronyms for the Interactive TV business to Consumers – DOES NOT WORK. Even MHEG5 and OpenTV in Sky were converted to “Red Button” to make it consumer palatable. HbbTV needs to do the same for it to go truly mainstream before it becomes outmoded especially ‘vis-à-vis’ the general public who are used to ‘new services’ each 6 months. If HbbTV wants to win as a mainstream universal technology it has to up its game.

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