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.

The Television Business and Return on Investment


Every Tom, Dick & Harry want to be in TV and offer TV Content Portals…Even Starbucks, Norwegian Pizza chains and a plethora TV Manufacturers are in the game. You cannot get a plumber or builder but you can easily find a geek to build you a TV Portal! Where is the ROI on these TV Portal activities? Does Philips, Sony, LG, Panasonic sell any more TVs in a saturated business because of a TV Portal? Apparently TV are NOT being connected to the Internet even though they are Connected TVs, Apps are what they are – fun for a while. Who knows because nobody will reveal their figures. 3DTV failed and is going away quietly, Cisco cutting back by shutting down a STB manaufacturing plant…Echostar brave enough to shut down its IPTV offering! What more is there to come? Will this be a catalyst for the realities of the need for ROI in the TV Business? Will we see more people like the CE manufacturers drop their fragmented and surely wasteful investment in a Connected TV service. The financial crisis is not over so we will certainly have to watch this space.

The Shifting Sands of the Digital TV Industry


Are your exhausted, disgusted, frustrated, befuddled, amused or enthused at the daily ups and downs in the broadband industry?  A LINKEDIN Discussion

It’s a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD World if you follow the broadband industry. Barriers are falling, borders are reshaping, allegiances are changing.

I really love that there is always optimism spouting forth when debates arise and that rarely you get anyone contributing in a rational manner, even negative manner for people are afraid to tell it as it is anymore.  Especially on open fora such as this  – BTW I am not being rude to anyone…Not at all!   Just noted that the LINKEDIN fora are somewhat restrained due to Big Brother fear.

Back to point: In fact the answer to this point really does depend on where your Company stands in times of disruption and turmoil.  If your Company is the water that shifts the sands you are the cause and are in power…If you are the sand and being shifted all the time then it is a different response as you are powerless.  There are ways to anchor yourself but it means a fight to stand strong against a disruptive wave that might when things calm down see you in the same position weaker or stronger than before.  We have seen this in Digital TV Technology … Many projects and initiatives around new-technologies have been launched.  I have been in Companies that have been the sand being shifted and we found ourselves shifted somewhere else a short time later and shifted again…The TV industry at present is chasing rainbows (but using technology to do it) in order to get that pot of gold but many times it is not there…sometimes it is and it is pure luck that lands you that pot of gold position today.

In the Digital TV world there is massive disruption because of technology advancements.  In fact there is a huge problem in technology leap frogging (shifting sands) as well as over supply of new and better mousetraps by a myriad of new Companies, who when asked to supply in mass quantity suddenly realise the dificulty that is scalability in technological and Corporate terms…a Digital Technology runaway train that simply is, in the main, irrational when it comes to business acumen…a Business that should like all businesses obtain ROI and Profitability.

I will give an example – Black and White TV, Colour TV, High Definition Analogue, Standard Definition Digital, High Definition Digital, 3DTV…Ultra High Definition TV, Super Ultra High Definition TV … Hologram TV…TV Everywhere…For the same mass eyeballs that watch TV between the limited hours of 6-midnight.  Terrestrial, Cable, Satellite, IPTV, WebTV, OTT, TV Everywhere…on all devices…even the Fridge gets a mention…

Analogue HD failed, 3DTV is a waste of investment as it turns out, UHDTV what for?  To keep TVEngineers in work …  We have seen masses of Companies chase a technology – BluCom at Astra  – Business model failed, Public Service Broadcaster DTT interactiveTV – Business Model Failed.  IPTV – MULTI Billions of dollars investment for a very small % of TV subscribers in comparison to Broadcast TV.     Good ROI – Dont think so.  Now Connected TV is the Valhalla, so was WebTV which failed not because web was weak in them days but the cost of Customer Support was ignored…Sony last week tried to justify “carriage charges” for its Connected TV platform to Broadcasters who already ship the same Content to a TV antenna for no carriage charge … Business model not thought out or ignored.  There are too many other examples to write here.   In the main as one technology tries to mature another pops up to distract the CTO and he runs around like a headless chicken too frightened to ignore it in case it is the next big thing and to frightened to invest in case it isnt.

Why are CE manufacturers becoming Broadcasters?  Because they have run out of market…The TV is a commodity and we all have a couple or 3.  So what do they do next?  Tesco becomes a Broadband provider and a Bank … etc. etc.

So as it stands some of us are trying to ride the tide of technologies,  anchored in the fundamentals we try to keep our head above water in the hope that some of these waves pass by without damaging the foothold we have…We adapt for sure but we have also been victime of wastage, massive distractions and money has not been wisely spent…Whilst everyone else is trying to be in everyone elses’ business we will see in the not too distant future consolidation and the “nettoyage” that is borne of technology bubbles…or we may just float away taken by the wind, forever changing direction and not ever reach the end goal.  Or we wont!