New Pan-European "HbbTV" Initiative Launched for Hybrid Broadcast-Broadband Environments

--Is Engaged in "Initial Discussion" with Project Canvas

A consortium of companies active in the European television market--including broadcasters Canal+, France Televisions and TF1; Germany's Institut fuer Rundfunktechnik; satellite operator SES Astra; and software providers OpenTV and ANT--last week announced the launch of "Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV" (HbbTV), a pan-European initiative "aimed at harmonizing the broadcast and broadband delivery of news, information and entertainment to the end consumer through TV's and set-top boxes with an optional Web connection." The initiative's goals appear to be similar to those of Project Canvas, the joint initiative between the BBC, UK commercial broadcaster ITV, and UK incumbent telco BT, which seeks to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer and the ITV player, as well as other Internet-based VOD services, to broadband-connected set-top boxes.

According to the consortium, the initiative will result in an HbbTV specification that is based on elements of existing standards and Web technologies, including OIPF, CEA, DVB and W3C; and will allow hybrid broadcast-broadband services to be "delivered with one remote control on one screen." The specification will provide consumers with "an entertainment experience with the combined richness of broadcast and broadband," the consortium says, and will promote the deployment of such services as catch-up TV, VOD, interactive TV advertising, personalization, voting, games, social networking, digital text and EPG's. The consortium hopes to encourage development of HbbTV products and services for all broadcasting technologies, including satellite, cable and digital terrestrial. "HbbTV will build on the success of the existing SD teletext service which is used by more than 14 million consumers each day in Germany by providing a high-quality video text service more suited to HD receivers," Klaus Illgner-Fehns, managing director of the Institut fuer Rundfunktechnik, said in a prepared statement. "It will deliver an open platform for broadcasters, manufacturers and service providers to deliver value-added on-demand services to consumers of digital content. HbbTV not only allows service providers to enrich their offering, but results in considerable benefits to the end consumer who will no longer be challenged by usability issues across multiple platforms. By making the most of today's hybrid receivers, HbbTV merges broadcasting and broadband services seamlessly to deliver value-added content such as Web and on-demand, in addition to traditional linear broadcast TV." Added Frederic Tapissier, president of the technical committee of the France HD-Forum: "The HD-Forum, an association driving the development and promotion of digital HDTV, together with the French government's representatives, DGCIS and CSA, are actively working on the HbbTV standard solution in its effort to make DTT interactive in France. A key advantage for HbbTV is the ability to mix broadcast and online services while retaining the broadcasters' control. We plan to quickly agree an IPR regime that benefits the entire value chain so that we deploy an interactive version of TNT, the French DTT platform, in 2010."

According to a report by Light Reading's Ray Le Maistre, the HbbTV consortium and Project Canvas are currently engaging in "tentative" dialog about combining their respective efforts: "There has already been some initial discussion between HbbTV and BBC R&D, and we would hope to continue this," ANT CTO, David Fell, told the publication. "HbbTV is also intending to submit comments to the BBC Trust. We welcome the opportunity to embrace the Canvas requirements to create a truly pan-European specification for hybrid broadcast/broadband TV."

The HbbTV consortium will be demo'ing solutions in the ARD stand (Hall 2.2/101) at the IFA show in Berlin, and in the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) Village (Stand 10.D21) at the IBC show in Amsterdam. More information is available at http://www.hbbtv.org

Europe