Euro Firms Team for Hybrid TV

Europe's race to determine a standardized way to deliver high-quality TV content over broadband lines intensified today when a broad-ranging group of media and technology companies announced the formation of the Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) initiative. (See Euro Firms Form HbbTV.)

The purpose, says the group, is to develop specifications aimed at "harmonising the broadcast and broadband delivery of entertainment to the end consumer through connected TVs and set-top boxes" based on elements of existing IPTV, Web and broadcast standards developed by the likes of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) , DVB , the Open IPTV Forum (OIPF) , and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) .

Ultimately, the group envisages HbbTV products and services (for satellite, cable, and terrestrial delivery systems) that "provide the consumer with a seamless entertainment experience with the combined richness of broadcast and broadband," involving a hybrid home gateway, a single remote control, a single screen, and multiple capabilities such as catch-up TV, video-on-demand (VoD), interactive advertising, personalization, voting, games and social networking, and program-related services such as digital text and electronic program guides (EPGs).

That sounds very much like the aims of Project Canvas, which is being driven by a group of U.K. media and communications players, including BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) . (See BBC Updates on Canvas and BT Unveils Its CDN Plans.)

So has the HbbTV group -- which includes the likes of TV software firm ANT Software Ltd. (London: ANTP), satellite services player SES Astra , set-top box vendors Humax Co. Ltd. and KAON Media Co. Ltd. , German broadcasting group The Institut für Rundfunktechnik, digital TV technology vendor OpenTV Corp. (Nasdaq: OPTV), and consumer electronics firm Royal Philips Electronics N.V. (NYSE: PHG; Amsterdam: PHI) -- been in touch with the Project Canvas members?

Well, yes, but it's all rather tentative. "There has already been some initial discussion between HbbTV and BBC R&D, and we would hope to continue this," states ANT Software CTO David Fell in an email to Light Reading. "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."

That still means, though, that there are at least one too many hybrid broadcast/broadband delivery standards initiatives going on, notes Heavy Reading senior analyst and TV addict Adi Kishore. (See Downturn Could Drive Online Video and Verizon Innovates on IPTV.)

"We only need one standard, but it's no surprise there's more than one development. I'd actually expected the Americans to come up with an alternative to Canvas, which is a British initiative that no one else has bought into," notes Kishore.

"It looks like there are going to be multiple developments based on different regions, which rather goes against the point of an Internet standard. And I expect there will be more," adds the analyst.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

digits 12/5/2012 | 3:57:24 PM
re: Euro Firms Team for Hybrid TV This looks like a vital initiative, but is it workable? is there a single solution for hybrid video content delivery that might be considered in multiple territories? This group looks like it has some big hitters, but it would all be more convincing if HbbTV and Canvas found some common ground.
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