HbbTV is Hybrid Broadcast Broadband television. It is a method of combining traditional linear TV with extra information, interactive streams and catch-up TV.
With HbbTV, broadcasts can deliver extra services via their broadcast services, including:
- Enhanced teletext-style news and information
- Access to on-demand programme libraries.
- Interactive streams providing additional content or options to play along with quizzes.
HbbTV has grown in popularity, especially in countries where traditional teletext services are still going strong. Broadcasters and viewers are making the step straight from traditional teletext to HbbTV.
In the UK, HbbTV adoption is being driven by the BBC and the platforms it has a shareholding in: Freeview and Freesat. The UK is late to the party, with the BBC having pushed MHEG5 for much of the last 20 years as a replacement for traditional teletext.
You can find out more about HbbTV at www.hbbtv.org.
How else could HbbTV be used?
Another advantage of HbbTV is that broadcasters could – if they wanted to – deliver access to their catch-up/on-demand services to viewers without the broadcaster having to sign up with multiple manufacturers and platform operators to ensure the app is available – all the viewer would need is an HbbTV compatible TV, broadband connection and reception of the channel to access the app.
While UK commercial public service broadcasters worry about prominence in a connected world, and look on as US streaming giants secure deals with manufacturers to include instant access buttons on remote controls, HbbTV would allow them to turn the buttons associated with their channel number (3, 4 or 5) into instant access buttons for their on-demand services, thanks to HbbTV’s ability to auto-start an application when viewers select a channel: viewers could see a live stream of the
relevant channel on pressing 3, 4 or 5 as now, but with direct access to ITV Hub, All4 or My5 in the background, with the colour buttons on the remote used to go to different functions within the connected TV app. This is how HbbTV works across a growing number of channels on the continent.
However, in the UK, where powerful platform operators rule the roost, providing access to on-demand content is also a revenue stream. So freely enabling access to on-demand via HbbTV undermines any clout a broadcaster may have when negotiating a carriage deal with a platform operator.
In the UK, only BBC channels carry an HbbTV flag – here the BBC uses it to allow users to access content from the BBC News, Sport and iPlayer apps, but wants to use it to deliver content substitution (i.e. potentially inserting regional news on HD).
Elsewhere, takeup of HbbTV is being driven by platform operators, including Freeview, who offer catch-up and on-demand via its portal on channel 100 (on compatible devices) and the Freeview EPG rather than broadcasters offering their own direct links to connected services via auto-loading apps.