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 can HbbTV be used?
An advantage of HbbTV is that broadcasters can 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. So for example, public broadcasters in Germany, Spain, Poland and Czech Republic make extra content available via their HbbTV app, triggered by pressing the red button. All the viewer needs is a HbbTV compatible TV, broadband connection and reception of the channel to access the app.
One notable exception is Sky, who doesn’t offer HbbTV support on Sky Q in most countries, even though the boxes are compatible. The UK is the exception. Here, following an agreement between the BBC and Sky in November 2019, HbbTV support was activated through a software update. This allows access to BBC iPlayer through the BBC HbbTV red button+ service.
Usage in the UK
In the UK, only BBC channels carry an HbbTV flag – here the BBC uses it to allow users to access content from the BBC iPlayer apps. In the future it wants to use it to deliver content substitution (i.e. potentially inserting regional news on HD).
Elsewhere, take-up of HbbTV is led by platform operators, including Freeview. Freeview offers a HbbTV based Freeview Accessible Programme Guide (channel 555) and an on-demand portal (channel 100).