NorDig, the digital broadcasting standards body of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Ireland, has added the HbbTV standard as the API for interactive services for advanced hybrid integrated receiver decoders (IRDs) - connected TVs and set-tops with integrated tuners. The HbbTV version 1.1.1 replaces the existing DVB MHP (the Digital Video Broadcasting Multimedia Home Platform) in hybrid IRDs.
HbbTV is a technical standard designed to combine broadcast services with services delivered via broadband within a single point of access. The intent of HbbTV is to simplify the implementation of hybrid solutions for media services delivery. The HbbTV specification has been approved by ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and integrates existing standards from bodies such the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), DVB, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Open IPTV Forum (OIPF).
Alongside the adoption of HbbTV standards by NorDig, the HbbTV consortium released details of the latest version of its specification, Version 1.5. Major additions include support for HTTP adaptive bitrate streaming based on the MPEG-DASH specification and the ability for content providers to use multiple DRM technologies for DASH-delivered content. In addition, the 1.5 specification enhances broadcast schedule information provision, permitting more sophisticated and consistent EPG deployment.
HbbTV already enjoys extensive adoption across European countries, and the latest expression of support for HbbTV by NorDig further strengthens its role. In Germany, the RTL Group, ARD and ZDF have already launched HbbTV supported services. In France, public broadcaster France Televisions adopted the standard for news distribution to connected TVs and for France 5's C dans l'air programme provision. Channels such as France 24 have announced the launch of HbbTV offerings, planned for early 2012. In the Netherlands, the broadcaster SBS announched the roll-out of HbbTV services, expected in Q2 2012.
The addition of the 6 new HbbTV supporting nations lends further weight to the standard, as NorDig members include premium content players such as Canal+ and Viasat. This additional widespread broadcaster support places HbbTV-enabled connected devices in a strong position - IHS Screen Digest already expects that of the 132m connectable TVs installed in Western Europe by 2015, nearly 40 per cent will comprise HbbTV-compliant TV sets.
However, from the CE manufacturer side there is a question of how device-makers are going to respond to the fact that they still need to support MHP in Italy and Youview in the UK. YouView, as a single-market initiative is rapidly becoming increasingly less attractive for CE manufacturers - better economies of scale for HbbTV devices may leave YouView behind, with higher prices and/or reduced manufacturer support compared to HbbTV. The UK's FreeSat platform may be a beneficiary of the more widespread HbbTV adoption, having announced its support for the standard in March 2011, although this is contingent to a large extent upon UK broadcaster willingness to develop HbbTV-compliant services. Nonetheless, if HbbTV-capable devices make it onto the UK market as a side-effect of their widespread mainland European adoption (and 2011's Digital Television Group approval of the standard), local broadcasters may well consider such implementations.
For Nordic and Irish broadcasters, the decision to go ahead with the HbbTV service offers will be important in expanding their online services and audiences further. IHS Screen Digest estimates that 3.4m connected TVs will be installed in Scandinavian countries and Ireland at year end 2012.