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HbbTV continues European advance

While the HbbTV hybrid broadcast standard has faded from the news recently, it continues to advance quietly in Europe. The latest launches have come from two public broadcasters, Radio Television Suisse in Switzerland and TVP in Poland.

Radio Television Suisses (RTS) is formally launching its HbbTV service, RTS+, at the end of March with a nationwide rollout after evaluation during a pilot project. This enables viewers with an HbbTV-compatible TV set to access improved on screen information services on the channels RTS One and RTS Two HD, effectively descendents of the old teletext type offerings that predated the Internet.

Today, their main value is through links with programs being shown to display associated content. Indeed, the new HbbTV service also allows viewers to access the Internet and request on demand programming from the public broadcaster, including the latest news bulletins and sports, as well as some other content. HbbTV also supports interactivity, which RTS plans to exploit by enabling live voting during games, shows and for viewers to participate in quizzes.

Meanwhile TVP in Poland is making Wiadomosci, its flagship news bulletin, available via HbbTV in a much more detailed version than currently shown on its first channel TVP1, now including thematic blocks such as business. The same has been done with information program Teleexpress, and for Panorama, the most popular news program on TVP2. The latter includes a forum for presentation of surveys and questionnaires. These are enabled through apps running in HbbTV capable TVs, of which there are now a substantial number in Poland after TVP pioneered HbbTV last summer by transmitting the Euro 2012 football championships, co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.

Although primarily confined to Europe so far, HbbTV has prospects of becoming a global hybrid broadcast standard after ever closer integration with the Open IPTV Forum (OIPF). Although set up initially for IPTV, the OIPF has enlarged its brief to encompass the whole field of IP delivered video, including OTT over unmanaged networks. This was reflected in OIPF’s Release 2 published in 2011, which extended the technical scope of the specifications to embrace OTT, including support for HTTP Adaptive Streaming of live and on-demand content.

Then, in September 2012, OIPF and the HbbTV Consortium announced collaboration on the testing of technologies common to IPTV and enhanced broadcast environments. These included the Declarative Application Environment, referred to as the “OIPF browser”, and the Media Format specifications that are currently being implemented in retail connected TVs, and set tops in regions where hybrid services based on the HbbTV specification are being deployed.