IBC 2009 – Amsterdam. “It is the EBU job to try and harmonise the initiatives for internet to the TV services,” said Peter MacAvock of the EBU. Over-the-top delivery of content on hybrid devices is one of the hot issues at this year’s IBC. But, as MacAvock pointed, out over-the-top delivery has been around for many years, citing Teletext as the prime – and very successful – example.
At the moment there are many initiatives on the market, varying by country. The new HbbTV consortium, based upon open ITV standards, brings together broadcasters from France and Germany. “They are Greenfield sites with no middleware on the free-to-air services.”
In the UK, free-to-air broadcasters already use MHEG5 for broadcast text services, and Canvas is in development for video delivery over the web, while in Italy and Austria MHP is to some extent employed on the digital terrestrial services.
“All markets are different, so there are different market scenarios. There are common elements to all of these developments and it is the EBU job to try and harmonise the initiatives.”
With the current OTT services, a number of killer applications have clearly come to the surface. With teletext news, weather and holiday; with online video services to the PC, catch-up TV services have become spectacularly successful, so who knows what will be a success with over-the-top delivery via broadband.
With OTT over broadband, there are two distinct developments. One is HbbTV, which offers a service synchronized with video content with mainstream broadcast services. This is obviously very attractive to broadcasters, who can offer a wide range of additional services. When tuned to a particular channel, viewers have only access to the OTT content from that particular broadcaster.
The other method is the widget concept, with Yahoo and Intel as protagonists, with little or no integration with the broadcast environment. Although visually attractive with the dock-like overlay over the broadcast stream, it seems unlikely that broadcaster will tolerate an overlay with content from other sources and competitors.
In MacAvock’s view for the short term, OTT will be relying on application signaling in the broadcast channel. And the internet is not yet adapted to mainstream long-form high res content in a mainstream manner. Of course, the iPlayer is great news; but is still touching a relative small portion of the population.
In the medium to long term, broadband application signaling will follow enriching the media experience. But: “Broadcast distribution will always be there – it’s too efficient; cheap and will always do its job. Broadband will never – at least in our view – surplant broadcast. Content will drive the mix between broadcast and broadband.”
In the new world, broadcast will never be the same again with hybrid being the new OTT environment that can be very successful.
Professor Ulrich Reimers, chairman of the DVB technical module confirmed the DVB had been approached by a number of parties with a view to fostering a harmonisation of the emerging techniques. He said it was not in the best interests of the public if viewers were restricted to a handful of internet outlets controlled by TV manufacturers.