I’m always in favour of standards, just a long as their mine. Julian Clover sees that while progress on hybrid broadband TV is coming, everyone is doing their own thing.
From opposite ends of the spectrum it was announced this week that the start-up hybrid IP-DTT service Fetch TV would be carrying Sky’s premium movie and sports channels, why BT Vision chief executive Marc Watson complained that he couldn’t agree terms for the channels.
Like BT, Fetch subscribers use a DTT box to deliver the Freeview DTT channels that arguably represent the most popular channel brands, and will do for some time to come. The basic difference is that with BT Vision it is assumed that the subscriber will also be hooked up to BT Broadband whereas for Fetch it doesn’t really matter as long as the ISP is providing half decent speeds.
Leaning on DTT is a simple and effective way to ensure that everyone tuning in to watch the nightly episode of EastEnders doesn’t clog your network up. Canvas, in its guise as a platform cum content discovery mechanism, has suggested that the most popular programmes could be cached onto a PVR.
Fetch already offers its subscribers access to the BBC iPlayer, something that both Freeview and Freesat viewers are still waiting for, as attentions turn to the development of Canvas.
The question is what will happen to Fetch and services like it, if and when Canvas finds its way into set-top boxes and television receivers. The if comes from Sony, where Tim Page, senior manager, technology marketing, questioned as to whether the manufacturer would be interested in including Canvas in the first place.
Sony was one of the first display manufacturers to put broadband connectivity into their TV sets and the simplicity of use that their customers now expect suggests that there either has to be a meeting of minds or Canvas won’t be an automatic choice. While Page told the Screen Digest Future of Online Media event this week that Sony will “probably” incorporate Hbb into its sets, no decision has yet been reached on Canvas, and remember it was Sony that described the BBC’s development of the project as making the UK a “technological island”. It is not unreasonable for television manufacturers to want to deliver the same sets across an entire region, not a single country, which is largely how MHEG-5 made inroads into Europe and now benefits from its relationship with CI Plus.
Sony is also getting into the content through its Bravia Internet TV platform that already has Germany’s ARD, Italy’s Mediaset, Spain’s RTVE, Antena3 and LaSexta and Five in the UK on board.
Before we end up with one ‘standard’ for each manufacturer and broadcaster in Europe the European Broadcasting Union is now looking at how to bring everyone together. We still need some clarity from Canvas, but it is emerging as more platform than technology. The EBU technical office under Peter MacAvock is looking at how the technology might come together while allowing the various players to move at different speeds.