In years to come it may be we look back on ANGA Cable 2011 as the breakthrough moment for HbbTV. Julian Clover reports from Cologne.
If IBC is the show that illustrates the technologies of the future, then ANGA Cable in Cologne (May 3 – 5) is the one where we see them being put into practice. This year there was even an extra floor to find them on.
The show runs the whole gamut of the sector, extending out from just cable, with everything from the nuts and bolts through to the latest technology. But if you were searching for 3D you might have struggled outside of Unitymedia’s showcase of its new demo channel and one small stand that offered 2D to 3D conversion.
Germany is in the spell of HbbTV, the hybrid interface that delivers local information and catch-up content to suitably equipped receivers. It isn’t the most sophisticated system, given the history of German pay-TV that might actually be an advantage, and some manufacturers have been a little economic with their descriptions of compliance. Only now are test suites beginning to appear to ensure compatibility.
Even so the announcement that cableco Tele Columbus was to use HbbTV on top of NDS middleware produced the biggest shock since NDS agreed to participate in CI Plus. Those on the NDS stand were happy to declare that they were simply doing what their customers required.
Once the cost of NDS providing an integration with HbbTV is out of the way, Tele Columbus may be saving itself a few Euro, but it also will have access to a wealth of applications being developed across the country for cable, satellite and DTT. Out of nothing, Germany has a common interactive platform.
In many ways this is nothing new for NDS, it has after all been running OpenTV alongside its original middleware on the BSkyB platform for a dozen years and MediaHighway gave the occasional nod to MHP.
It’s also one that has been picked up by Eutelsat’s Kabelkiosk, which has developed one of the most sophisticated implementations yet for its cable customers, ahead of the anticipated availability of cable HbbTV devices at the end of the year. Eutelsat was demoing a white label version that can be customised by the smaller operators that use the Kabelkiosk service. The presence of a VOD platform means they will also be able to see off the same over-the-top challenges of their larger compatriots.
Other than the “we welcome competition” routine, there is a difference in attitude towards the delivery of over-the-top video content. Marc Schröder, CEO of RTL Interactive made it clear that he did not want third parties making money out of his content, while Anders Blauenfeldt, product development at Denmark’s cable operator YouSee said the plan was to move in the other direction, extending his company’s offer off-net and clearly with no intention of letting any Netflix-style service gain access to his customer.