The Swedish Radio and Television Board (RTVV) has published its sixth annual report into the market surrounding application software for digital television including Electronic Programme Guides (EPG) and the Application Programming Interface (API) that support the various interactive applications.
The Board notes that rather than find a uniform solution, operators are instead choosing to develop converged solutions, often combining traditional TV distribution with forms of broadband connectivity. However, it sees no need to intervene in the market.
Operators are increasingly developing more sophisticated EPGs, a trend that largely began with the launch of PVRs, though there have since been no radical changes. Again the Board has decided there is no requirement for further legislation.
Swedish law, with a nod to European legislation, requires operators to provide access to EPGs on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. However, the Ministry of Culture has decided that there should be no direct regulation of the EPG, aside for rules covering interoperability on the terrestrial platform.
Following Sweden’s analogue switch-off, this year’s report, which focussed on the major operators Boxer TV Access, Canal Digital Sweden, Com Hem, TeliaSonera and Viasat, was charged with looking at the terrestrial market in more detail.
There remains little interest in interactive TV programming. While television companies can invite their audience to participate by telephone or over the internet, there is a lack of two-way connectivity for the majority of platforms. This has been seen in other countries, where broadcasters are happy to use premium rate phone numbers rather than take up time explaining the various methods required over the variety of platforms through which they broadcast.
However, the Board found that there was increasing interest from operators in on demand programming, which they believe will encourage the use of interactivity as viewers move away from the linear schedule.
Increasingly operators are offering end user equipment that combines a PVR for local storage with the ability to retrieve programmes from the internet. The Board believes that the introduction of digital television receivers with internet connectivity will further encourage the development of interactive TV services including catch-up TV (New Television Insider recalls when this might have been referred to as an enhanced TV application).
The inability for a common API to emerge in Europe is well documented, and when the Board contacted the leading Swedish operators in May 2009, a number of players wondered as to whether such a standard would have in any case achieved anything. Canal Digital, Boxer, Com Hem and Viasat all use different systems, though with the common DVB-SI. The Board notes that Viasat has probably given the greatest priority to an API.
No complaints have been received by the board over the last year with regard to operators’ handling of an EPG.