New interest in connected TV could take manufacturers back to just making the sets, writes Julian Clover.
Connected TV seems to be enjoying something of a growth spurt, at least from those people looking to provide services, and in time from the sales of the sets themselves.
Over the last couple of weeks there has been a steady flow of announcements from both content providers and companies looking to provide the infrastructure on which that content will sit.
Sooner or later we will get into the survival of the fittest. Content providers will find there is a law of diminishing returns, so not every piece of content will be available everywhere, but we can at least safely assume that the best content will be found on the best platforms.
Companies like Green Button Media, the latest venture from Pace founder Barry Rubbery, are looking to provide television manufacturers with what is effectively an off-the-shelf platform that provides both programme guide for the viewers and revenue opportunities for the manufacturers.
Interestingly, Green Button is using HbbTV for its service, now branded as Oggle. We usually describe HbbTV as the Franco-German hybrid platform, but it is clear that it is attracting interest outside of France and Germany. Already Humax has used elements of HbbTV in terrestrial receivers marketed in the UK – it sells pure HbbTV units in Germany where public and commercial broadcasters are providing access to information services and catch-up TV. Humax uses an HbbTV engine provided by Cambridge-based ANT and runs its own portal. Humax is large enough to do so, as are the likes of Philips, Samsung and Sony. Rival Woomi, run by Miniweb, already has an agreement with Samsung, along with lesser-known names Vestel, Syabas and DTM.
In time the manufacturers may decide that their business is to build receivers, not set themselves up in competition with RTL.
So maybe HbbTV is going to start emerging as defacto platform for connected TVs, regardless of whether there is any direct broadcaster involvement. We already have a precedent here. Many television sets have MHEG-5 built in, the costs (or lack of them), mean that the UK platform used for the BBC Red Button services is present across Europe, just that it only appears when the set is told it is sitting in a UK living room.
MHEG is on the move and in the next few weeks the MHEG interaction channel will be finalised, bringing in a return path, and giving much the same opportunities we are starting to see with HbbTV. Buried in all of this is the undoubted delays that the YouView partners are having to deal with, though the DTG is said to be on track with its own Connected TV (CTV) specifications that will go into the famous D-Book. There are clear links between CTV and HbbTV, but the road towards YouView continues to be a little uneven.