On November 14 and 15, the HbbTV Association will be holding its 7th annual Symposium and Awards at the ESMT in Berlin. Robert Briel recently caught up with Vincent Grivet, the Association’s new chairman, to ask him about his role and the Symposium.
You were appointed the chairperson of HbbTV in June, what does the role involve?
Vincent Grivet: The HbbTV Association brings together broadcasters, content providers, manufacturers, operators and vendors to create common standards for hybrid television. Something we have successfully been doing for over 12 years, with HbbTV now deployed in 35 countries and enabled in over 44 million televisions and set-top boxes, a figure which probably will grow by 15 to 20 million units a year. This success is driven by first addressing a fundamental need of consumers and the industry, and by having all the different constituents of the ecosystem participate in the process. My role as chairman is to ensure that all these constituents and their differing views are heard and considered, and that they cooperate towards our common goal; that is to improve the TV experience for viewers and drive business value for all the participants in the ecosystem.
Why is Hybrid TV important and why is HbbTV relevant?
VG: Watching TV has been and still remains the most powerful and attractive form of entertainment for most of the people on the Earth; it is constantly enriched by improved image and sound quality, the size and convenience of TV screens and the huge quantity and quality of content available. However, one must recognize that TV viewing habits are changing, for instance there is an increasing importance of on-demand viewing. Broadcasters, the classical TV channels, are striving to adapt to these changes, to ensure their relevance and their survival in a fast evolving landscape; hybrid TV, what HbbTV does, is a critical component of this evolutionary process.
What is the main thing that has happened within the HbbTV Association in the last year?
VG: We have had a very busy year at the Association with many new and updated specifications being published. The biggest activity that came to fruition in the last year was the work on the Operator Application specification or OpApp. Over the years, it became clear that operators would better benefit from the hybrid/interactive experiences enabled by HbbTV if it was not constrained to individual channels, but was expanded consistently across all TV channels. The OpApp specification was created to do this. The specification is relevant for classical TV and telecom operators, as it will enable them to deliver their branded experiences directly to television sets without the need for set-top boxes. It is also relevant to the new Broadcasters’ alliances which are emerging in many markets.
The OpApp and other intense specification generation work results in a constant flow of updates to the HbbTV test suites. A unique feature of HbbTV is that we provide the means, through our test suites, for all stakeholders to test and evaluate their products before launching them to the market.
You have your yearly symposium in Berlin in November, tell me a bit about it?
VG: The HbbTV Symposium is a unique TV industry event which I enjoy very much; it certainly serves as a useful and appreciated gathering of the HbbTV “family” where all come and share their HbbTV related achievements and experiences gained from live services and research projects the world over. But it goes further than that; because all constituents of the TV ecosystem are there, focused on the common goal of making a better TV consumer experience; it is a unique event to gauge, discuss and to a large extent, shape the key trends of the sector.
A big part of the symposium are the networking opportunities, which give people the opportunity to speak directly with others with similar challenges and to share their solutions. The networking events include our awards ceremony, now in its second year, where we celebrate excellence and innovation in the industry.
The symposium has a very packed agenda of keynote talks, panels presentations and roundtable discussions. Covering subjects from user interface design to the business cases for advanced advertising. We keep the presentations short to provide a breath of views and to ensure we cover activities from around the world.
Sounds interesting, what session are you most excited about?
VG: We have a great line up of panels and keynotes for the symposium this year. But, the session I’m most looking forward to is a roundtable discussion on the broadcasters’ response to the threat posed to them by the global subscription video-on-demand providers, the likes of Netflix and Amazon.
In many countries, broadcasters are working together to create national level platforms to aggregate their content together, accessed through a common user experience. We have seen this with Freeview Play in the UK, LOVEStv in Spain, tivùon! in Italy and soon, Salto in France, with new partnership emerging every month. It is no surprise that these broadcasters are using HbbTV to create those richer user experiences, because this is what it has been created for!
This symposium panel will bring together senior executives from broadcasters from across Europe to talk about the challenges they face and how HbbTV forms part of the solution.
What’s next for the HbbTV Association?
VG: The industry is constantly evolving, which means there is always work to be done. The area where we see the most activity currently and one that I’m personally involved in, is addressable advertising. This enables broadcasters to substitute ads, in broadcast linear TV, with ones that are tailored to the individual homes watching their programming. This enables broadcasters to bring together the reach and effectiveness of broadcast TV with the personalization and efficiency of digital advertising, and makes sure they can compete with the digital giants on an equal footing.
HbbTV is already being used to successfully deliver addressable advertising, with Germany being the most active country. However, there is room for improvement and HbbTV, in partnership with the DVB, is reviewing the requirements and seeing how the standards need to evolve to best support these.
Vincent Grivet, is a graduate from Ecole Polytechnique (Paris France) and Paris Tech Telecom. He worked for eighteen years for the international activities of the Orange Group, including a time as Chief Executive Officer of Wanadoo, Orange’s internet services unit in Belgium.
In 2006, he was a co-founder of Maxtel, an entrepreneurial Wireless Broadband start-up which obtained significant spectrum rights in a competitive bid. He currently works for the TDF Group, where he is in charge of Broadcast Development and Innovation.
Details about the HbbTV Symposium and Awards can be found on the HbbTV website.