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DVB MHP bombshell goes off in Dublin

9 March 2006

The patent licensing terms announced by Via Licensing for the DVB’s MHP standard had an immediate impact on attendees at the DVB World conference in Dublin last week, writes George Jarrett.

According to Fintan McKiernan, senior VP of global sales DigiSoft.tv, its iTVBox iTV and the MHP application authoring tool Icareus iTV Suite have been selling well amongst regional broadcasters and universities. When Via had made its announcement he said: "We have been calling it the iPTV box, but we’re now calling it the coffin and in it is the corpse of MHP. We are now in the post mortem stage with MHP."

Told that Helene Jay, Via’s European representative, had said that she would present feedback from DVB World at a meeting in San Francisco on March 15, and that this suggested there may be some kind of climb down, McKiernan said, "I certainly hope there is. The sooner the word gets out the better, because the announcement as written on the Via Licensing site doesn’t look like a negotiation document.

"I believe that it’s still at the negotiation stage and it’s not set in stone. For anybody who wants to promote MHP as an open standard globally, particularly at this pivotal time in its adoption, it will be really important to know the licensing terms are under negotiation and that these figures are not set in stone," he added.

"If Via insists that they are the real figures for licensing MHP, you will see MHP thrown out of the markets where it is already established such as Italy and Korea. And it will not be adopted in many other countries, like Spain, France, the Czech Republic, Germany and Australia."

McKiernan agrees with the EBU’s Phil Laven, who told TVB-E that the Via terms "could signal the end of MHP". He said, "MHP’s future role in the world of IPTV will be jeopardised. People knew there would be a licensing implication but they didn’t realise it would be a non-negotiated process. For anybody who works with the standard it was a very unpleasant experience.

"There is a very good reason for MHP being invented and perfected, and to licence it out of existence before it gets started is very much an exercise in futility and stupidity on behalf of the people who are trying to extort these license fees," he added.

With RTL one of the first broadcasters to tell the EBU it would drop MHP, McKiernan pointed at the regional broadcasters in Italy, some of which may be due to pay a license fee of $75,000.

"The more advanced and forward-thinking broadcasters that started adopting DVB-T and MHP earlier than was required by the Italian government are now going to be heavily penalised. It’s farcical, and they will just switch off. There is no value and no benefit because they are not making money out of MHP services at this stage. What’s more, they will kill MHP before it has the opportunity to develop its revenue generating potential," he said. "It was literally a bombshell that went off in Dublin."

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