Television has undergone the biggest of transformations, from black and white to colour, from analogue to digital and now to content everywhere via multiscreen. Although this ability to access content on multiple devices has transformed the consumer experience, the rise of pure over the top (OTT) offering large content catalogues at a low cost means that traditional pay-TV players need to add multiscreen and time-shifted elements to remain competitive.
However, pay-TV isn’t the only market segment that needs multiscreen. Freeview, a collaborative content provision formed by BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Arqiva and Sky, has plans to extend its free-to-air TV channel offering to multiscreen with Freeview Play. Based on the newly published HbbTV 2.0 specifications, Freeview Play adds catch-up and on-demand services to Freeview’s traditional Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). To help assist the bridge between content provision and device conformance required by operations such as Freeview Play, Access, Pixsan and S&T joined forces and develop Project Uno, a shared source code base for DVB and OTT hybrid TV platforms.
Built to provide a ‘close to turnkey’ solution for DVB and HbbTV, that acts as a device reference platform, Project Uno works X86, meaning that Project Uno collaborators can work from their PC workstations, laptops or Next Units of Computing (NUCs) with a Freeview USB dongle, right up to sophisticated multi tuner test environments to test more complex use cases. The architecture is based on Pixsan’s UTK framework combined with S&T’s Redkey MHEG5 software receiver engine for interactive overlays and backwards compatibility. These features are complemented by Access’ NetFront Browser NX HbbTV profile, a WebKit-based browser supporting HbbTV components and optimised for embedded devices to execute HTML5-based services.
Collaborations such as Project Uno are devised to bring necessary stand alone silos of required technology, in this case DVB, media player, MHEG5 and HTML5. Access, Pixsan and S&T, created an open reference solution to serve all stakeholders within the open standards market for HbbTV, as well as hybrid DVB and OTT, to assist device manufacturers and content providers in accelerating future device deployments and innovation.
As collaborative projects become more commonplace, use of open standards become increasingly important too, as consumers expect more innovation in shorter timeframes. Shorter time to market can be addressed by basing solutions on tried standards such as HbbTV and HTML5, enabling multiscreen services such as Freeview Play to offer a seamless experience across a wide range of devices while reducing engineering and production costs. In addition, using open standard technology means that operators and manufacturers can benefit from greater interoperability and more opportunities for integration with multiple devices.
By combining the expertise of complementary vendors, HbbTV operators and their partners benefit from a robust solution that can be utilised in a consistent development environment for the test of applications, video playback, graphics co-existence, security, performance benchmarking and so on. In the case of Project Uno, Access, Pixsan and S&T have ensured that the software stack complies with European requirements, offering abundant expansion opportunities for both Freeview Play and any other HbbTV and hybrid operators that may choose to use the model. Project Uno allows development partners, operators and application developers to access the same common solution, which can be used to allow collaboration between all parties in the broadcast and OTT value chain.
By Dr Neale Foster (pictured), COO and VP global aales, Access; Jon Williams, founder and director, Pixsan; David Cutts, managing director and co-founder, S&T