The BBC, working in collaboration with Freeview, DUK and the DTG, intends to accelerate the adoption of international standards around interactive TV in the UK.
The BBC has developed a plan to move beyond legacy MHEG technology to the industry-wide adoption of Hybrid Broadcast Broadband Television (HbbTV) 2.0.1 in time for equipment manufacturers to build HbbTV into 2018 product cycles.
HbbTV is a specification for interactive television delivered over both broadcast and broadband internet connections, delivering services to HbbTV-enabled set-top boxes and iDTV. It offers a way for more content from TV providers to be made available, including traditional broadcast TV, VoD and catch-up.
As part of its plans, the BBC will remove the MHEG requirement from the 'BBC Interactive HTML application' specification, and work with industry partners to align other specifications such as the D-Book owned by the DTG, and the Freeview Play specification and Trade Mark Licence framework managed by Digital UK and Freeview.
The plan will include the development and sharing of test applications to enable manufacturers to ensure correct behaviour of the new HbbTV-based services.
Richard Lindsay-Davies, CEO of The DTG commented: “We are actively engaged to set out a plan, working with the BBC, Freeview, DUK and DTG Members to deliver a solution which works for both the industry and consumers with their varied viewing preferences.
“We are all supportive of a well-managed migration from MHEG to HbbTV and as the only mechanism that has successfully universally deployed, interoperable, interactive television services, the D-Book continues to lead the way forward in helping the industry deliver television to viewers.”
The BBC believes this approach addresses the feedback received from manufacturers while balancing the needs of audiences to drive the industry forwards and provide a better environment for UK free-to-air services.
The lack of a widely adopted industry standard for browsers on connected TVs was raised in 2012, by the BBC’s then head of TV and mobile, Roux Joubert. He commented that HbbTV is ‘backed primarily by European broadcasters and is starting to get some good traction in the industry. The BBC will continue to feed into these specifications and provide compliant applications to help make the case for greater alignment and adoption of standards.’
The BBC has said it will develop its new plan with partners Freeview, Digital UK and the DTG by September 2016, which will then be shared publicly.