HbbTV spec for ‘virtual STB’
December 19, 2017
The HbbTV Association, a global initiative dedicated to providing an open standard for the delivery of broadcast and broadband services through connected TVs and set-top boxes, has finalised and published its operator applications specification.
Building on HbbTV 2, the specification allows TV operators, in partnership with TV manufacturers, to provide an operator-branded experience as an application on TVs. This application acts as a “Virtual Set Top Box”, providing effectively all the functionality of a Set Top Box (STB) without the need to install one. An Operator Application (OpApp) can run immediately after the TV is turned on. To the user, the OpApp functions just like any other source on their TV, just like a cable input or an HDMI source. OpApp can be used for any network type supported by a connected TV including Satellite, Cable, Terrestrial and IPTV.
Various operators have tried solutions for deploying their user experience straight to connected TVs, but so far, such deployments have been specific to the operator and/or TV manufacturer. The HbbTV OpApp Specification provides a standard foundation that many operators can use, and that can be implemented by many TV manufacturers.
Operator applications are good news for consumers, operators, broadcasters and TV manufacturers alike. Consumers can enjoy TV services on the big screen without having to install a set-top box and juggle with cables and different remote controls. Operators can provide a branded experience straight onto connected TVs, therefore they can benefit much more quickly from innovations in TVs (e.g. UHD), and can save some of the costs involved in owning and managing a set-top box population. Broadcasters benefit from a well-defined coexistence with broadcaster applications. TV manufacturers can offer more value to operators and consumers, while exploiting new co-marketing opportunities.
The OpApp specification describes how the HbbTV browser can run both HbbTV broadcaster applications and operator applications at the same time. It specifies how operator applications are discovered, installed and how they can replace the TV’s native UI, including access to the TV’s remote control keys. The OpApp specification assumes that deployment of a certain operator’s application is subject to a “bilateral agreement” between the operator and the TV manufacturers. Preparations for the OpApp trials are now underway in various countries; the first of these trials are expected to launch early 2018.
Klaus Illgner, Chair of the HbbTV Association commented: “The HbbTV Association is pleased to publish the specification for OpApps, knowing that we will improve customer satisfaction and user experience. The benefits will be realised across the board with manufacturers, broadcasters, operators and content producers, making the overall viewing experience more sophisticated and tailored to the consumer. The OpApp specification is a significant achievement with active participation across the entire value chain, resulting in a balanced specification that serves a well-understood market need with an experience that consumers will love.”
Alberto Sigismondi, CEO of tivùsat stated that “I congratulate HbbTV on the publication of the OpApp specification; OpApps will enable Free-to-view operators such as tivùsat to have premium user experiences not normally accessible to smaller operators. After a number of years of working on OpApps with and for several IPTV Operators across Europe, I am very excited that the specification is now ready” said Rob Koenen, Principal Consultant at TNO, a leading Dutch R&D organisation that works with many IPTV operators. “It is easy to see the enormous opportunity of operator apps for IPTV operators, but this potential will only be fully realised if an ecosystem can be built on a solid international standard.”