The HbbTV Association has released its targeted advertising specification. It promises to open up opportunities for broadcasters to use addressable advertising, which has so far been largely restricted to online services and vertically integrated pay-television platforms. In theory, it allows seamless switching between broadcast and substitute adverts delivered online. That will depend on suitable hardware.

“The release of the HbbTV-TA specification marks a new chapter in the digital transformation of broadcasters. While keeping their unique asset of addressing a large mass market, they can now also address highly differentiated audiences, opening up new prospects for business growth,” said Vincent Grivet, the chair of the HbbTV Association.

“HbbTV-TA is the first open standard dedicated to targeted advertising in live broadcast TV, and it has a huge potential of adoption in Europe as the market is currently highly fragmented with several proprietary solutions,” he said. “The development of the specification follows requests by broadcasters, once again confirming the close alignment of HbbTV with market requirements and business needs.”

The HbbTV-TA specification, initiated in collaboration with DVB, enables broadcasters to provide specific audience groups with customised advertising during commercial breaks, where the scheduled advertisement on the conventional broadcast feed is replaced on a screen-by-screen basis with a specific targeted advertisement. The addressable TV capabilities of the new specification also enable personalisation and localisation features.

The HbbTV-TA specification provides two possible profiles for dynamic advert substitution.

Profile 1 enables the replacement of an advert at the end of a break and is aimed at devices that use a single video and audio decoder.

Profile 2 enables the replacement of adverts in the middle of a break and is aimed at devices that use a separate decoder for the replacement media. This allows more seamless switching.

The DVB has released its own DVB-TA targeted advertising specification that complements the HbbTV-TA specification with a standardised way of signalling the advertisement substitution opportunities in the live TV broadcast. Published as a DVB BlueBook, it is intended to be adopted as an ETSI standard.

The insertion of local advertising has long been a feature of cable television services in the United States. System such as Sky Adsmart have also allowed seamless substitution of adverts on the Sky platform, and this is being extended to Virgin Media cable services.

A combination of DVB and HbbTV standards could be used to offer competing capabilities to broadcasters and viewers with compatible devices.