The HbbTV OpApp specification has been updated to allow an operator application to manage the streaming and presentation of online services discovered from a DVB-I service list. A key driver has been the requirements of public service broadcasters in the United Kingdom that are planning to launch a new hybrid television platform Freely, which is likely to be the first application using the new version of the specification.
HbbTV is a standard for hybrid broadcast broadband television. One of the ways that it can be used is as an operator application or OpApp. This acts like a virtual set-to box in a device or display, enabling operators to provide a branded uniform user interface across different manufacturers. The television assumes the look and feel determined by the operator.
This is an advantage for operators that can offer a consistent user experience across third-party products. However, it requires an agreement between the platform operator and the product manufacturer, who effectively relinquishes control of the user experience and its ability to differentiate its products from those of competitors.
The new version of the HbbTV OppApp specification improves support for rendering online services, including enabling regular HbbTV interactive “red button” applications to appear alongside online channels and operator-managed user interface elements.
The revised specification provides explicit support for online only deployments without a broadcast channel list. Previously an OpApp was able to present online services but support for these was not integrated.
Online services can be discovered from a DVB-I service list or equivalent. This follows an update to the latest core HbbTV specification that recognises services discovered using DVB-I.
A DVB-I service may have one or more regular HbbTV applications linked to it as well as one or more operator applications.
The revised specification provides two examples of usage with DVB-I, allowing for both OpApp environments and devices and displays that do not support an operator application.
In the first example, online services are included in a DVB-I service list and are managed by an operator who provides an operator application that performs all the authorization, content protection, media selection and metrics reporting functions necessary to present those services.
In the second example, online DVB-I services rely on an application to perform authorization, content protection, media selection and metrics reporting for the service. The services are used in a territory where an operator application is deployed for some terminals and not for others. Devices that do not have the referenced operator application installed or do not support operator applications instead load an application that is responsible for presenting the media.
The proposed Freely platform in the United Kingdom is expected to be the first application using the new version of the specification.
The updated specification also includes improvements identified during the development and rollout of operator applications in Germany, where they have been deployed commercially since March 2019.