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HbbTV unlocks service innovation opportunities for broadcasters

HbbTV unlocks service innovation opportunities for broadcasters

Broadcasting faces new challenges, but also new opportunities. The internet has opened up the playing field for media delivery, enabling a whole new generation of content providers and media services beyond those of traditional broadcast. At the same time, this increasingly competitive landscape presents opportunities for broadcasters to deliver their unique content offerings in new ways, and to better engage with new and existing audiences.

New entrants and new technology have led to a wave of innovation for content discovery and recommendation, as well as for the viewing experience itself. Viewers are getting used to innovation after innovation at internet pace. Big broadcasters and global streaming players can afford to develop these new ideas for their services, but the smaller broadcaster trying to compete in the same space while maintaining identity and independence has difficult choices to make.

HbbTV (hybrid broadcast broadband TV) helps broadcasters address these challenges and capitalise on opportunities for new and enhanced services. It's an open standard that enables them to provide smart TV viewers with additional options and experiences in a scalable way, by allowing broadcasters to develop online apps and services that work with almost all brands of smart TVs.

Although it has its roots as a solution for interactive services, the latest version - HbbTV 2.02 - is of particular interest because it enables enhancement of the viewing experience without needing the significant infrastructure investments required for upgrading traditional broadcast networks.

The most immediate benefit to broadcasters is that HbbTV can now deliver ultra-high definition video and next-generation audio (NGA). This opens the path to delivering the same experiences as the big OTT providers' HDR and 3D audio. If a smart TV can play back such media, then HbbTV 2.0.2 makes these capabilities available to broadcasters.

Alongside higher-resolution content, HbbTV gives viewers more control over how they consume that content, including greater personalisation. This is most exciting with next-generation audio, or "NGA", which can carry multiple versions of high-quality audio simultaneously over one internet stream and lets the user personalise how they listen.

You may have seen demonstrations of how this can be used in sporting and entertainment events. Multiple commentator languages, trackside ambience, crowd noise, and even event radio chatter can be provided for the user to select and mix - and for some, the ability to remove commentary altogether is going to provide a 'you are there' experience worth the price of a new smart TV!

But Next Generation Audio offers benefits a lot broader than just source choice. NGA delivered via HbbTV can broaden service accessibility and engagement for a wide range of users. For instance, consider a viewer who finds music in a drama intrusive, masking the dialogue. With NGA, the viewer can choose the accessible experience from the same audio bitstream and adjust the balance between dialogue and music or sound effects to a comfortable level. This lets broadcasters make their content available to a wider audience.

The best part of all this is that broadcasters can start to build these sorts of capabilities now. The HbbTV 2.0.2 specifications already include the details of how to deliver NGA using AC-4 audio technology, and support for the necessary features is starting to appear in shipping TVs.

Most importantly for broadcasters, this approach makes economic sense, both in terms of the investment required and the efficiencies for leveraging your current infrastructure. It will work alongside your digital terrestrial or satellite broadcast chain and your existing streaming services, and can be introduced as you see fit.

If you're interested in HbbTV, here's a three-point checklist to start your journey:
* To find out how to create NGA content with AC-4, talk to us at Dolby. We're always keen to talk about content.
* Find someone internal or external to help with your app development process. Talk to people who've worked on HbbTV apps to set the scope of what you want to do.
* Come to an HbbTV interoperability event. You can see which HbbTV devices are coming to market, check how your app works with them to build confidence, and talk to your peers. They're a lot of fun and you'll learn a lot.
The future is full of promise and full of challenges. At Dolby we're ready to help you meet that future and succeed.

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