More and more service providers are launching quality HbbTV services that provide a revenue stream.

HbbTV Receives Mixed Reviews

But it’s not all comfy throw pillows for HbbTV.

Cottle doesn’t see HbbTV assuming the role of “pay-TV destroyer” that some make it out to be. He says that in the HbbTV coalition’s “attempts to ring-fence HbbTV for the benefit of the broadcasters, [they] are limiting its usefulness,” and though functional and useful, most HbbTV demonstrations add “little beyond what is already available via digital Teletext.”

Anthony Smith-Chaigneau, chairman of the Commercial Module Multimedia Home Platform (CM-MHP)—a subgroup of the DVB CM—leveled criticism in his “HBB & HbbTV in the MHP Environment” whitepaper. Smith-Chaigneau contends HbbTV is “re-inventing the wheel” to deliver the same thing that the Globally Executable MHP (GEM) standard already does.

According to Steve Morris, coexistence with middleware technologies, like MHP, will continue to be an issue, albeit an addressable one. Says Morris:
“Even in markets where there is an incumbent middleware solution such as MHP and no ‘official’ adoption of HbbTV, manufacturers will be shipping HbbTV products. Even if it isn’t used with broadcast services, HbbTV still provides a powerful platform for deploying portal-based services. By enabling service providers such as VOD stores to build a single application and deploy it on a range of receivers, HbbTV is proving popular even for portal-based applications.”

In a September 2010 report, Informa research predicted, “platforms that aggregate services rather than any individual device will play the most important role in the connected home in the next five years.”

They see connected TVs supplanting internet connected gaming consoles as the primary device in the connected home, but do not believe that one device or manufacturer will come to dominate the connected home the way platforms, like HbbTV, will. Informa posits that the expected high penetration, third-party services, and significant resources behind the connected TV platforms will likely earn them prime position in the connected home. Informa Analyst Andrew Ladbrook wrote, “The launch of Google TV, Canvas, and HbbTV means that consumer choice of online video in the living room will be vastly greater than ever before.” Ladbrook, however, also raised the caveat that getting viewers to incorporate a keyboard into their TV regimens could dilute hybrid television’s mass market appeal.

The Big Question: How Will HbbTV Fare Outside Europe?

While Morris sees “definite interest” in HbbTV abroad, he says actual adoption will take more time, as CSPs are waiting to see how it pans out globally. ANT has worked with a number of U.S. companies who have an interest in building expertise and understanding of “what is needed to deploy HbbTV solutions both in Europe and elsewhere.”

While deployment of HbbTV in the U.S. presents no major technical hurdles, Morris states, “The biggest factor would probably be the relationships between the different parts of the value chain, and how these relationships differ between Europe and the U.S. However, this would largely depend on the markets in which HbbTV was deployed in the U.S.”

Stefan Schneiders at Nokia-Siemens says it is difficult to forecast how HbbTV will be received in the U.S. He says, “Even in Europe the success depends very much on national demands [and] the U.S. TV market is very different from European TV markets. The offering from public TV stations and cultural behavior regarding revenue streams are totally different... Therefore, we don’t expect a fast penetration of HbbTV in American markets.”

A Matter of Comfort

It is by no means a foregone conclusion that HbbTV will take off in the U.S. Certainly, the coalition has made its marketing overture, complete with an appealing, giftwrapped package singing the praises of HbbTV. However, the reality is that cable TV is deeply ingrained in the viewing habits of Americans, and this presents more of an obstacle to HbbTV than the cablecos themselves. Even the most tech-savvy Americans can be a bit phobic of newfangled things coming out of Europe, and some may even be willing to pay more for non-converged and non-interactive cable and internet. But, this might boil down to a matter of maintaining individual comfort zones. To succeed in the U.S.—a market where IPTV has underperformed relative to OTT and Cable offerings—and elsewhere, the HbbTV coalition may find that it needs to appeal more directly to the IPTV providers who stand to benefit the most by leveraging HbbTV.

So, for now, all the overworked sofas of America can breathe a sigh of relief, as we couch potatoes will have to wait for HbbTV to make its way over here.


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