Streaming Spotlight: DTG Pushes Connected TV in the U.K.

Article Featured Image

The Digital TV Group (DTG) is the industry association for digital television in the U.K.

The DTG publishes and maintains the D-Book-the detailed interoperability specification for U.K. digital terrestrial television (DTT)-and runs the industry's test centre, DTG Testing, which provides the benchmark test and conformance services for the U.K.'s Digital Tick certification mark, UK DTT platform Freeview, and free-to-air satellite platform Freesat, as well as international platforms.

Last year the DTG published the sixth edition of the D-Book, enabling the launch of highdefinition services on Freeview in time for this summer's World Cup.

Working with our membership, we at the DTG have turned our attention this year to applying our proven open-standards approach to what we as an industry are calling "Connected TV".

Connected TV is the term used to describe the convergence of "traditional" broadcast digital television and the internet to deliver new services, applications, and programming (both linear and on-demand).

Connected TV has the potential to give viewers the best of both worlds via hybrid devices that bring together linear broadcast TV services and catch-up TV services such as the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, and 4oD (Channel 4 on Demand), as well as on-demand films and a wealth of interactive applications and services.

A survey conducted by the DTG and Ipsos MORI found that 76% of the DTG's members-which include broadcasters, platform operators, manufacturers, retailers, government bodies, trade associations, and charities-believe Connected TV will be a key issue for the industry in the future.

Connected TV products and services have already started to filter into the global market, and in the U.K. manufacturers are planning the launch of Connected TV products for as early as this year.

Seventy million Connected TVs are expected to be shipped in 2012, up from 15 million in 2009, and 2010 will see a global step-change with worldwide internet video device shipments predicted to grow 78% year over year from 2009 to 2010.

D-Book 7 will contain the U.K. specification for Connected TV products and services, providing an industry-agreed baseline implementation that Canvas (the proposed IPTV joint venture partnership between U.K. broadcasters BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Five and internet service providers BT and Talk Talk), Sky, and others can build on for trademark requirements to
support their services. This enables the horizontal market to deliver products with access to services and options to support
further services if they wish.

The DTG has set the ambitious but achievable target of D-Book 7's publication by December 2010. To meet this target we are currently working with the teams behind services such as Canvas, the U.K. video-on-demand (VoD) service SeeSaw, Sky Player, and ITV Player, as well as our wider membership of broadcasters, network operators, manufacturers, and ISPs to define the specification for Connected TV.

The DTG has set up seven Connected TV working groups drawing upon different areas of the specification: architecture, device, delivery, presentation, metadata, security, and measurement. An eighth group consisting of key industry experts in the field will drive the rapid deployment of universal Connected TV receivers.

The aim of the Connected TV programme is to define the protocols and data formats used to enable Connected TV services on Connected TV devices and to define common interaction standards. Connected TV services are defined as applications that are intended for presentation on Connected TV devices; they may be signalled and delivered via broadcast or broadband/IP and can access data and content from either network. The DTG Connected TV programme will focus initially on hybrid devices, which we define as end-user equipment that has broadband/IP and broadcast interfaces and can present Connected TV services.

The chairs of the groups have reviewed more than 300 commercial requirements and devised 50 summary requirements, which have been reviewed and agreed to steer the work. Each working group is reviewing any background technologies, such as MHEG, CEHTML, and Flash for presentation, DECE, CI+, and DVB-CPCM for security and TV-Anytime for metadata.

Already thousands of industry man-hours have been spent discussing Connected TV in preparation for its inclusion in D-Book 7. The work carried out in these groups is going extremely well and, due to the support of our members and the wider industry, is likely to become the foundation for many Connected TV platforms and services including Canvas.

D-Book 6.2 was published in March and introduces two new features that will help to move the Freeview HD platform toward
Connected TV. The first feature is support of the MHEG xPlayer-the ability to deliver catch-up TV to Freeview HD receivers through the network connection built into the set-top box.

The second is the delivery of record lists. This uses technology similar to series linking to give the viewer the ability to subscribe to broadcaster-defined groups of content such as "Best of Comedy". It also provides a mechanism for broadcasters to use offschedule capacity to deliver extra content such as more HD programming.

By the time D-Book 7 is released in late 2010, the DTG will have a Connected TV test and conformance regime in place to ensure market compliance. The DTG is currently in discussion with HbbTV about CE-HTML interactivity testing and with the Canvas team about the testing of Canvas-compliant receivers. As a number of organisations are looking at incorporating HTML and Adobe Flash into Connected TV to ease adoption, the DTG is considering developing a test suite that would support products adopting complex service delivery environments.

The increasing prevalence of hybrid devices will undoubtedly drive demand for catch-up and VoD services on living room TVs. The DTG recently conducted a survey with YouGov that found 80% of viewers who can't already do so would like to be able to watch on-demand programmes on their home TVs.

Although the TV will always remain the hub of home entertainment, viewers are increasingly consuming content on other devices in their homes.

BBC iPlayer and ITV Player have both enjoyed success via the PC and are now frequently accessed via video game consoles, mobile phones, and other devices. In fact, according to our survey, more than half of U.K. adults (57%) say they watch TV programmes on a device other than a TV.

The digital television industry is constantly evolving, and the DTG and its members are committed to ensuring the delivery of a Connected TV specification in late 2010 and to meeting the challenges of future technologies such as 3DTV.

Streaming Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues