Future of internet-broadcast hybrid TV: new specs for HbbTV



While UK free-to-air platforms Freeview and Freesat develop new HbbTV 2.0 services, a new specification that will build on that has been unveiled.

HbbTV (hybrid broadcast broadband TV) links traditional television broadcasts with internet streams and red button apps. Both Freeview and Freesat have been working to replace current MHEG-based text and interactive services with HbbTV services on their newest receiver types. Currently, the BBC is behind a push to the HbbTV 2.0 standard, which is part of Freeview Play and to be part of Freesat's forthcoming third generation boxes.

The new specification has been published by ETSI as TS 103 555 and it defines how HbbTV devices such as set-top boxes and TVs can be used with IPTV services.

Two distinct types of terminals are covered by the specification. One is a pure IPTV terminal - i.e a receiver that can only receive internet-based services. The other is a hybrid IPTV terminal that has both an IP connection and a classical RF-based broadcast connection for regular over-the-air TV reception. According to the HbbTV Association, these devices can switch between presenting content received via IP and content received via traditional RF-based broadcast without rebooting or interrupting a running HbbTV application.

The specification defines three ways to do deliver and present IP content for both types of device.
  • The first is to list content in the device’s channel or service list (EPG); such content is either presented upon a user selection or by a broadcast-related HbbTV application. 
  • The second method is to use an HbbTV application to present content using streaming technologies like MPEG-DASH. 
  • The third allows a “roadcast-independent HbbTV app to manage the channel/service selection.

Klaus Illgner, president of the HbbTV Association, said:
“The HbbTV Association is pleased to be able to extend the range of devices and services that HbbTV technology can support... We were also pleased to see the cross-industry participation that led to this specification.”


  • You can read more about the BBC's recent work with developing HbbTV 2.0 from BBC R&D.
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