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HbbTV spec update to support UHD and HDR technologies

There has been an update to version 2 of the HbbTV specifications. HbbTV v2 is found in services including Freeview Play.

This update to version 2 of the core HbbTV specifications, known as version 2.0.2, adds support for UHD technologies including High Dynamic Range (HDR), High Frame Rate and Next-Generation Audio.

According to the HbbTV Association, the HbbTV 2.0.2 specification has been under development since October 2017, and it builds on significant work done during 2017. Many HbbTV devices already support these technologies today, but there has been no standardised way to use these features. The new specification defines a common, standard mechanism for accessing them from HbbTV applications.

To promote interoperability of the newly added features, the HbbTV Association will order tests that are planned to be available in time for products going on sale in spring 2019.

The updates in detail:
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR), which significantly increases the contrast ratio in video content, producing crisper and livelier video. The specification supports both Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) and Perceptual Quantizer (PQ) coding.
  • High Frame Rate (HFR), which increases the current 50/60 frames per second to 100/120 fps. HFR offers sharper images of moving objects. This is especially useful in fast-moving sports content.
  • Next Generation Audio (NGA) technologies, which support object- or scene-based audio for a much more immersive audio experience. The specification supports both AC-4 and MPEG-H.

Commenting on the new release, HbbTV Vice-Chairman Jon Piesing said:
“With this new release of our core specification, we fill a gap in delivering broadband services to connected TVs and set-top boxes. We enable the use of new, exciting audio and video technologies to deliver HD and 4k content with much better pixel quality to HbbTV-compliant devices”.

HbbTV has historically played no major role in the UK digital TV landscape. But TV platforms, including Freeview via its latest generation Freeview Play service, are moving to phase out existing technologies that deliver interactive and streamed content in favour of HbbTV.  For the BBC, connected TV is seen as the main method of providing UHD and HDR content to viewers. A standard mechanism for accessing such content from HbbTV applications will force a consistent approach across platforms and broadcasters, and provide added reassurance to viewers buying equipment to access UHD and HDR content.