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Why a shake-up for TV means a shake-up for DVB

TV is undergoing a change unlike anything it has experienced before. Even the introduction of digital TV didn’t upset the business like this. Will DVB play a pivotal role in this new era, like it did in the transition from analogue to digital? We’ll see.

When digital broadcast TV was first touted, a small number of large companies had the resources to do the research and development for a whole value chain. Sound familiar? DVB’s role was to take this burgeoning industry and help standardise it so that it could become the global success it is today. Can DVB do it again for the OTT space?

But the TV industry is vastly more complex now. The stakeholders vying for eyeballs on TV sets are many and varied, and so are the platforms and channels that compete for our attention.

Enter the DVB-I initiative. Wouldn’t it be great to automatically get a list of internet services – appropriately filtered according to your region and other relevant factors, e.g. regulatory requirements – on your TV set? This happens with an aerial connection; wouldn’t it be great if it worked for a broadband connection as well? This is what the initial phase of DVB-I targets.

By coupling this type of functionality with the classic DVB broadcast technologies and HbbTV, vendors and content providers have a complete set of solutions covering pure broadcast, hybrid, and broadband delivery scenarios. But hasn’t this all been done already?

Well, yes, up to a point. Vertically integrated operators like Netflix already offer this for their own services. Indeed, some DTT platforms like Freeview Play in the UK offer a seamless online user experience through an EPG that gathers data from all of the DTT services in their market. Extending these types of functionalities to the general case is what DVB-I is trying to achieve. But it will be a challenge: each market has different regulations and different classifications of content.

Broadcasters will tell you that there is a disconnect between their distribution spend and their development spend when comparing broadcast channels and online services. The former has the vast majority of viewers, but it significantly lags the latter in terms of development spend. DVB-I promises to harmonise the online distribution models, thereby driving synergies and reducing the spend. This is a challenge laid down by many industry observers.

To achieve these ambitious goals, we need to take a fresh look at the way collaborative development works. Often slated as a traditional standards development organisation, DVB actually has quite a bit of liberty in shaping the way it works. Because it’s really a “pre-competitive collaborative industry association,” DVB can adapt itself to add maximum value for the industry it serves. DVB-I moves DVB away from the classical physical layer; this drives a modification of the approach to a more agile model, with greater emphasis on aiding the interoperability of the solutions it produces in the marketplace. Product life cycles are shorter, and there is more software development than hardware design.

All of these changes don’t mean that DVB is neglecting its classical broadcast solutions — quite the contrary.  Modern broadcasters have a combination of broadcast and online offerings delivered to many types of devices across different networks. DVB aims to provide cutting-edge solutions across these different networks.

At least that’s the plan.

DVB World 2019 takes place in Dublin on 11-13 March. Digital TV Europe readers can obtain a 40% discount by using the following promo code when registering: DVBW19DTVE www.dvbworld.org

Peter MacAvock is head of distribution, platforms & services at the European Broadcasting Union; he also chairs the DVB Project.