UK Freesat Connected TV Set Top Boxes to Run on HbbTV - Not Youview?

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Broadband TV News is reporting that Freesat is preparing to launch a new series of receivers that will run on the HbbTV (hybrid broadcast broadband) platform popularised in Germany and France.

Wait a minute.

What about Youview? You know, the UK cousin to the Euro HbbTV which is backed by  BT, the BBC, ITV and a host of other U.K. broadband providers,  and meant to bring video-on-demand to Freeview and Freesat and was notably rejected by Sky Virgin Media, IP Vision, Six TV, United For Local Television and the Open Source Consortium. 

BBC and ITV are both backers of Freeview (in essence a competitor of HbbTV), which was slated to be the de facto standard in the UK for Connected TV, cost millions of pounds to develop, and has now been delayed until 2012. HbbTV is a fully Open Source Solution co-created by the French and the Germans (Dutch public broadcasters are also using the platform) as well as some Korean STB manufacturers).

Freesat is a free-to-air digital satellite television joint venture between the BBC and ITV plc, serving the United Kingdom. The service was marketed from 6 May 2008 and offers a satellite alternative to the Freeview service on digital terrestrial television, with a selection of channels available without subscription for users purchasing a receiver. The service also makes use of the additional capacity available on digital satellite broadcasting to offer a selection of high-definition programming from the BBC and ITV.

Freesat should be using Youview, considering the backers in it, and the huge investment in Freeview taken by both parties. But it appears they are not.

I have been an evangelist for the fully open source HbbTV for some time over Freeview, and frankly the move to use HbbTV does not surprise me - it just makes sense.

My take on this is – why on earth a slice of the broadcast sector and UK taxpayers (via funds invested by the government) are slated to spend £115.6m on Youview, including development, launch, and to the end of the first four years it is running – is beyond me. Not to mention they are battling half of their own broadcasting community, they also picked a name that could see them getting sued by Google (Youtube) and having to change it again – from Project Canvas to Youview to something else again...

The French and the Germans have been working on HbbTV for years, it's ready, it's working, it's fully Open Source – therefore free, and it's a European standard that has five times the supporters and partners as Youview.

The HbbTV consortium is a pan-European initiative aimed at providing an alternative to proprietary technologies and delivering an open platform for broadcasters to deliver value added on‐demand services to the end consumer.

  And Broadband TV News also notes the move as rather controversial:

The plans codenamed G2, and already presented by the free-to-air satellite platform to some receiver manufacturers, run counter to the thinking by shareholders the BBC and ITV, which are also involved in YouView.

...A senior source familiar with the project told Broadband TV News that the Freesat G2 receivers would embrace the multiscreen concept and allow for viewing around the home, rather than tying viewers to a single satellite receiver. It would build on the existing html-based specification already adopted by broadcasters including ProSieben, Sat.1 and RTL.

Freesat already offers access to the BBC iPlayer through an early iteration of the MHEG Interaction channel and the use of the internet port that has been present on all receivers since the platform's launch in May 2008. Current suppliers to the platform include Humax, Panasonic and Grundig.




About the Author

Richard Kastelein
Founder of The Hackfest, publisher of TV App Market and global expert on Media & TV innovation, Kastelein is an award winning publisher and futurist. He has guest lectured at MIT Media Lab, University of Cologne, sat on media convergence panel at 2nd EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, and worked with broadcasters such as the BBC, NPO, RTL (DE and NL), Eurosport, NBCU, C4, ITV, Seven Network and others on media convergence strategy - Social TV, OTT, DLNA and 2nd Screen etc.

He is a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and UK Royal Television Society (RTS) member.

Kastelein has spoken (& speaking) on the future of media & TV in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen (TEDx), Kuala Lumpur, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Rio, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, Zurich...

He's been on advisory boards of TEDx Istanbul, SMWF UK, Apps World, and judged & AIB awards, Social TV Awards Hollywood, TV Connect & IPTV Awards.

A versatilist & autodidact, his leadership ability, divergent and synthetic thinking skills evolved from sailing the world 24000 miles+ offshore in his 20′s on sailboats under 12m.

He spent 10 years in the Caribbean media & boating industry as a professional sailor before returning to Europe, to Holland.

A Creative Technologist and Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Metis) his career began in the Canadian Native Press and is now a columnist for The Association for International Broadcasting and writes for Wired, The Guardian & Virgin. His writings have been translated into Polish, German and French. 

One of Kastelein's TV formats was optioned by Sony Pictures Television in 2012. 

Currently involved in a number of startups including publishing TV App Market online, The Hackfest and Tripsearch TV. As CSO for Worldticketshop he helped build a $100m company.

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