European consortium plans Canvas killer

By Julian Clover

A consortium including Canal+, France Televisions, and TF1, German research organisation Institut für Rundfunktechnik, satellite operator SES Astra, as well as the software and media solutions providers ANT and OpenTV, have announced the launch of a new pan-European initiative aimed at harmonising the delivery of broadcast and broadband content.

In a statement, Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) said the “specification was developed by industry leaders to effectively manage the rapidly increasing amount of available content targeted at today’s end consumer.” It is based on elements of existing standards and web technologies including OIPF (Open IPTV Forum), CEA, DVB and W3C.

The statement makes no mention of the controversial BBC Canvas proposals, which are also aimed at providing a seamless consumer interface between broadcast and broadband content in a managed environment. The BBC has been in conversation with its European partners, but the HbbTV initiative is likely to put an end to any European ambitions, and raise questions as to why the UK cannot simply adopt a protocol that has already has broad support.

HbbTV has so far slipped under the radar, the first satellite demonstrations from the consortium being seen at IFA and IBC 2008. With support also from consumer electronics manufacturers Humax, Kaon and Philips the intention is to deliver interactive advertising, personalisation, voting, games and social networking as well as programme-related services such as digital text and EPGs.