Christian Klöckner (WDR)
The DVB-I standard aims to enable the familiar and simple use of linear television programming even when the programmes are no longer distributed exclusively via broadcasting, but increasingly also via streaming. DVB-I allows broadcast and IP distribution to be combined in a user experience that corresponds to the familiar broadcast experience and even to offer access to video-on-demand and catch-up services.
The core element of the DVB-I specification is the definition of a programme list (= service list) in which one or more different distribution variants can be specified and prioritized for each programme, making it flexible and easy to update. DVB-I is
particularly suited to TV sets, but also works on pure OTT boxes/sticks or mobile devices that use internet. The DVB consortium summarizes this with the claim Any device, any delivery, any content.
The German DVB-I Pilot was designed as a joint approach involving manufacturers of TV sets and software as well as private and public media companies (see graphic). The first phase achieved two main goals: to collaborate on a futureproof television experience combining multiple broadcast and OTT sources and to gather insight for a possible launch of DVB-I services.
The aggregation of the service lists of the participating broadcast families was successfully realized and presented on the first prototype TV sets. The switchover from broadcast to IP when the devices were disconnected from the broadcast network, moderate switching times between the livestreams, the rapid integration of services such as red-button HbbTV apps, content guides, dynamically added event channels, and next generation audio were impressive. Regionally accurate service lists were even provided, via a zip code entry on the TV set. User testing carried out by rbb found that most testers would recommend a smart TV set with DVB-I to a friend or family.
The pilot made clear the need for an organizational entity to aggregate a central service list from broadcasters’ lists, to validate the lists according to the DVB-I standard, and to provide regionally accurate programme sorting for the DVB-I clients. The public value lists of the German media authorities would be suitable for the latter, fulfilling the prominence obligations introduced with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. There is, however, a need for criteria for the classification of offers that are not included in the public value list.
While sign-in for digital rights management (DRM) purposes, an important feature for private content providers, was successfully demonstrated, the pilot identified additional requirements around the availability and support for DRM solutions. These requirements are now being addressed by the DVB Project and HbbTV Association.
The availability of clients (smart TV devices and apps) is crucial for DVB-I to be successful. Currently, there is one device manufacturer with a very extensive DVB-I implementation and regular updates. Others offer partial implementations or are monitoring the pilot and implementing developments in their own R&D departments. One has indicated that its smart TV sets already available on the market could be made DVB-I- capable with an update. The next step is to expand the availability of prototype devices for broader testing of the service concepts.
With a successful first phase, broad support from the broadcasting industry, and positive national and international feedback, the pilot participants recommend a second phase to consolidate outstanding issues for a possible market launch. The phase 1 report (PDF) provides the basis for this decision. In addition to the aforementioned aspects, questions of service list updating (e.g. for dynamic event channels), satellite parameters for tuning without an internet connection, new use cases and possible personalization and coverage measurement concepts are to be considered.
This article first appeared in issue 56 of EBU tech-i magazine.