Confirmed. HbbTV is here to connect the worlds of TV and the Internet. An overview of the 6th Annual HbbTV Symposium in Rome.

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Media consumption patterns are changing; pressure is mounting on traditional TV broadcasters; HbbTV has emerged, as have corresponding new approaches to attract viewers back to the TV screen; and people are discussing how to handle all of that. That’s how one could summarize the mood and topics at this year’s 6th Annual HbbTV Symposium that took place at the Auditorium Antonianum in Rome.

Confirmed. HbbTV is here to connect the worlds of TV and the Internet. An overview of the 6th Annual HbbTV Symposium in Rome.

HbbTV is already spreading outside Europe

Paul Gray from IHS Markit presented data on the growth in penetration and use of HbbTV around the world, which is certainly no longer confined to Europe. A number of markets have already successfully introduced hybrid broadcasts, and others are preparing to connect.

A vision shared by all is the desire to bring TV viewers a new dimension of experiences built on the achievements of the Internet. The differences between computers, mobile devices, and TVs are slowly being erased. “They’re all screens”, Gray points out. But he distinguishes between the individual content we consume privately – for instance, on mobile devices – and the shared content that we follow together with our family and friends. They are just mobile devices that teach users how to use VoD (Video on Demand) on the big screen. Other TVs in the home are no longer being upgraded, and the trend is toward one large television in the living room to watch high-value content.

Francesco Mas from CCMA (Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals) analyzed the introduction of HbbTV in Spain. Intensive campaigns have managed to quadruple the amount of time viewers spend on HbbTV. He said that those who consume VoD on TV also spend about twice as much time watching linear content.

Tidings from the Czech Republic: HbbTV isn’t just a technology, it’s a business

Jiří Voříšek from Hybrid came with these tidings. He was the very first one at this meeting to open on the topic of the monetization of the newly emerging space. In his country overview, he stressed that the Czech Republic has been able to standardize business models and start commercial use.

Paola Colombo from Publitalia ‘80 emphasized that HbbTV advertising isn’t suffering from banner blindness. The HbbTV space is new, original, and is enjoying popularity among viewers. At the same time, she emphasized a monetization model based on awareness because now visibility, along with addressability, is the key advantage of the HbbTV space. Visibility doesn’t count at all on performance or click-through based models.

HbbTV can be used not only to display advertising campaigns but also for direct purchases. Lars Friedrichs from Teravolt and Reinhard Koch from Zalando demonstrated how clothes could be bought via HbbTV application. They emphasized the advantages of targeting because they used two variants of the campaign, one for men and one for women. Lars Friedrichs pointed out that it is not important who exactly is sitting in front of the TV screen; what is important is to focus on the data and interests that are coming from the household as a whole. However, he also complained that it is not possible to complete transactions on TV yet because the necessary security won’t be available until HbbTV 2.0 arrives. But that is on almost all new TVs sold. Thus far, purchases have been completed by scanning a QR code with a mobile device.

Users have gotten used to media interactivity and they want to have fun

Many speakers dealt with the question of how users actually consume content today. People have gotten used to interactivity and require it on TV too. Antonio Vince Staybl from Gofresh/ProSieben, a game developer for the HbbTV environment, has identified the importance of being able to play games and watch linear broadcasts simultaneously, and thus understands their products as a way to increase viewing. He says that games must be simple with an intuitive interface and instant play experience. In Germany, each month 280,000 users play games on TV for an average of 38 minutes per day, thus creating more space that can be used for marketing. In addition to advertising, the platform also offers direct in-game purchases, now available in three of the most popular games. Antonio states that 2.1% of users are making purchases, with an average payment of 3.62 EUR. Technically, the purchase is made through a mobile application connected to HbbTV.

Accurate user data, innovations for the world of TV

Activity on HbbTV leads to another key aspect. When the user interacts with the TV, it generates valuable data that can be used for more than just marketing. “Sales are a matter of the product. We have to find products that are suitable for TV sales and use targeting”, advised Antonio Vince Staybl. He added that it is also necessary to work with the fact that TV is watched by many viewers at once and use this when designing campaigns.

Francesco Mas from CCMA leveraged the data dealt with in his presentation to show how they work with information to recommend videos in VoD services. Their engine mixes product-product sorting that works with historical data from users and the videos they watch, user-product sorting based on current preferences, and global sorting based on platform-wide trends and editor’s choice. Everything then blends into one result and offers the viewer personalized content.

Sebastian Busse from Smartclip also pointed out the importance of TV data. TV, according to Busse, has access to exclusive information that is not available to big players like Facebook or Google. In competing with these giants, the information that TV has could become key.

In anticipation of HbbTV 2.0, DVB-T 2

There are also great expectations for the DVB-T 2 extension which is promised to improve the quality of both image and sound. Together with HbbTV 2.0, it can offer viewers a more appealing TV experience. In addition to support for encryption that can be used, among other things, to make purchases directly on TV, as previously mentioned, Klaus Merkel (IRT) dealt with the possibilities of so-called spot replacement – that is, overlaying a TV spot being broadcast with another ad spot which, however, must be targeted at each viewer separately. The key aspect here, in addition to the need to pre-play a video spot, is mainly the possibility to synchronize HbbTV layers with linear broadcasting, and exactly on the picture. According to Klaus, although HbbTV 2.0 doesn’t optimally solve the problem, spot replacement can already be done without disturbing the linearity of the broadcast.

Spot replacement, Klaus Merkel

Communication on TV moves from the one-to-many model to one-to-one

HbbTV has emerged as a global initiative with the goal of bringing the possibilities the Internet offers to TV. It leads us to consider the question of what TV broadcasting will be like, not only in the next couple of years, but in the distant future. It’s clear that the media world is dramatically changing now, and with these changes come new opportunities and challenges. “TV media are now under enormous pressure”, remarked Benitto Manlio Mari, president of HD Forum Italia. At the same time he adds “We are sure we are on the right path in a new era of digital media.” Video on demand, personalized content, exact metrics, interactivity, addressable communication. HbbTV brings all of this to the world of TV and thus offers viewers a whole new realm of possibilities and experiences on the biggest screen in their homes. As Alberto Sigismondi, CEO of Tivu, wrote “HbbTV is a train that broadcasters should board and cannot afford to miss.”