HbbTV: Breathing life to broadcast TV

HBBTV Possibilites and Dynamic Ad replacement - Sofia Digital

In today’s rapidly evolving world of television, viewers are no longer limited to passive consumption of content. They expect an interactive, personalized, and engaging experience that seamlessly blends traditional broadcast with the possibilities of the internet. This is where HbbTV, or “Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV”, comes into play. For broadcasters and operators, HbbTV gives a great opportunity to monetize existing linear TV capacity with targeted and addressable advertising. The technology is mature and well-tested, and ready for deployment. 

What is HbbTV?

Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) is a global initiative that seamlessly integrates traditional TV broadcasts with internet content on connected TVs and over-the-top (OTT) devices like set-top boxes and streaming dongles. It’s a convergence of various technologies including internet data transmission, television broadcasting, and teletext. HbbTV supports interactive features, allowing users to access information on demand. It offers a range of content from standard broadcast TV to IPTV services and supports various forms of digital television content​.

From a viewer’s perspective, HbbTV doesn’t require apps to be installed locally, as they are part of the TV signaling. It’s particularly aimed at delivering content on a national level, thus facilitating access to region-specific audiences. Additionally, HbbTV enables partnerships with TV broadcasters for promotional campaigns and provides opportunities for more targeted advertising. Broadcasters can also access real-time viewership statistics, offering insights into user behavior.

The Power of Collaboration: The HbbTV Association

At the heart of HbbTV’s success is the HbbTV Association, a collaborative effort that brings together broadcasters, operators, manufacturers, and technology providers from around the world. This international cooperation is the driving force behind the development and proliferation of HbbTV technology. Any organization with an interest for enhancing the television experience can become a member of the HbbTV Association, which currently boasts around 80 members globally. It operates as a non-profit association registered in Switzerland.

The HbbTV Association plays a crucial role by providing tools for harmonization and testing of the HbbTV standard. This includes essential components such as the HbbTV Test Suite and the DASH DRM Reference Application, which ensure that HbbTV services and devices are standardized and work seamlessly across different platforms.


HbbTV Association Members

Harmonious Coexistence: HbbTV and DVB Standards

One of the important aspects of HbbTV is its compatibility and collaboration with DVB standards. The Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) Project is known for its work in setting standards for digital television and media delivery. HbbTV and DVB standards work together to provide a comprehensive television experience that integrates broadcast and broadband, offering new business opportunities.

HbbTV vs. DVB-I: Clear Distinctions

HbbTV DVB-iIt’s essential to clarify the distinction between HbbTV and DVB-I. While both technologies aim to enhance the television experience, they serve different purposes within the ecosystem.

HbbTV focuses on the application and service presentation framework. On the other hand, DVB-I (Digital Video Broadcasting – Internet) concentrates on TV services’ delivery and discovery over the internet. It simplifies the process of discovering and enjoying content from any delivery source.

Branding and Deployment of HbbTV Services

In the world of HbbTV, it’s crucial to understand that “HbbTV” is not the consumer label of the services and applications themselves. Instead, each country and operator defines its unique “HbbTV Profile” that outlines guidelines for how HbbTV receivers integrate and operate with HbbTV applications.

To ensure that services meet these standards, certified and tested receivers are added to a device list maintained by the service provider and then only the devices on this list are allowed to access the HbbTV platform. Various brands, such as FreeviewPlay, Info+, meWatch, Freeview Plus, LovesTV, FreenetTV Connect, and Boton Rojo, represent the diverse range of HbbTV services available to viewers.

HbbTV Success Story in Germany

Images by TeraVolt
Teravolt research HbbTV Germany

HbbTV’s impact is not just theoretical; it’s a tangible success story in Germany. According to the Teravolt research conducted in 2020, HbbTV has transformed the way viewers access and interact with content. This success is evident in the study “TV App Platforms in Germany – Update 2020”, which was carried out with the support of a 12-member expert panel and the market research institute Facit.

Dynamic Ad Insertion is the Key Driver for HbbTV

Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) using HbbTV (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) is a significant advancement in the way broadcasters can monetize their content. Traditionally, broadcasters were limited to showing the same advertisements to all viewers, regardless of their interests or demographics. With DAI through HbbTV, broadcasters can now insert targeted ads into live, linear, and on-demand TV content. This technology combines the broad reach of traditional broadcast TV with the precision of digital advertising. It works by seamlessly replacing broadcast ads with targeted ads over broadband on HbbTV-enabled devices. This means that while watching the same program, different viewers may see different ads that are more relevant to their individual profiles.

HbbTV Ad replacement Sofia Digital

This targeted approach is why DAI using HbbTV is a great opportunity for broadcasters. It allows for higher ad engagement and effectiveness, as ads are more likely to resonate with viewers when they are tailored to their interests and needs. This personalized advertising not only improves the viewer experience but also increases the value of ad slots for broadcasters. Advertisers are willing to pay a premium for ad placements that reach their specific target audience with higher precision. Additionally, DAI enables broadcasters to gather valuable data on viewer preferences and behaviors, further enhancing their ability to deliver high-value, targeted advertising. This data-driven approach leads to increased revenue streams, making DAI a lucrative strategy in the evolving world of broadcast television.

The latest Targeted Advertising specification developed together by DVB and HbbTV offers virtually undetectable switching between broadcast and broadband content, making the dynamic advertising completely transparent experience for the viewer.

Sofia Digital's HbbTV Applications: Enabling a Rich TV Experience

Sofia Digital plays a vital role in advancing the HbbTV ecosystem by providing a range of innovative applications that enhance the television experience.

The complete list of different solutions include:

  • Launcher and red button
  • Audience measurement
  • Rich EPG
  • VOD / OTT
  • Video player
  • Live streaming channels and virtual channels
  • Startover
  • Catchup
  • User login
  • Accessibility solutions
  • Social media integration
  • Football / Ice hockey sports applications
  • News, info and weather services
  • Voting
  • Ad insertion (pre-, post- and mid-roll)
  • Interactive ads and ad editor
  • Targeted advertising
  • Internet radio
  • Programme specific TV applications
  • Plus: Sofia Backstage® Author and
  • Sofia Backstage® Application Editor

Launcher and Red Button

HbbTV SmartTV Launcher - Sofia Digital

The Launcher and Red Button application serves as an autostart application in HbbTV, managing and launching other services and applications. It provides core features such as displaying red button notifications, monitoring live actions over the stream, and managing the compatibility of services on different devices.

Targeted Advertising

The Launcher and Red Button application serves as an autostart application in HbbTV, managing and launching other services and applications. It provides core features such as displaying red button notifications, monitoring live actions over the stream, and managing the compatibility of services on different devices.


HbbTV VOD Sofia Digital

The Video-on-Demand and Over-The-Top application enables viewers to access a catalog of on-demand video content, expanding their entertainment options.

Rich EPG

HbbTV Rich EPG

Sofia Digital’s Rich Electronic Program Guide is a comprehensive TV guide that can be directly linked to catch-up and VOD content, enhancing content discovery for viewers.

Live Streaming Channels

HbbTV Pluto Live channels FAST

This application offers live streaming channels, ensuring viewers can enjoy real-time content, including sports, news, and events.

Startover and Catchup

HbbTV Startovet and catchup

Startover functionality allows viewers to restart the currently viewed program from the beginning using network streaming sources, with the added benefit of digital video advertising. Catchup offers a catalog of video content related to the TV channel.

Accessibility Solutions

HbbTV accessibility

Sofia Digital is committed to making TV content more accessible, offering features such as subtitling, personalized text, sign language support, speech-to-text, and high-contrast user interfaces.

TV Program Related Applications

HbbTV program related SmartTV app

Applications related to specific TV series or TV shows provide real-time interactivity for viewers, including voting, participation in lucky draws, access to exclusive extra content, and integration with social media.

Audience Measurement

HbbTV audience measurement

Sofia Digital’s Audience Measurement application allows for the monitoring of TV service usage, providing broadcasters and operators with valuable insights into viewer behavior.

The Sofia Digital Advantage

Sofia Digital’s commitment to innovation is evident in its wide range of HbbTV applications. With expertise in launcher development, audience measurement, VOD, and rich EPG, Sofia Digital is a leading player in the HbbTV ecosystem.

All Sofia Digital’s applications facilitate targeted advertising, making it easier for broadcasters and advertisers to connect with their audiences effectively.

Sofia Digital takes testing and conformance seriously. All applications are meticulously tested in the company’s dedicated testing environment, which includes over 200 different smart TV models from the last eight years. This ensures that applications run seamlessly and meet the necessary standards for HbbTV.

In conclusion, HbbTV is not just a technology; it’s a transformation of the television experience. With Sofia Digital’s innovative applications and the collaborative efforts of the HbbTV Association, viewers can enjoy a more interactive, engaging, and personalized TV experience. HbbTV is the bridge that connects the worlds of traditional broadcast and broadband, creating a harmonious coexistence that benefits consumers, broadcasters, and advertisers alike.

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