Interactive entertainment for the masses: HbbTV-enabled services as part of the Finnish prime time TV

While many people are moving to watch TV content online, the HbbTV technology has proven to offer something unique for the live broadcasted TV. With HbbTV it is possible to enrich TV programming and engage the regular TV audiences with innovative new programme related interactive services.

HbbTV based hybrid TV services have come part of the regular TV services in most of the European countries. In Sofia Digital’s home country Finland 2020 was a break-thru for hybrid TV, as by the end of the year majority of the Finnish TV-households can use these services, now also including most of the cable-tv households. Right now Hybrid TV services encompass approximately 600 000 devices and through them around one million viewers. And the amount raises continuously due to receiver base renewal. Out of over half a million Hybrid TV there is daily usage of roughly half, which makes 250 000 – 300 000 different terminals according to Digita.

Director Teppo Ahonen from Digita commented: “Digita has worked a long time together with TV companies in developing different applications for Hybrid TV. One example of these is Hybrid TV voting, which is a result of its simple and apparent functionality in conjunction with a TV show. When you can vote for your own candidate for free using a remote controller button without other devices or applications, the threshold for voting is low”.

HbbTV-enabled services as part of the Finnish prime time TV

According to Digita, The TV show’s specific application is strengthening the engagement of the linear TV and offering new business models for sponsorships. It is also possible to use tactical components like lotteries. The participation rate of the HbbTV based services has been measured for each program and can be over 60 % of the application users if the application is mentioned by the host during the programme.

Programme related interactive services include the user interface and technical modules for the TV show elements of judges’, contestants’ and hosts’ presentations, voting, lucky-draw, results, social media integration, past episodes, and highlights/video clips. The concept is integrated into the Sofia Digital launcher application to manage the event based notifications.

The same application structure has been used in many participatory TV shows; for example Kingi and Putous among others. The application template scales from very simple shows to more complex shows with a narrative. In one occasion application included additional tips for viewers logged in to Facebook via the application, using Facebook Login for Devices functionality. (https://developers.facebook.com/docs/facebook-login/for-devices/)

The usage of the application has been high and especially the voting functionality has been well received by the audience. Viewers can participate by pressing the blue button during the game show. This had been advertised during the game shows by the show hosts and by the blue button appearing during show on HbbTV receivers. The monitoring tools offer real-time analysis of the usage of the app and participation stats in different call to actions.

The application can be launched during the TV shows and it launches on top of the broadcast. The broadcast content stays at the top right corner of the screen and the menu is available on the left hand of the screen. The contents change below the TV content on the right side of the screen. The application content is modified separately for each show and is updated continuously throughout the season. Each show has its own look and feel, and the menu items are modified to suit the show in question as well. There is also an easy to use backend for quick turnarounds in application content as the show progresses between episodes.

The concept won the Runner Up Price at HbbTV Symposium in Berlin 2018 at the category of Best use of HbbTV for Broadcast enhancement.