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Is DVB becoming an OTT technology?

Peter MacAvock, Chair, DVB Project
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Is the Internet the future? Will it take over from satellite and terrestrial television much as it has already done on cable? Will the concept of linear television disappear, to be replaced by an app-driven experience? These questions are at the heart of DVB’s new approach based on a set of technologies called DVB-I. We don’t have the answers to all these questions yet. A fundamental question for us is whether DVB has a role in providing these answers; we think so, but it’s for you to decide.

A journey is how it is often described. Linear broadcast television is the starting point, where the media experience is directly connected to the network and a relatively dumb device. The endpoint is one where the media experience is network-agnostic, probably based on Internet technologies. Today’s media consumption is based on a combination of device, location, time, taste and — of course — availability. Today, no single network can address all of these requirements. But then, who cares?

DVB does.

DVB is carving out a role as the organisation that understands media delivery and seeks to provide best-in-breed technologies with open interfaces to facilitate a multi-vendor approach for hybrid and broadband media distribution and consumption. DVB-I isn’t just a service discovery specification; it’s a whole Internet-centric philosophy that encompasses how you might package, discover and distribute media services on the Internet. And it should provide for access to existing broadcast services where available on devices.

This shift towards this new philosophy has caused many things to change inside DVB. Whereas DVB used to focus on delivering specifications, it is now focused on the deployment of its technologies on the market. A subtle difference you might say, but it means that the area of “aids to interoperability” is now front and centre of DVB’s work. When developing requirements, the focus isn’t on “where is a specification needed?” but rather “when does product need to be on the market?” Both are evidence of an Internet-centric policy.

An Internet-centric policy doesn’t mean that we forget broadcast distribution. If Covid-19 has taught us one thing, it is the importance of broadcast distribution. DVB’s forte has been developing state-of-the-art broadcast distribution technologies. DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 have proven their superiority time and again, and DVB constantly revisits them to ensure they remain at the forefront. The sweet spot for media is to combine network access — broadcast and broadband — to deliver a media experience that benefits from the unique propositions of each. DVB is less known for its work on defining open interfaces to which components connect to form complete end-to-end systems. This layered and modular approach fosters multi-vendor, interoperable and cost-effective solutions the industry benefits from today, and it is being applied in earnest to the DVB-I framework.

DVB references work going on in different relevant bodies like 3GPP, W3C, MPEG, DASH-IF, HbbTV, CTA-WAVE and IETF, among others, to develop its systems, rather than developing its own alternatives.

Back to our questions. Broadcast distribution will be around for quite some time. Linear television will be incorporated into a media experience with seamless switching between linear and on-demand. These are all part of a hybrid approach, central to a high-quality personalised media experience. The direction of travel is clear. DVB is playing its part.

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