- What is new about Hybridcast? How does Hybridcast differ from so-called smart TV, which is already on the market?
Conventional smart TV enables the user to use various Internet applications on a TV screen which are separated from the TV program. In contrast, Hybridcast service provides applications that collaborate with a TV program by using control signals incorporated in the broadcast channel and they use broadcast resources; for example, metadata of a program.
Furthermore, Hybridcast has adopted global Web technology standards such as HTML5.
Therefore, we regard Hybridcast as a more advanced form of smart TV than the conventional system.
- What is the current status of Hybridcast services in Japan?
As of March 2015, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, NHK, and three key commercial broadcasters in Tokyo, provide Hybridcast services. Through these services, users can view news and weather forecasts at any time. In addition, several local broadcasters also provide Hybridcast services on a periodic basis.
More than 20 broadcasters and cable operators have conducted trial services of Hybridcast, to date.
- What specific applications or services are being provided in Japan?
There are two types of application: a broadcast-related application and broadcast-independent application. The former provides applications that collaborate with a TV program; for example, simultaneous provision of information or quizzes related to a program being viewed on TV or on a mobile device. The latter is not related to any TV program. Rather, it provides information that is useful for everyday living, such as information about weather, traffic and disasters, via portal sites that can be accessed at any time.
Broadcasters have also provided experimental personalized services, such as delivery of video clips, VOD recommendations, services and coupons based on the attributes or preferences of viewers.
Since Hybridcast services are currently provided by broadcasters and are still in the initial phase, most of the applications are public-oriented; for example, information about weather and disasters.
- What developments have been accomplished to date in Japan? What milestones have been attained?
Based on Specification Version 1.0, which was released in March 2013, NHK, a public broadcaster, started a Hybridcast service in September 2013. In 2014, three key commercial broadcasters followed suit. Local broadcasters have also gradually launched Hybridcast services.
Local broadcasters and cable operators carried out trial services with financial support from the government. As a result of these trials, the number of local broadcasters and cable operators that provide commercial services has been gradually increasing.
We expect that, in 2015 through 2016, we will see full-scale introduction of Hybridcast. It is becoming important for IPTV Forum Japan to not only produce technical specifications but also build an ecosystem that embraces both technology and services. Ultimately, it will be important to cultivate literacy on the user side.
We are also revising the specifications of Hybridcast to enable incorporation of the broadcast specifications for 4K/8K. For working interactive services on 4K/8K, the 4K/8K specifications will refer to those for Hybridcast.
- How many receivers supporting Hybridcast have been launched in Japan? What is their percentage among TVs?
As of March 2015, 2.2 million Hybridcast-supporting TVs have been launched in Japan.
Vendors have also begun launching STB-supporting Hybridcast for cable operators.
In Japan, more than 100 million digital TVs are already in use, nationwide, and more than 10 years have passed since the start of digital terrestrial broadcasting. Therefore, we expect that many digital TVs will be replaced in the near future while Hybridcast services will achieve increasing penetration throughout the country.
- What kinds of vendors are developing applications?
Currently, the main developers of applications are broadcasters and companies affiliated with them.
We are aiming to create an open development environment. The objective is to enable Web application developers for smartphones and PCs to participate in the development of Hybridcast applications and to revitalize the market in this field.
- How do you approach monetization in this field?
First and foremost, it is important to develop attractive TV programs with Internet services and various applications and thereby grow the number of viewers. We believe that it is possible to meet the needs of broadcasters' sponsors by employing this approach. It is also important to seek new revenue-earning opportunities by increasing the number of touch-points with viewers through a variety of services based on collaboration between TV programs and Internet services, such as targeted advertising and delivery of coupons and video clips based on user attributes and preferences.
- How large do you think Hybridcast market will become in Japan?
There is no doubt that TV broadcasting will continue to be an important medium that is trusted by viewers.
Adoption of HTML5 browsers in Hybridcast enables viewers to enjoy applications, which are linked to TV programs, on multiple screens.
We believe that content and applications will become like the two wheels of a cart. Applications will generate hitherto undreamed of revenue.
- How do you launch Hybridcast services in Japan?
The technical specifications for Hybridcast have already been released. So, anyone can get into this business. However, it is necessary to comply with broadcasters' rules, which are provided by IPTV Forum Japan, so that we can continue to ensure safety and provide an open development environment under our philosophy. So, please contact us.
- What kind of organization is IPTV Forum Japan?
IPTV Forum Japan is a private organization that works on standards relating to integrated broadcast-broadband services.
In principle, it is supported by annual membership fees and it operates autonomously. It has 96 members, including broadcasters, terminal vendors, telecommunications operators and application developers (as of the end of March 2015).
It consists of, among others, a Technical Committee, which is responsible for compiling specifications, a Public Relations Committee, which is responsible for promoting the specifications, and an Advanced Smart TV Promotion Committee, which is responsible for the Forum's strategy and for promoting smart TV.
- What is the relationship between the IPTV Forum Japan and the Japanese Government?
In recognition of smart TV as part of the ICT growth strategy promoted by the government, IPTV Forum Japan, as an industry organization, is engaged in standardization and promotion of smart TV.
The Japanese Government's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications participates in the activities of IPTV Forum Japan as an observer and it provides policy-related advice from time to time.
- I want to develop applications that work in Hybridcast. Can I freely utilize broadcasting resources?
You need to comply with certain rules. A study group established by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications recommended the philosophy of ensuring safety and security and an open development environment for the development of Smart TV, under which TV programs and Web applications work together. Hybridcast has been specified based on this philosophy. Application developers must observe the technical specifications and operational rules, which are based on this philosophy.
- Can I freely overlay metadata for broadcasting programs on terminals?
That depends on your contracts with broadcasters (service providers). You can present metadata in any way you want, including overlay, in accordance with the contracts.
- I understand that data broadcast content in Japan is written in BML (Broadcast Markup Language). Is it compatible with Hybridcast?
Hybridcast uses HTML5 browsers, which cannot display content written in BML. However, there are mechanisms in place that enable content in BML to launch Hybridcast, or vice versa.
- Can companies that want to provide services based on V1.0 develop services or terminals just by referring to the released technical specifications?
In Japan, broadcasters, which actually provide services, work with terminal vendors in accordance with the operational rules that specify the scope of the technical specifications that they will actually cover. New service providers need to set up similar arrangements with the vendors.
- The words "operational rules" appear on your English website. How do they differ from the technical specifications? Are they made public?
The technical specifications specify the comprehensive technologies for Hybridcast. When terminal vendors develop receivers, they need to determine the ranges of parameter values that will be used by broadcasters and to identify unused functions in order to ensure correct operation of the receivers and to reduce costs. Such matters are specified in the operational rules. The operational rules used in Japan are treated as internal documents of IPTV Forum Japan.
If you want to provide a Hybridcast service in your/another country based on IPTV Forum Japan's technical specifications, it is necessary to formulate operational rules that will suit local conditions and situations.
Function v 2.0
- How does V2.0 differ from V1.0 and what new services are made possible in V2.0?
Regarding the main features of V2.0 compared to V1.0, it supports non-broadcast-oriented managed applications, MPEG-DASH, which is a new video streaming technique, recorded content, and incorporates a closed caption function.
We have great expectations that a variety of attractive services which will lead to the creation of new business opportunities for stakeholders will be developed in this market; for example, providing an application that a user can use continuously, even when channel-surfing, enabling recording of TV programs via an application, and an advertisement insertion service using MPEG-DASH.
- Can V1.0 terminals be upgraded to V2.0 terminals simply by updating their software?
Whether or not that is possible depends on the particular terminal vendor or the particular receiver model.
- Can smartphone apps be used in Hybridcast?
We believe that it is relatively easy to port popular smartphone applications to Hybridcast if they are written in HTML5.
We also believe that it is possible to enable native applications on smartphones to work with Hybridcast applications (e.g., enabling a TV program to use information entered through an SNS app on a smartphone). However, it is necessary to establish a business relationship with the relevant broadcaster. You cannot make an app work with a TV program without permission from the relevant broadcaster.
- Are apps that use personal data permitted?
We recognize that it is important for us to provide applications that will use personal data, so we have been investigating how to protect and utilize personal data, and this topic is being addressed around the world. It is necessary to obtain the user's consent when intending to utilize personal data. If such a user-protective environment is established, various services using Internet facilities can be provided to users.
- Can Hybridcast apps use one-segment broadcasting, which is designed for mobile terminals?
Currently, the necessary technical mechanism for one-segment broadcasting is not in place.
Use of one-segment broadcasting signals for Hybridcast is technically possible but it is necessary to draft detailed specifications for that, particularly because the screen resolution of one-segment broadcasting is different from that of normal TV.
- Can a V1.0 or V2.0 service be provided in cable TV or IPTV without using broadcast radio signals?
Hybridcast services can be provided in the cable TV field because cable TV is similar to broadcast TV in that RF signals, which correspond to broadcast radio signals, and IP signals are linked to each other. Such services are already being provided by a cable operator in Japan.
Equivalent services can also be provided in IPTV. However, since all of the signals are based on IP, the extent to which the Hybridcast technical specifications are applied depends on the type of service to be provided.
- Does Hybridcast support 4K/8K TV?
There is no limitation on video resolution of Hybridcast technical specifications. Therefore, Hybridcast can work in 4K/8K.
In fact, for working interactive services on 4K/8K, the 4K/8K specifications will refer to those for Hybridcast.
- Is Hybridcast an international standard? How do your specifications relate to international standards formulated by ITU or W3C?
ITU has issued recommendations on hybrid broadcasting systems under the name of IBB (Integrated Broadcast-Broadband system). They present three types of system, and one of them is Hybridcast. The specifications of Hybridcast are based on HTML5, which was defined by W3C.
- Can Hybridcast apps run on HbbTV, which has been proposed by European countries?
The service based on HbbTV version 1.0 or 1.5 that has been introduced in Europe uses browsers that work with CE-HTML, which is an extension of HTML4. Currently, Hybridcast applications based on HTML5 cannot run on HbbTV.
However, HbbTV version 2.0 (HbbTV2.0), which was released in February 2015, supports HTML5. Therefore, it is highly likely that Hybridcast applications will be able to run on HbbTV. At least, not many modifications will be required.
- How does HbbTV differ from Hybridcast?
First, both Hybridcast and HbbTV V2.0 have adopted HTML5 as their application runtime environment.
With respect to the specifications versions, Hybridcast V2.0 has adopted MPEG-DASH for video delivery, as does HbbTV1.5; HbbTV2.0 supports the second screen as does Hybridcast V1.0. Therefore, there are no major functional differences between HbbTV2.0 and Hybridcast V2.0.
A minor difference between the two, thus far, is that Hybridcast adopts ISDB while HbbTV adopts DVB.
- Is it possible to introduce Hybridcast in countries where the broadcasting method adopted is the DVB family, which was standardized in Europe?
To date, there is no commercial service in DVB-T/T2 broadcasting that supports HTML5.
To provide a Hybridcast-like service, HTML5 with an extension to support integrated broadcast-broadband functions is required, and HbbTV2.0 has met this requirement.
A mechanism for sending control signals for linking between TV programs and applications through a broadcast channel is also needed. While Hybridcast has specified several methods for this, it has not yet specified support for DVB.
The experience that we have gained through developing commercial Hybridcast services in Japan may be useful in implementing actual HbbTV2.0 in DVB-T/T2.
- What measures are taken to ensure security, such as certification of applications?
It is not easy to ensure security because a broadcasting field that is regulated and the Internet field that is not regulated are required to work together in Hybridcast. IPTV Forum Japan serves as an autonomous regulatory organ and requires those concerned to submit a pledge to implement the philosophy of ensuring safety and security and an open development environment.
No certification is provided at this time because, currently, Hybridcast services are provided using broadcast-oriented managed applications, which control information from the Internet using broadcasting signals. That is, only those applications that are approved by broadcasters are used in services.
Going forward, as services with non-broadcast-oriented managed applications are introduced with V2.0, certification will be required.
It is also necessary to ensure that those operations that are not intended by broadcasters or users will not be implemented in receivers. For this purpose, terminal vendors are requested to participate in the Hybridcast Implementation Group (Please see the details below) within the Advanced Smart TV Promotion Center of IPTV Forum Japan. We are also building an enforcement environment, for example, to permit use of a certain logo if the receiver or services conform to the relevant requirements.
- What specific security approaches are taken?
The basic approach to ensuring security is to control the launching or halting of applications using broadcast signals. For example, an attack attempt by a malicious hacker via the Internet can be prevented by stopping the application concerned using broadcast signals.
- Do you have any means of defending against any attempt by a Hybridcast application to interfere with a broadcast service or an Internet service?
In principle, only those applications that have been approved by broadcasters are used in services. No security problems are expected because these applications are checked in advance to ascertain if broadcast signals can correctly control the screen presentations being made by applications.
However, if any event should arise that interferes with TV programs or other applications, IPTV Forum Japan will request the service provider concerned to submit a report on such event.
If the alleged event did actually occur, we ask the broadcaster concerned to take corrective action and delete the application responsible. If the broadcaster should fail to comply with our request, we may revoke the application ID concerned in a worst-case scenario. This is one reason why an application ID is assigned to each application.
- If I want to introduce a Hybridcast service in my country, what specific infrastructure (equipment, network, etc.) would be required?
The broadcaster needs to add a function or equipment for sending a signal to enable collaboration between a TV program and an application to its existing broadcast transmission system. In addition, it is necessary to build an environment for development, verification and monitoring of applications.
A server is also required for delivering applications based on HTML5 and contents via the Internet. This can be efficiently introduced through use of a cloud.
The viewer will be required to have an environment which enables receipt of a broadcast service and use of broadband Internet services.
Even if there is no broadband environment, a similar service can be provided by, for example, piggy-backing HTML5 content on the broadcast channel.
- How do you prevent concentration of access to servers by applications that work with TV programs?
In Hybridcast, there is a possibility that a launch signal in broadcast signals could initiate simultaneous acquisition of many applications. Therefore, servers must have sufficient bandwidth for rapid response.
Other effective means of avoiding congestion are staggering the timing of application acquisition and piggy-backing at least the initial contents on the broadcast channel.
- Does an individual service provider need to operate its application server? Or, is a common platform available?
Currently, in the case of Japan, individual broadcasters have their own backyard servers.
However, we recognize that it is very important to build a common platform so that the costs for ongoing development Hybridcast services can be reduced.
We believe that, if non-broadband-oriented managed applications are to be developed, a common platform will be even more important.)
- Can such a platform be installed abroad, for example, in the form of a cloud service?
It could be possible to develop a hybrid broadcasting service such as Hybridcast across the global market.
It is possible to install a platform for such applications abroad and to operate it as a cloud service.
- What is the scope of the test suites of IPTV Forum Japan for verification of Hybridcast functions, called "Test Center"?
The Test Center provides a testing environment to enable broadcasters, application vendors, etc. to check if Web applications comply with the Hybridcast technical specifications run correctly on receivers. However, the current testing environment does not necessarily cover all of the items in the technical specifications.
- Is there a certification system to check if terminals comply with the specifications?
No, there is none. However, terminal vendors can use an approved logo if they request it, and if the terminal conforms to conventional applications and test content.
- Who pays for operation of the Test Center?
Currently, IPTV Forum Japan pays for the server operation. The Test Center uses test content that has been created by the platform provider.
- If I want to provide a new service, what checks should I perform?
Currently, the Test Center does not have an environment for verifying individual Web applications. A Web application is checked using an environment that has been built by an individual platform provider.
- Is it possible to access test content in the Test Center from abroad?
No, currently the server in the Test Center can only be accessed from within Japan.
- Does the Test Center check the operation of second screen terminals?
- No, there is currently no test content for checking the functionality of the second screen.
- Can the test content and the receiver verification environment provided at the Test Center be used when providing Hybridcast services abroad?
The test content provided at the Test Center is designed for the operational rules that are in force for Japan. It will be necessary to prepare different test content if a service is to be provided abroad under different operational rules.
- W3C also has a test suite for HTML5. How does it differ from yours?
The Test Center of IPTV Forum Japan is designed to test items specific to Hybridcast, such as the specific APIs for accessing broadcast resources, etc. W3C's test suite for HTML5 is also useful for checking common Hybridcast functions.
- Are you working with W3C with regard to the above activity?
- There are activities underway in Japan to enable a W3C test suite to run on TVs that support Hybridcast. IPTV Forum Japan will become involved in such activities.
Deployment and Availability for Overseas Countries
- Can Hybridcast services in Japan be accessed from abroad?
Hybridcast services cannot be used abroad because broadcast services provided in Japan cannot be received in other countries.
- What is the current status of hybrid broadcast services besides Hybridcast in Japan?
We expect that hybrid broadcasting will begin to take off on a global scale from now on. Applications are very important for extending the market for not only smartphones but also TV. This era is about to dawn.
IPTV Forum Japan is currently studying how it can contribute to this movement through certain promotional activities based on sharing Japanese know-how and information on experiments relating to commercial Hybridcast services with other countries.
- Do you plan to assist in deployment of Hybridcast abroad?
We have actively participated in the international standardization activities of ITU and W3C. We have offered demonstrations and given lectures at international trade shows for broadcast equipment, such as NAB and IBC. In addition, we have held exhibitions and workshops to introduce Hybridcast and have had exchanges of information and opinions with stakeholders associated with this field in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, where digital broadcasting has either begun to or will soon become dominant.
- If I want to introduce a Hybridcast service in my country, can I request IPTV Forum Japan to offer consultation?
Since IPTV Forum Japan is an organization that carries out activities based on the proposals of its members, its ability to respond to consultation requests from non-members is limited. However, since it is important to build globally the environments in which integrated broadcast-broadband services, such as Hybridcast, can be provided, we are studying how we should respond to such requests from abroad.
- Your English website refers to the Hybridcast Implementation Group (HIG). Can organizations abroad participate in it?
The members of HIG are those who will provide their services in accordance with the operational rules in force for Japan. It is necessary to study what should be done if services are to be provided abroad in accordance with operational rules that are different from those that apply in Japan.