One of the most basic potential outcomes from the new DVB-I (Internet) specification, which aims to first harmonise the way IP linear streaming services are discovered by connected devices and later how the industry streams video generally, is to make it simpler for channel owners to onboard their online linear services onto a set-top box or any other connected device. The concept is it should become easier for content to be presented being an IP channel inside a programme guide. Perhaps more to the point, it aims to make service discovery easier from inside apps, so it helps to reduce the complexity of developing, managing and updating apps across a diverse population of devices.

Peter MacAvock, Chairman from the Steering Board at the DVB Project, says the DVB-I specification works 'under-the-hood' of broadcaster apps. Thus, consumers still find content simply by entering the app, and not understanding any difference the information could be delivered using DVB-DASH, for example (which develops MPEG DASH for HTTP adaptive streaming over the open Internet, but with new requirements to improve interoperability and help implementation) and/or multicast-ABR, and employ targeted advertising that's based on DVB-TA, the DVB spec being developed with the free-to-air market in mind.

MacAvock says there isn't any intention to battle against the trend towards more app-based viewing and recreate the app-free channel line-up of the analogue or multichannel digital TV broadcast world. But DVB-I does recognise the fact that distributing linear services to apps across multiple device types is cost-prohibitive at scale. DVB-I has been developed partly to support what could be an extended transition to an all-IP world, during which hybrid IP and broadcast services are the norm.

With DVB-I, the DVB is first looking to harmonise how content streams that are offered on the open Internet are identified by a tool, whether that's a hybrid broadcast broadband set-top box, a connected TV device or perhaps a smartphone. This means the parallel harmonisation of how content shows itself to devices or to the apps that run on them. Platform owners (such as the major terrestrial or satellite platforms utilizing a horizontal retail market for their device sales, specially in the free-to-air market) and content providers could be big winners.

\”The broadcast industry originates to realise the apps-based environment, because it is currently conceived, is not sustainable for very large scale delivery of happy to media devices. We need more tools and that we need those tools to be harmonised across different platforms,\” MacAvock explains.

He admits that the second proposed phase for DVB-I, looking beyond service discovery to produce a full package of tools that may harmonise how streamed media is delivered, is ambitious. He does not determine if the DVB is capable of this, however the organisation that brought us DVB-T, DVB-S and DVB-C, among its other famous achievements, thinks it has to try.

\”We are attempting to exploit the willingness to tackle this issue, on behalf of most of the stakeholders [in the TV/video industry]. We will do this by starting with the low-hanging fruit, and if we gain traction, pursue the rest in a piecemeal fashion.\”

Today, there are multiple solutions for service discovery in an open Internet environment, but the DVB set out to investigate curiosity about delivering a harmonised solution, resulting in the announcement in March this season that a Commercial Module was investigating the marketplace requirements

MacAvock says of DVB-I and its phase one, service discovery ambitions: \”It has gained fairly substantial traction available on the market, so we are pushing ahead as soon as we are able to to define the technical specifications. I would aspire to see a draft specification by summer 2021, which would include all the service discovery and EPG elements.\”

DVB is not attempting to 'invent the wheel', as MacAvock puts it, so DVB-I draws on a range of existing technologies and standards. \”The idea would be to package it quickly and road-test it on the market.\”

DVB-I can often mean a consumer turns on a set-top box (supplied by an operator or bought in retail) or a new television set and plugs it into the broadband to instigate something which looks like a 'scan' from the services that are offered (over IP streaming) in a territory. This would create a list of choices to the consumer.

The streaming channel or service has to identify itself to the device, however this isn't the main technical challenge, says MacAvock. Hard part is how the device helps make the services available to the customer, and DVB really wants to harmonise this across device types and middlewares. It must remove the complexity developed by the different approach taken by manufacturer Z when implementing applications on Android TV when compared with manufacturer Y, for example, and the different approaches taken for a cell phone implementation.

MacAvock says a set of service discovery specifications could make device certification easier, where it is required. \”DVB-I is about facilitating this complete process.\”

A DVB-I based device could discover and offer streaming services/channels with no app, however this specification isn't an app killer. \”There is a tendency for the world to maneuver for an app-based environment and we fully recognise that, and prefer to use it than against it, because it may happen regardless of what the DVB does,\” MacAvock confirms.

DVB helped get the technologies used in the broadcast part of the hybrid broadcast/IP ecosystem that is now normal. \”Ultimately, we want to provide the kind of systems that would be helpful in a broadband-only scenario,\” MacAvock adds. \”That cannot rely exclusively on applications which are installed on devices, because such applications are not sustainable across a multitude of platforms. We must simplify the forex market, one way or another, when the transition to all-IP will happen anytime soon.\”

While major broadcasters would benefit from easier apps development and management, small channel owners would also be winners. \”There are channels who are currently working out the economics of streaming and they're realising the extent to which the present costs are ridiculous,\” the DVB's Steering Board Chairman states. \”Anyone that uses streaming as a means to an end wins with a standardised solution.\”