Australia's Next-Gen Digital TV Could Be Dead Before It Starts

Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV, or HbbTV, is the future of Australian digital television. It's an industry standard for Web-enabled television devices that integrates over-the-air digital TV broadcasts with online catch-up video and other media content. It's under development by Australia's Freeview TV consortium and is set to launch soon, but it might be dead before the public ever gets a chance to try it out.

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According to The Australian, Prime Media Group, one of the major players in regional television broadcasting in the country, has pulled out of the Freeview group, leaving money owing for the development of HbbTV -- and WIN, the other big regional broadcaster, might be next.

Remaining Freeview members -- Nine, Ten, Seven, the ABC and SBS -- were emailed to notify them of the shock departure, and told that Freeview would be adjusting its budgets, including for the development of HbbTV in Australia, in light of the $56,923.90 unpaid by Prime at the time of its jumping ship. HbbTV is meant to officially launch in Australia imminently, but Prime's departure might be a spanner in the works.

The idea behind Freeview pushing HbbTV was to set a standard that all TV broadcasters could conform to, and to promote HbbTV-compliant devices that would let buyers and Australian TV viewers access every catch-up TV service in one place. With a major media group departing the consortium, it's possible that at least one digital TV station won't be on the compliant catch-up list.

HbbTV, which is better known in Australia as FreeviewPlus, is meant to seamlessly integrate live TV and a detailed program guide with catch-up and archived streaming video services over IPTV. It's a move to bring the free-to-air providers more directly into line with companies like Foxtel, which already offers broadband-enabled and advanced streaming television services through its iQ set top box platform. If WIN leaves after Prime's withdrawal, Freeview could find itself without the money to develop and promote FreeviewPlus, which would leave the broadcasters further trailing in Foxtel's wake. [The Australian]