Hybrid TV, OTT, web TV: harmonising broadcast and broadband

The Conference organised by HD Forum Italia in 2013 had a dual theme: “From zero to 4K: ten, a hundred, a thousand screens”. This title sums up the two main concepts for the future evolution of television: on the one hand image quality, and on the other hand, proliferation of screens. Quantity is consequently a prevailing factor for television in the 21st century. The pervasiveness and the availability of TV programmes, also in mobile form, is a revolution of historic significance. This revolution basically occurred due to the upgrade of broadband connections and the release of increasingly more efficient compression codecs, such as MPEG4, which enabled the distribution of audiovisual content through new platforms with the efficiency and quality of broadcast television.

The combination of broadcast and broadband has consequently produced a number of alternatives to traditional linear TV for the utilization of programmes, shattering the panorama of offerings and bringing to the fore new audiovisual content aggregators and editors. This new television is called OTT, Over The Top, and refers to the distribution of audiovisual content delivered with IP protocol over open network infrastructures. The most widespread example of OTT is web TV, television service delivered over the Internet based on streaming. Web TV differs from IPTV because it is built on the principle of best effort delivery, whereas IPTV guarantees the quality of the service through typical priority mechanisms.

The integration of broadcast and broadband has led to the production of specific set-top-boxes (decoders) and “smart” TVs that enable the user to view both linear television and content delivered via web.