HbbTV, aka Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV, is a global initiative that aims to seamlessly blend TV broadcasts with internet content on connected TVs and OTT devices (e.g. set‐top boxes and streaming dongles). In more layman terms, HbbTV is much like teletext for the 4K-era television. What makes it different from teletext are all the bells and whistles that internet got us used to: overlay content enrichment with high resolution images and text, and means for audience interaction.

HbbTV is both a widely adopted industry standard (ETSI TS 102 796) and an initiative promoting unified hybrid TV delivery across all devices. The HbbTV consortium gathers over 50-something members, including standardisation and research bodies, broadcasting companies, software and content protection experts and major device manufacturers.

Origins and development

HbbTV has been around for some time already – its beginnings date back to 2010, when German broadcaster RTL introduced HD Text, a variation of teletext utilizing HbbTV and the CE-HTML interface language. The rollout of the standard was quick, especially in European countries. In 2011, HbbTV started gaining traction in France, Germany and Spain. Meanwhile, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland were planning its tests and announcing work on adoption.

HbbTV can be delivered either over broadcast or an IP link, but due to the volume of data being transferred, especially in content-rich examples, it works best when utilizing broadcast and broadband networking combined.

How HbbTV works for the viewer

HbbTV, on the most basic level, is promoted as something that would replace the well outdated, but still existing teletext (anyone remembers?) on TVs. But HbbTV is really a whole different beast. The key difference here is it that utilizes the internet to display content. The use cases are yet to be fully explored.

First, for HbbTV to work, the TV or OTT device must support HbbTV. 

Secondly, the broadcaster must provide an HbbTV application (or applications).

If both these conditions are met, a relevant icon can appear on the screen, informing the user of the availability of extra HbbTV content. Pressing a button on the remote launches the application. This app does not typically interrupt the viewing experience – the video is still there, but e.g. played in a smaller window, or overlayed by theHbbTV content.

HbbTV allows the video content to be complemented in various ways by the app.

Let us guide you through some of the most interesting examples:

Extra information. This could include additional, up-to-date details about the content being watched. Imagine watching a football match and accessing each player’s statistics directly from your remote control – without even reaching for your phone. In movies, this could be a way to display an actor’s name and their short bio while they appear on the screen – in case you get into an argument with your flatmate over where he or she played.

The implementation could also mean more advanced and customized news tickers (aka “crawlers”) – strips displayed at the bottom of the screen, e.g. in news programs. This would allow to make them display more customized content, or give viewers a possibility of completely disable the strip.

Program guide is perhaps the most obvious, but very useful implementation of HbbTV. This use case is also very likely the only HbbTV use case most people may have, unbeknown, encountered and used on their TVs. The HbbTV program guide can include extra information on the shows in the program, along with the ability to switch channels directly from the program guide. 

This implementation could also provide a menu with access to additional video programming (behind the scenes, bloopers, interviews, etc), or simply let you see the trailer of the film that starts in the evening.

Viewer interaction can take many forms. For example, when watching a favourite Hollywood classic, viewers could play quizzes checking their knowledge of the script, and seeing how they compare against other viewers (via live statistics displayed on the screen). 

Originally, users could only interact with the app using the remote – using the coloured buttons, the cursor buttons, and the numbers. The HbbTV 2.0 release also supports interaction through a mobile device – a phone or a tablet. This release, however, is still not supported by most devices.

Lyrics for the viewed music video could be available at the viewer’s fingertips. With HbbTV, they could be displayed on the screen while the song is playing, along with the other information like the artist’s bio.

Better advertising via HbbTV will be more contextually fitting, or more targeted to the viewer. Ads may no longer have to interrupt the program. Instead, they can complement the video content, and allow immediate interaction (e.g. buy now/ find out more) if the viewers find the product interesting.

The advantages of programmatic have been known to internet advertisers for decades, but with HbbTV they are now possible on television. This allows advertisers and broadcasters to:

  1. Increase ad revenue
  2. Automate ad sales process by implementing the CPM (cost per click) pricing model
  3. Reach different target groups simultaneously within one break (each viewer sees a slightly different ad)
  4. Personalise commercial breaks (e.g. by displaying prices in ads using local currency)

Customized content BBC R&D department is working on an idea of personalising the broadcast service on-the-fly by replacing elements of the content with IP-delivered content on connected set-top boxes and smart TVs. 

This could allow dynamic ad substitution (DAS), but also many other non-commercial use cases: imagine watching a weather forecast that is focused entirely on your area, saving you time by not having you watch the full country weather breakdown.

Customized content delivered through HbbTV will help to personalise broadcast services to a particular viewer’s taste (to some extent, at least), creating for them a unique, slightly customized version of television.


Television is no longer a linear medium. HbbTV has successfully saved it from oblivion and created novel use cases that successfully bridge the interactivity of the internet with the social, vicarious aspects of watching television.

As the examples above show, the ideas and technology are here. We just have to overcome some of the growing pains stopping HbbTV from broad adoption: security concerns and device compatibility.