At this year’s International Broadcast Fair in Berlin (August 25 to September 2), the Multimedia Home Platform will officially debut. MHP, backed by the Digital Video Broadcasting Consortium, is an open standard for digital TV and multimedia transmission. If the European market chooses to adopt it, MHP could revolutionize the digital landscape, particularly with the growing interest in interactive TV.
At present, each interactive TV program must be written using a specific application programming interface (API) – for OpenTV or Media Highway, for example – destined to be received on a specific set-top box. While maintaining different standards and APIs might be preferable for pay TV operators, it’s not so advantageous for producers. Philip Laven, technical director of the European Broadcasting Union, explains: ‘We see a significant danger for content producers in the digital world in that they will produce wonderful programs with interactive content for one particular market, and then find that their interactive content will not play in other markets, because they’re using a different API.’ The advantage of MHP is that it’s based on Java and works above the basic API of a set-top box.
As the digital market matures, even pay TV operators may see the light. Laven explains that pay TV operators will experience the inconvenience of incompatibility as soon as they try to expand into other territories. ‘It’s a disaster area because they all have different standards.’
Converting to a uniform system does not necessarily mean dumping all of the existing hardware. Says Laven, ‘We’ve got several APIs already in the marketplace, and there is the opportunity for those set-top boxes also to operate as MHP receivers. That’s a possible solution to the migration problem as well, because we have to get from where we are at the moment, with a limited penetration of digital TV, to a much bigger penetration in five to 10 years.’