Open, global and free-to-air television, DTT, records a continuous movement of audiences to pay-TV or online platforms. Digital terrestrial television or open TV came with the promise of more channels and higher quality compared to analogue systems. But the interruption of smart TVs and payment formats did not fail to show that the system is very weak, despite being the only way to guarantee the right to audiovisual information for everyone, regardless of their purchasing power. DTT is now looking for a new revolution, Digital Audiovisual Broadcasting over the Internet (DVB-I), to be where the other options are with its advantages: watching on demand with complementary information and from any device.
Peter Lanegan, representative of TP Vision and DVB-CM-I, a group created to define commercial requirements for Internet TV services, believes that terrestrial broadcast systems by antenna (DVB-T), satellite or cable are not enough, and migration to the Internet is necessary. To compete with the quality and interactivity of online platforms, unifying channels with transparency to the user and allowing access to television services directly from the network without the need for an antenna.
Currently there is a hybrid system: DTT by antenna, which does not allow viewing on other mobile devices, and individual apps for each series are available for Smart TVs and other Internet-connected devices from which you can access this content online. Another way is to resort to platforms that include DTT content in their offer, but are paid and linked to a fiber contract.
Lanigan believes that DVB-I will solve this shortcoming: “It opens the door to the ability to connect from any type of device, it allows TV channels to offer additional content, such as implementing an on-demand playback service that allows, in addition to watching TV, live, select programs to play it at another time, provide extended information about the broadcast, and in the case of on-demand TV, keep watching a program on a different device.”
The proposed protocol is also compatible with 5G mobile networks, so that content can be accessed at high speed, in a stable manner, and without being connected to a home Wi-Fi network. The goal, as summarized, is to “reach more users on more devices.”
The model is already being tested in Italy and Germany. In Spain, according to Pedro Villa, president of UHD Spain, the association that promotes Ultra High Definition in Spain, there is what he considers a “little brother” with Loves TV, a system that allows some receivers to switch to DTT content over the Internet. The three main TV groups participate in it: RTVE, Atresmedia and Mediaset.
Ángel García Castillejo, of Televisión Abierta, which collects 100% of the free-to-air sector in Spain, believes that although there is now a “symbiosis” of DTT with online content, the future depends mostly on the latter via. “We can enrich and get more content that would otherwise be unavailable because it requires interaction.”
But García Castillejo highlights that, above all, the aim is to improve “a free television service to 100% of the population throughout the territory, without distinction of a social or economic nature”.
In this way, it is not about eliminating antennas, which will be possible for users with a broadband connection or a 5G connection, but “expanding the possibilities of access to the DTT service without limiting the accessibility via ground waves,” explains García-Castillego. “It is an extension, a complement, It is an evolution of what already exists, not necessarily the end of the infrastructures and forms of transportation and access that we have today.”
However, the representative of Televisión Abierta believes that the time has come to “think, from a legal regulatory perspective, how to ensure that all citizens have access to audiovisual content, understood as a service of public interest, as a fundamental right of access to information”. In this sense, it indicates that it is necessary to consider how to obtain service, under equal conditions, for people with limitations or resources to access broadband or 5G. It’s a worldwide discussion. In the case of Latin America, access to the Internet is a fundamental right.
Another gap to contend with is the proposal submission form. The current paradigm, for individual applications that require changing platforms and understanding each of the navigation schemes, makes it difficult for people less accustomed to the Internet and used to simply changing the channel (going) to use it. Many users access DTT through the contracted payment platform, which usually includes open channels in its content offering. “Things can get complicated, but the idea is that DVB-I is an extension of DTT with extensions, and that it has a similar navigation structure and philosophy to the ones that exist today,” comments Pedro Vila. “The idea is that all of Europe has the same thing, on any device,” he adds.
All these aspects will be addressed at the end of the year at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Summit and with an implementation horizon of ten years.
“It also depends on how we organize ourselves,” warns Villa. In this sense, he explains that while digital radio has led to the disappearance of FM in some countries, in Spain it has “not moved forward”. “The fact that the technology exists doesn’t necessarily mean that the sector has had a positive response, although I think we’d be very interested here,” he adds.
“In Spain,” continues García Castillejo, “it is one of the first countries in the world in terms of broadband penetration. We have the availability of infrastructures. Another thing is the use we make and how we take advantage of this potential. Think about using it.” He concludes by saying, “We have to act and realize that technological development and development must go in line with the possibilities it offers without losing rights on the part of citizens.”
The last aspect that needs to be addressed is the TV manufacturers. Each brand puts its apps or those with commercial agreements on its first screens and reduces or limits access to others. “This conditions our access to audiovisual content, and ultimately, there is a great risk that television receivers will be the obstacles to free access to all audiovisual content,” explains García Castillejo. He adds: “You can see it in the design of the remote controls. The colored buttons that give access to DTT functions over the Internet are minimized when they don’t disappear.”