The Pieces are in Place for HbbTV-Powered Addressable Advertising in the UK

Tim Cross 17 October, 2022 

Amidst all the excitement around app-based connected TV advertising, addressable advertising on traditional linear TV has been somewhat moved on to the backburner.

In the UK, this type of addressable advertising is almost synonymous with Sky’s AdSmart product, which has signed a number of deals with other broadcasters, and with rival telco Virgin Media, to expand its reach.

But work on HbbTV-delivered addressable advertising, which has been a big focus for broadcasters in some European markets, has continued in the background. And a new report from the DTG, an industry group, has found that the pieces are in place for broadcasters to test widespread rollouts of HbbTV-powered addressable campaigns.

The DTG ran tests across the ‘DTG Zoo’, a collection of different TV models maintained by the organisation which is designed to be representative of the most popular TV sets used in the UK. The DTG uses this collection to run technical trials, and judge how well proposed technical features and standards would work across UK households.

The goal of the DTG’s tests was to measure what proportion of UK households currently own TV sets which are technically capable of running ad-break replacement (where the standard linear ad feed is replaced by a digitally inserted ad pod) via HbbTV.

To do this, the organisation commissioned the creation of an HbbTV app capable of ad break replacement, using a variety of different methods to tell when to insert the ad pod, and how to insert it.

The tests found that most IP-connected TVs which support HbbTV are technically capable of ad break replacement. Over a third of these were deemed to provide an unacceptable user experience, where the transition from the linear feed to the digitally inserted ad break was too clunky, but the remainder (63 percent) provided an acceptable experience. Given that IP-connected TVs which support HbbTV make up around two thirds of devices used in the UK, this means that half of TV devices used in the UK are capable of running ad break replacement while maintaining a good user experience.

The DTG concluded that this reach is sufficiently high for UK broadcasters to conduct live trials of the technology.

Ironing out the kinks

While the reach may be there to justify more fleshed out testing, there’s clearly still more progress to be made.

Partly, it’s a waiting game. TV sets sat in living rooms which don’t currently support HbbTV, aren’t going to start supporting HbbTV. All the industry can do is wait for these TVs to replaced by newer models.

There’s still technical work to be done too. While fifty percent of models used in the UK support an acceptable user experience, this still requires “sacrificial content” to be included at the beginning and end of the ad break, to account for the fact that different TV sets take different amounts of time to transition from the linear feed to the digital feed. While this sacrificial content (likely a logo filler image) only needs to be one second long, it’s still clunkier than the traditional TV experience.

There are also questions around how high of a priority these types of addressable ad breaks will be for UK broadcasters. ITV and Channel 4 are both heavily investing in their respective streaming platforms, while Channel 5 (and its parent company Viacom) is already signed up to AdSmart.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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