ATSC 3.0: Learning from HbbTV success in Europe


By Greg Jarvis
EVP/GM, Fincons US

As the ATSC 3.0 standard launches in the U.S., American broadcasters have the advantage of looking across the Atlantic to draw on European experiences with HbbTV, the basis for the ATSC 3.0 specification.

In Europe, traditional broadcasters have been exploring the potential of hybrid TV for some time, with HbbTV the standard for a decade now. There is no shortage therefore of successful examples that can be used as a foundation by businesses looking to leverage the opportunities made available by the next generation of digital broadcast television.


The ability of OTT platforms to retain viewers for long periods can in great part be attributed to their capacity to offer content tailored to viewers’ taste, and then to continue offering more interesting content. Viewers can easily watch trailers before selecting a program and as one episode comes to a close, a teaser for the next episode or a similar show begins to play immediately. Until now, linear broadcasters have not had the technology to offer viewers this type of targeted experience, but with next generation TV driven by the ATSC 3.0 standard, pop out adverts can be inserted to promote new content and therefore discourage viewers from heading elsewhere.

Not only does ATSC 3.0 equip broadcasters with the tools to strengthen viewer interest and loyalty to their channels, but it can also help to secure and increase advertising revenue by enabling more relevant adverts. With addressable advertising, adverts can be tailored to specific profiles, based on a combination of characteristics such as age, gender, interests and behaviour. Sky’s Adsmart allows for different ads to be shown to different households watching the same programme; in July 2018, the company was on course to surpass a billion pounds a year in advertising income in the near future, across all its European markets.[1] 74% of advertisers using AdSmart had either not used TV or worked with Sky before.[2] In the US, there may be a perception that addressable ads cannot be implemented on a large scale due to technological limitations; however, of the 120 million TV homes in the U.S., more than 65 million have the technology to receive an addressable ad.[3]

For brands with a niche product, broad advertising can prove a huge waste of money as their target audience is very precise, while other brands could benefit from adapting ads for different regions to maximise impact. In 2018, the luxury car brand Maserati launched its first national UK TV advertising campaign with the help of targeted TV technology, filtering out audiences that did not fit a typical buyer’s profile. Visits to dealerships were tracked throughout the campaign, providing valuable data on ad efficiency and the potential for future campaigns.[4] Combining addressable ads with geo-targeting therefore makes TV advertising a possibility for a range of businesses as smaller companies on a low budget can now afford to invest. Dynamic information such as weather updates or local sports scores can also be provided through pop-ups using location data, providing viewers with pertinent updates while they catch up with their favourite shows.

Lastly, the new standard enables viewers to instantly action interest in an advert by pressing a button for further information on a product or booking for a free trial of a service. Advertisers have great scope for creativity here as they can offer a range of incentives, from locked content and prizes related to the show viewers are watching to vouchers that can be redeemed upon purchase of a product.  As today’s viewers often watch TV with another device in front of them, this can also be leveraged for further interaction opportunity.

The launch of the ATSC 3.0 standard is an opportune time for traditional broadcasters to take full advantage of new tools without taking a leap in the dark as they have been tried and tested in Europe. As television continues to be an essential household feature, broadcasters’ capacity to take on competitors has never been stronger. The European experience demonstrates how hybrid television can be a launch pad for thriving advertiser investment while optimising the viewer experience, securing the savvy broadcaster’s place in the future of on-screen entertainment.

[1] Sky reveals 29% annual rise in AdSmart revenues, Campaign Live, July 26, 2018

[2] Sky reveals 29% annual rise in AdSmart revenues, Campaign Live, July 26, 2018

[3] Don’t Believe Everything You’ve Heard About Addressable TV Advertising, Ad Age, October 24, 2018

[4] Maserati looks to targeted TV ads to find rich car buyers, Digiday, May 22, 2018