Tutorials

HbbTV versions

When developing an HbbTV application you need to know which versions of HbbTV you application is going to support.

There are multiple HbbTV versions. A new version has been produced roughly every two years since the first version of HbbTV in 2010. Each an evolution of the previous version.

Slightly confusingly each HbbTV version has two names, an informal name which identifies if it is a major or minor update to the HbbTV specification and a formal name which comes from the standards body ETSI, which publishes the specification as technical standard 102 796. There are specific rules around ETSI version numbering, which means that ETSI number can’t easily reflect the relationship between the versions of HbbTV and hence the two names.

Informal NameFormal NamePublished Date
HbbTV 2.0.4TS 102 769 V1.7.12023 09
HbbTV 2.0.3TS 102 796 V1.6.12021 04
HbbTV 2.0.2TS 102 796 V1.5.12018 19
HbbTV 2.0.1TS 102 796 V1.4.12016 08
HbbTV 2.0TS 102 796 V1.3.1Depreciated
HbbTV 1.5TS 102 796 V1.2.12012 11
HbbTV 1.0TS 102 796 V1.1.12010 06

Articles, blogs and news items normally refer to the informal name/numbering. Specifications refer to the formal name/numbering. Once you are used to the number it is easy to know which a number is referring to.

Between versions there are also errata which correct mistakes made in the published specification but don’t add functionality to it.

There are also optional related specifications and a specification for operator applications (OpApp). These have their own version numbers and ETSI specification numbers.

Links to all the specifications and errata are here.

Do HbbTV versions match wider web standards?

The HbbTV standard does follow updates to desktop and mobile browsers, but typically with a few years lag. Televisions are much more constrained in processing power and memory than mobile phones and laptops and therefore it takes longer for new features to evolve to become efficient enough to run on a television. 

For example, HbbTV 2.0.3 was released in 2021 and was specified to support 2018 web standards.

How long does a HbbTV specification last?

It can take up to a year for published specifications to be included in new television models. Consumer electronics manufactures don’t usual update the core software in their television models and if this does happen, only then within the first year after a model is launched. Therefore, a television model is usually stuck with the version of HbbTV it is launched with. Televisions are then used for many years. The replacement cycle for a main television is typically six to eight years, but after a television is replaced it can often be continued to be used as a secondary set in a household for many more years.

By comparison laptops and mobile phones have a shorter lifespan of three to five years and the browser technologies that they run are continuously updated for most of their lifespan.

This means that HbbTV application have to run on a much more diverse range of hardware and software than an equivalent web app.

Which version of HbbTV should I develop for?

The version of HbbTV that you develop for will be dependent on the market and geography your applications will be deployed in. Most mature HbbTV deployments have multiple live versions of HbbTV.

Market research can indicate what versions of HbbTV are deployed and in what volumes in a particular market.

To monetize your applications, you will want applications to run on as many televisions in your target geography as possible, so will need applications to be backwards compatible across multiple versions of HbbTV.

You should also be aware that television models don’t always implement all of the features of the specification version they report to support. Care needs to be taken on a model-by-model basis when using certain features.

Features are also depreciated from version to version. These are usually features that have never been reported to be used either because they are impractical, lack value or have been successfully replaced.

There is a temptation to go for the lowest common denominator to simplify development, but the features in new versions of the specification often lead to better user experiences and therefore should be used wherever possible. 

What is the difference between HbbTV versions?

There are separate presentation and articles available for each version, detailing it new and depreciated features.

As the numbering indicates the biggest change was between HbbTV 1.5 and HbbTV 2.0. While there are many features in HbbTV 2.0 the most fundamental was the support for HTML5.