Is MHEG dead?

Given the BBC has announced that it will switch to HbbTV based apps, and CI+ LLC have made the MHEG browser optional in CI+1.4, you’d be forgiven for thinking MHEG is dead and now is the time to remove it from products.

There’s more to GB than the BBC

We believe that MHEG will become optional in the UK at some point in 2018 – but does this mean you can remove it from products? Adam, our MHEG guru, surveyed each mux on Freeview to see what else was going on. There were active services on 108 of the 174 channels available on Freeview. Only 10 of these services were from the BBC, so there are still close to 100 services which will need to migrate over time. Included in this total are 17 channels which are delivered over the internet using MHEG IC/ICS, which means these channels can only exist if there is MHEG in the receiver (or a replacement to it).

Our survey proved what Adam already knew – Whilst the BBC has always been the broadcaster with the biggest investment in MHEG, it’s great to see there are so many other organisations using it, and indeed a large number whose channels are only made possible by the presence of MHEG. Whilst the BBC may well have the resources to switch quickly to HbbTV based apps, it will be quite some time before niche services make the transition.

CI positive

Last month CI+ LLC announced that the MHEG browser will be become optional for CI+1.4 from September 2017. The first implication of this is that MHEG will still be mandatory for most suppliers who go through certification before that date, so it will really be the 2018 product line up which suppliers will have to make a decision on. However, the most important point is that whilst the presence of MHEG in the receiver may be optional from September 2017, there will still be a very large number of CAMs in the market which have MHEG apps on them, and which will still be on the market for years to come. Consumers upgrading their TV will still expect their CAM to work.

Since a number of the operators who are most dependent on the CI+ CAMs are using the MHEG browser, it is inconceivable that they will replace the CAMs in the market to facilitate this change. It will be some time before the number of consumer dependent on the MHEG browser decreases below the level at which removing it from the TV set will have minimal issues.

It is great to see that the BBC and CI+ are leading the market away from old technologies. HbbTV will offer consumers a far superior experience, and in the long term the switch will benefit everyone. Given the widespread deployment of MHEG and the number of services beyond just the BBC which are dependent on it, OBS believes it will be many years before it’s safe for manufacturers to take MHEG out completely. OBS is one of very few companies still active in MHEG, and we’re ready to continue supporting the market through the transition.

So, is MHEG dead? Well not quite yet. It will definitely make it to its 20th birthday (in 2017), and almost certainly to its 25th, before it’s retired once and for all.