European Space Agency

COTV - HbbTV & HTML5 enhanced Community TV


Following a successful initial implementation of the COTV environment during the 2008 – 2010 period (click here to visit the ESA Telecom web page of the original contract), a 15 months extension of the COTV project has been awarded. This extension will enable the COTV environment to comply with the recently emerged HbbTV / CE-HTML / HTML5 market driven standards (not to mention the High Definition formats nowadays available even on the mobile phones cameras), as well as to cope with the strategic evolution of the broadcasters needs based on the rich feedback received during the original project pilot phase.

This project extension will in particular focus on implementing new “browser based” COTV clients for the end users. The TV Client will use the HbbTV / CE-HTML open standard for its interfaces, whilst both the PC and Mobile Clients will use HTML5, and the PS3 Client will use HTML. In addition the end-users will also be provided with an integrated access to their favourite social networks (e.g. Facebook and YouTube).

On the broadcasters side the focus will be on a one stop shop solution, targeting a simplified and more efficient process, better able to deal with a complex production and operational context and closely aligned to the natural workflow of the profession. Also a new key functionality will be introduced, namely “playout synchronisation” of broadcasted TV content with internet based content.

The COTV environment overall structure and main workflow will remain unchanged as is described in the section that follows.


Following the rich findings of the 6 months pilot phase of the original contract and the fast evolution of the market standards for TV, Mobile, PS3 and PC terminals a number of issues, for regarding the Broadcasters tools and the Client terminals have been identified and are addressed by the project extension as follows:

Broadcast tools issues:

  • The need for a better structuring of the COTV application creation tools and of the operational management facilities in line with the professional / metier natural workflow of the broadcasters has been identified. In this perspective the current broadcasters tools will be integrated into a single component best mapping the different steps / workflow phases and structured along a metier organisation with a more intuitive user interface.
  • The need of synchronising the “broadcasted video content” with “interactive internet based content” has been identified, enabling the broadcasters to better structure and organise the end-users participation. As an example, when broadcasting a “Best-of”, users could be invited at given time of the TV program to vote / rate one or many videos. As a result a dedicated signalling synchronisation capability at the playout will be developed.

Client terminals issues:

  • In the original COTV project, the terminal applications have been implemented as Java based clients which needed to be installed first before any COTV service can be accessed. This approach required “some” prior effort from the users before being granted any access to the COTV content. With the latest HbbTV / CE-HTML advances for TV terminals and HTML5 for mobile and PC terminal and HTML for PS3 it is now becoming possible to secure “browser based” implementations of the COTV Clients. This has the great advantage of allowing the users to use directly the COTV facilities from his terminal browser with having to install anything. At a click the user has access to all the COTV environment. As a result HbbTV, HTML5 and HTML client interfaces will be developed.
  • The need for COTV to integrate with social networks was also clearly identified during the original contract pilot phase. Means for users to export their work to their favourite social network space and to share it with their friends or to publish it on popular Web 2.0 platforms such as YouTube, has become vital. COTV will therefore develop integrated links towards a number of popular social networks.


HbbTV / CE-HTML and HTML5 compliance will enable a “web browser” approach, thus no longer requiring any pre-installations. It drastic improvement of the usability of the COTV clients and the customer acceptance of the COTV services. It will also secure a harmonisation of the look and feel and navigation styles between the different client terminals. Supporting the now established mass market HD display format will secure high quality COTV user interfaces and content applications.

On the TV producers and broadcasters side the enhanced creation tools and operational management facilities will enable them to better cope with the operational workflow of “conceiving, producing, running, and securing the best-of”, and to concentrate on their “metier” and not on the technology.

More generally the enhanced COTV environment, resulting from the extension of the original COTV project, will have integrated the latest market needs and will have drastically reduced the time market by securing results much closer to market thus enabling a true to commercial exploitation.


The COTV Business model involves complementary TV players, namely the “TV producers”, the “TV aggregators”, and the “TV end-users”.

The model innovates in the sense that it allows the TV professionals and the TV viewer community to collaborate in the creation of new TV programs. The TV Professionals (TV Content Producers and TV Applications Developers) produce TV programs structured in a way to allow TV viewers to incorporate complementary and original content of their own.

In a nutshell, the “TV end-users” are organised in teams and each team member can upload her/his own video in the team footage repository (as well as commenting the videos uploaded by the other team members) in response to the Challenge topic issued by the “TV producers”. Once the various contributions have been edited by the team into a single video, the team leader submits (i.e. “Publishes”) the video to the attention of the other teams (which can now comment and rate it) and to the attention of the “TV producers”. The best rated videos will be then used by the “TV producers” in order to generate the best-of TV program (composed of a mix of professional and user generated content), which is then transmitted to the “TV aggregators” for content packaging and free to air satellite broadcast.

One major particularity of the COTV service is the provision of a “Challenge Template”, designed to help the “TV Users” to intuitively follow a “professional” scenarisation approach and associated rules (such as, but not limited to: duration/format of video/audio contributions, structuring of the video into thematic sections and description of the topics to be covered by the different video sections of the challenge). This approach is strongly required by the “TV producers” in order to guarantee the provision of good and pertinent users’ contributions for their final production of the TV program.

The COTV Business Chain and the content flow between the actors is simplified in the following picture:

click for larger image

A comprehensive range of user terminals is supported in order to be able to reach out to the widest possible audiences. In particular the latest HbbTV / CE-HTML set-top boxe / Networked TV and the PS3 HTML enabled home terminals will be supported in the living room. HTML5 mobile clients will be supported for on the move users and HTML5 PC clients for at home and at work users.

In order to cope with the COTV objectives and challenges modular system architecture has been conceived. The architecture is closely associated with the business actors in order to secure a coherent and optimal commercial exploitation.

The following functional architecture is used:

click for larger image


The COTV project CCN3 extension of the original contract will be implemented over a 15 months period in 5 major milestones as follows:

  • Milestone 1 (T0+3) with all the COTV enhanced user and system requirements being defined.
  • Milestone 2 (T0+5) where the enhanced COTV system architecture is conceived, the harmonised graphical interfaces layout for all the clients designed, and an initial “market feasibility analysis” provided.
  • Milestone 3 (T0+8) where the alpha version of the enhanced and HbbTV / HTML5 compliant COTV environment is implemented and tested.
  • Milestone 4 (T0+11) where the beta version of the enhanced COTV environment is field deployed for a 4 months pilot phase. An updated version of the “market feasibility analysis” is also made available.
  • Milestone 5 (T0+15) where all the findings of the pilot phase are collected and analysed and recommendations for the commercial exploitation suggested.

As this extension of the original COTV project is essentially commercial exploitation driven and is intended to finalise over a short period of time and in close collaboration with the customers a market offer, a RAD (Rapid Application Development) and AgileWeb (Agile Web Development) graphical approach will be used in support to the user requirements definition and for the software development phase.

This iterative approach, which allows an easy and quick visual involvement of the customers, can cope efficiently with the design and harmonisation of several users’ clients’ interfaces and layouts.

Current status

The Final Review was successfully held on the 4th APR 2012.

The consortium has identified the baseline of the “Exploitation agreements” among partners for the commercial roll-out of the COTV service, which will be based on the following road-map:

  • 2012-2013: further fine-tuning of the platform to allow RBB (German TV producer and broadcaster project partner) to use operationally and at preferential fees the COTV platform for user-generated TV programmes to be broadcast within the German ARD audience.
  • 2013-2014: market expansion to other “full-paying” TV producers and broadcasters in Europe.

The COTV project has been presented and demonstrated at the 2nd ESA ARTES Applications workshop held at Harwell (UK) on 19th-20th APR 2012, inclusive of a dedicated Demo Corner showing the COTV platform and user clients.


Status date

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 12:51