HbbTV Connect – A first screen adaption of a second screen app

Around one month ago I posted a short message to the linkedin HbbTV group about our new product HbbTV Connect, which is an adaption of our second screen app ProSieben Connect to HbbTV. Hardly anybody outside Germany knows ProSieben Connect and so I was asked to give some more information on the app. Here it is!

ProSieben Connect is the second screen app of ProSiebenSat.1. You can checkin to broadcasts, earn badges and shout your opinion of the current broadcast to Twitter. Connect shows a live stream on the left side shows polls, trivia, facts etc. in the so-called side show on the right side. This side show is accompanied by an editor every day from 17:00 to 23:00.

ProSieben Connect screen shot

A screen shot of our second screen app (desktop version)

In a prove of concept project we started an adaption to HbbTV. We not only had to take some technical hurdles but we had to rethink the UI completely because the app now overlays the TV screen. To not disturb the viewing experience, the app is usually in iconized state and only in case of an event (poll, poll result or broadcast change) a “popup” is displayed on the screen. Countdown timers show the user that the popup will disappear in a few seconds. A symbolized directional pad shows the navigation options the viewer has in the moment. Also the duration of the popup display has to be fine-tuned carefully.

Because we are a private TV station we have to care about the audience flow during the commercial breaks. Usually the viewers zap to other channels on the beginning of a commercial and return after a few minutes. By the switching to an other channel the HbbTV app is closed and it won’t start itself if the viewer returns. Therefore we have to flash a HbbTV red button which links directly to the app after the break. The point of time for this flash is crucial, if it is to early not all viewers may have returned to the show.

ProSieben Connect (the second screen app) is using socket.io – a real-time messaging module for node.js. The transport protocol of choice is websockets but this is not covered by the HbbTV specification. Anyway, a lot of HbbTV browsers are based on WebKit browser which supports websockets per se and this feature is usually not deactivated by the manufacturer. socket.io is falling back to AJAX or JSONP long polling or Forever Iframe to support older browser versions. In theory every browser should be supported but in reality older set-top-boxes can not reliably support real-time messaging because of memory, performance or compatibility issues. And socket.io is of course not tested on these devices, therefore we had to accept that our app is not running on every device.

To round up our POC we added tracking events to measure the conversion rates of the red button and the viewer/user engagement (polls vs. votes) during the show.

Any feedback in the comment box below is very welcome!


I enjoy attending hackatons and work for ProSiebenSat.1 a german private broadcaster and fiddle around with HbbTV.

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Posted in English, HbbTV
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