[opendtv] Re: 20041220 Mark's Monday Memo

  • From: "Manfredi, Albert E" <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "OpenDTV (E-mail)" <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 18:31:28 -0500

Craig Birkmaier wrote:

> The Ferree plan appeared to be heading down the
> path of RETAINING the analog tiers as a quick fix
> for the DTV transition. The downside of this plan
> was the reality that the cable systems might
> choose to carry a station's DTV signals as
> downconverted analog signals, thus maintaining
> compatibility with 141 million TVs.

That's why I have been suggesting that broadcasters
*only* insist on cable carriage of their digital
program stream. And perhaps only their primary
digital program stream.

The Ferree plan clearly depends on cable and DBS
to provide that 85 percent coverage, and at this
point in time they do. It is certainly in the cable
systems' own self-interest to keep supplying the
analog users with the broadcasters' signals, one
way or another. We saw more than once what happens
when a cable system decides to drop one of the
broadcaster channels. Rioting in the streets.

It is also in the cable systems' own self-interest
to carry the additional broadcaster DTT subchannels
*if* these are interesting enough that subscribers
start demanding them. Word does get around.

So broadcasters ought to carefully choose their
battles, and ought to trust in the demand their
content generates. *And* ought to encourage the
rapid availability of good DTT STBs, so that
consumers can bypass cable systems that won't
relay the stuff they want to see. In other words,
trust that market forces can work.

> A rapid transition to ALL DIGITAL CABLE just
> shifts the problem from provisioning ATSC STBs
> for 85% of the market versus digital cable STBs.

Obviously, but the cable companies have a choice.
They have already provisioned digital tiers along
with their analog tier, so they can fine tune
their digital and analog lineup to make room.
The letter to the FCC made it sound like their
only option was to go all-digital and hand out a
bunch of free STBs to analog users. But in fact,
*if* it's true they don't have room for the
digital DTT channels, they can (for example)
reduce the number of analog channels they carry
to only those that have larger audiences. Offer
the ones scarcely watched as digital channels
only. Then offer SD D/A STBs at some reasonable
monthly rate, which will soon pay for these
STBs and then some.

And yes, third parties offering their own STBs
will help cable transition to all-digital more
quickly, which ultimately will make any spectrum
issue go away. But even you have said many times
that people are happy to have their real
expenses hidden as small monthly fees for one
thing or another, rather than a visible one-time
expense. So assuming people are really that
gullible and financially irresponsible, cable
companies should have a field day with this.
Slowly migrate everyone to the digital tier.

So the letter was quite disingenuous. Its
purpose was simply to avoid having the FCC
mandate carriage of the entire DTT multiplex.
To resolve this impasse, all it takes is for
the broadcasters to stop demanding carriage of
the entire DTT multiplex, ask for carriage of
the main DTT stream only, and trust that cable
subscribers will insist that broadcasters'
programs be made available from the cable
system, or will look for a different TV source.

(If most markets out there have no more than
six local OTA stations, wouldn't carriage of
the entire DTT multiplex only constitute a
total of 3 6-MHz cable channels (256-QAM)? It
is difficult to believe that there isn't room.)

Merry Christmas all OpenDTVers!

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