[opendtv] Re: Democrats Air Concerns About Analog Switchover

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 10:23:02 -0500

At 8:00 PM -0500 11/19/06, Manfredi, Albert E wrote:
Because they have the mandate regardless, and the newer chips cost less.
So what's so hard about using the same solutions in STBs? And by the
way, I've never seen any evidence that the market is shrinking, in the 6
years I've heard this repeated.

Here are the facts Bert, at least the facts compiled by the FCC over the past decade.


1996    71.6 million    73
1997    73.6            75.9
1998    76.6            78.2
1999    80.9            81.4
2000    84.4            83.8
2001    88.3            86.4
2002    89.9            85.3
2003    89.8            84.2
2004    92.3            85.1
2005    94.2            86

If we trust these numbers, it is clear that the trend line is toward a decline in the OTA audience. The peak year for multichannel services was 2001, with a decline in percentage in 2002, and a decline in real numbers in 2003. I don't think that DTV has been a factor at all in these numbers, but illegal immigration may be a significant factor. The number of TV homes has increased from 100.7 million in 2000 to 109.5 million in 2005. This in a country where the native population has not been growing in more than two decades (i.e birth rate is at or below replacement rate).

I have seen estimates that upwards of 75% of the total OTA market in many major urban centers is now composed of illegals, mostly Spanish speaking. Mr. Willkie did us the favor of identifying the stations he has access to in Sand Diego, of which more than half are Spanish language. A significant portion of LPTV stations in the U.S. are now targeting the Spanish Language audience.

Bottom line, the market is shrinking less rapidly than it was in the '90s, but it is still shrinking, despite the millions of illegals that have swelled the number of TV households over the past two decades.

Instead, my guess is different. My guess is that CE vendors see no great
and growing market for STBs, simply because they see no attempt from
broadcasters to promote their product. Besides which, CE manufacturers
would also much rather sell an entire new TV than an STB.

Yes, the CE vendors are VERY HAPPY that people are willing to spend between $1,000 and $3,000 for an appliance that formerly cost hundreds of dollars, with very low margins for the manufacturers. Including an ATSC tuner in these sets is NOT something the manufacturers wanted to do (except perhaps for LG). At least the higher price tags make it possible to include the ATSC/cable tuners and still make good profit margins.

What is more important, is the reality that they could leave the ATSC tuners out of the vast majority of these sets and the consumers would never know. On the other hand, there is a strong expectation among those buying a STB that it will work. Yet the industry is being asked to sell these boxes with very low margins, while they face the prospect of high return levels from frustrated customers.

You can be sure that any CE salesperson is going to steer a potential customer toward a new HD capable display rather than trying to convince the customer that they should buy a STB for an existing display. And for those few who are interested in OTA DTV reception, an integrated set is a better sale, with a good chance of sticking, compared to selling a STB. At least if the customer gets frustrated trying to receive DTV broadcasts, they can still hook it up to their cable or DBS system.

That being said, the CE industry would LOVE to compete in the market for cable and DBS STBs.

This should give Bert pause to consider why...

The answer is obvious.

Mind you, if broadcasters promoted their multicasts, in addition to
HDTV, the market for STBs might grow a lot. People would opt for an STB
to use with older sets, if there were desirable programming not
available otherwise. However broadcasters see no reason to promote their
product because they live in fear of losing their cable carriage.

They see no reason to multicast, as it would further dilute an audience that HAS declined every year for the past two decades.

Broadcasters have ALREADY been granted must carry/retrans consent for their primary signal, WHEN they decide to turn off the analog transmitter. They have also lobbied for multicast must carry, which could be a lucrative windfall if granted, or the final nail in their coffin, if this led to a court challenge that ended must carry/retrans consent. For now it is safer to maintain the status quo.

Stale mate.


And again, please anyone show me where DVB-T would change anything here.
I think my guesses are more accurate than any others, but they are still
just guesses. Until we know, any purported answer to this dilemma is not
very credible.

Unlike Bob I find no reason to believe that ANY OTA broadcast system would succeed here. This is not currently a problem with technology - ATSC is an adequate place holder for now. The problem is that the U.S. broadcast model is seriously broken, and they like it that way., and will continue to like it until we reach the tipping point. That tipping point will either come from a new technology (Internet download?) or when the broadcasters, and the content conglomerates that prop them up, are no longer able to operate profitably.

For example, *just* an example, if there really were a conspiracy to
kill DTT, then any further cost cutting or improvements in performance
would not fix anything. That's used to illustrate that real answers are
needed here, not just idle speculation.

There is no conspiracy to kill DTT. The conspiracy is to keep it limping along as long as possible, so that no competitor can get enough spectrum to launch a viable alternative.


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