[opendtv] Re: Digital Trends: ESPN may pull its finger out of the Internet-TV dam, unleash a flood of change

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2014 08:02:05 -0500

> On Feb 6, 2014, at 7:16 PM, "Manfredi, Albert E" 
> <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> That's absurd, Craig. You get lost in uninformed, vague generalities. The 
> existence of guard bands is not a conspiracy against competition. With analog 
> TV especially, the Europeans have the same situation as we did, with respect 
> to locally unused frequency bands. You need these to provide 
> interference-free, continuous coverage. (And, in fact, local low power 
> stations can and do use those guard bands, in intervening markets.)

It's all about power levels Bert. VHF is more problematic, as it can skip over 
water, further restricting where that channel can be reused. I was just 
pointing out that there were alternatives. Low power licenses could have been 
used early on to add local channels, but they were not authorized until 1982. 

> Even that isn't true. Isn't the government redefining what constitutes an 
> MVPD service, to allow OTT sites to compete against the entrenched TV 
> providers?

No. At least they have not done so yet. The only "noise" so far is that they 
might extend program access rules to the Internet, as they did to enable the 
DBS service. And you saw what that did in terms of competition; just another 
expensive MVPD. What make you think it will be any different if the FCC does 
the same for OTT services?

> Yes. Didn't the government force DTV receivers to be embedded in TV sets?

Yes, but what's your point?

These receivers only work with DTV broadcasts, and not very well at that. This 
has been a huge waste of taxpayer money that did little to help terrestrial 
broadcasters compete; the primary beneficiaries were the ATSC & MPEG-2 patent 
holders. Most consumers never used them, and they are completely useless to 
view MVPD and OTT programming.

> Yes. Both of these increased competition. It doesn't matter whether a lot of 
> the new channels show old movies. The government is not forcing them to only 
> show old movies. How they will compete is changing day by day.

Neither increased competition. There are now 2 to 3 choices of an MVPD service 
in most areas, but prices still keep rising in lock step. What else would you 
expect from an oligopoly?

Broadcasters got the ability to multicast, but this actually allowed for 
consolidation, as many UHF channels that carried the second tier networks lost 
them to channels that carry the big four broadcast networks. The Broadcast 
Networks continue to lose viewers to alternatives, despite the ability to 
deliver HDTV and multicasts. The only programming that is hanging on is live 
sports, which is increasingly moving into the walled gardens.

> Verizon FiOS competing against Cox and Comcast, when providing MPEG-2 TS 
> broadcast channels, is merely a small transitional sideshow. Haven't you 
> heard about Internet TV? Get past this MVPD obsession, Craig.

It's not my obsession Bert. It is the current reality. 

More than 80% of U.S. homes still subscribe to a MVPD service. More high value 
content is moving behind the pay walls. The MVPDs also largely control the ISP 
duopoly. And you need a MVPD subscripton to watch content that  is exclusive to 
the MVPD services via the Internet.

Netflix, Amazon, iTunes et al are replacing packaged media sales and rentals, 
and provide the congloms with a new market to which they can sell retread 

> The only alternative, to make you happy, would have been free use of the IP. 
> Yes, sometimes that works too. But paying royalties for IP is not "a barrier 
> to competition," but rather "the cost of doing business."

The alternative that actually happened Bert was to create a new standard that 
is much more efficient than MPEG-2, and license it with reasonable terms. This 
has allowed the manufacturer(s) of your PC/TV setup, EVERY new mobile platform, 
and OTT devices like Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast to support the latest 
standards at a tiny fraction of the cost to support ATSC and MPEG-2.

For example, Apple shipped 51 million iPhones, 26 million iPads, 4.8 million 
Macs and 6 million iPods in the last quarter alone. The total license cost PER 
YEAR for the AVC/h.264 portfolio is capped at $6.5 million, thus the license 
cost per device is measured in pennies. 

The license cost for these devices to support MPEG-2 is $2.50 per device, or 
more than $200 million, and this does not include ATSC royalties, that would 
apply if you put ATSC tuners in these devices.

Clearly the proper way to look at the ATSC and MPEG-2 standards is the "cost to 
protect an entrenched business."

I wrote:
>> Compare this to the ATSC standard, which was already outdated by
>> the time most consumers bought a HDTV. I would note that Bert
>> rightfully pointed out the critical role that standards play in
>> enabling the Internet transport of bits. We asked the FCC to do
>> the same with DTV - i.e. just standardize the modulation and
>> transport layers.
> Craig continues to misunderstand what it takes to create a useful 
> communications standard. Thank goodness the FCC had a clearer understanding.

This is pure BULL*#^= Bert.

OTT services delivered via the Internet are PROOF that we understood what was 
possible with "digital." What we predicted and asked the FCC to do, has in fact 

As I noted before, standardizing only the modulation and transport layers would 
not have prevented broadcasters from implementing the ATSC standard. As it 
turned out, broadcasters failed to implement many features of the ATSC standard 
that the FCC adopted.

> The Internet is used only to "carry bits," as Craig says. But applications 
> that run over the Internet must agree on encoding standards. So, even in the 
> early days of the Internet, users on each end had to agree how characters, 
> numerals, entire documents, spreadsheets, graphics, etc., were going to be 
> encoded. Or they wouldn't be able to communicate. The Internet Protocols 
> didn't care, but the end users did. At first, this was a mess. IT WAS VERY 
> standards were not yet widespread, except at best ASCII text. Eventually, 
> de-facto standards such as Lotus 123, WordPerfect, Adobe Acrobat, MS Word, 
> emerged. (Wow! Just like Flash Player! What a concept!)

Yup! And yet the marketplace resolved ALL of these issues WITHOUT the 
government stepping in to mandate standards....

By the way, most of your examples have NOTHING to do with the  Internet - 
everything you list except Flash existed before the Web was created. They were 
all computer applications. Even The technologies that became Flash were 
developed as a framework for multimedia delivery via shiny discs running on 
PCs. Moving files across LANs came before the Internet - in fact, compatibility 
issues in organizations were a major factor behind the entrenchment of Windows 
and Office in the Enterprise.
> *But*, with DTV, the FCC had to create an APPLICATION, Craig, not just the 
> pipe. The FCC had to create a standard way that EVERYONE could buy a TV and 
> expect it to work. The ATSC had to standardize all the way up to the 
> application layer.

Again I call BULL*#^=  Bert.

The FCC did not have a clue - that's why they created the Advisory Committee on 
Advanced Television Services. Remember, the FCC thought they were creating an 
analog HDTV Standard until 1992.

 I spent a great deal of time at the FCC educating staff and Commissioners 
about the reasons digital DID NOT require end-to-end standards, as was the case 
for analog standards.

To drive this point home, the FCC removed the infamous Table 3 of formats from 
the standard they adopted, correctly noting that the MPEG-2 standard does not 
rely on formats, but instead is only constrained by a maximum  encoded bit rate 
(raster x frame rate). But the manufacturers ignored this and only implemented 
a subset of the MPEG-2 standard.

OTT video clearly demonstrates we were right. As a result you can watch video 
from around the world, initially captured by a variety of analog and digital 
formats at multiple frame rates. 

You cannot do that with an integrated ATSC receiver.

> And even then, Craig thought the ATSC had developed a "point solution." Not 
> true, but in his defense, few people back then understood then what layered 
> protocol standards were. In fact, right from the start, the ATSC added SD 
> formats and, with publication of A/90, all manner of other possibilities 
> opened up.

Sorry Bert, but everyone fully understood the benefits of layered protocols. 
The web had not been invented yet, but Internet e-mail, file exchange, and 
discussion groups were in full bloom by 1992 and everyone involved in that DTV 
standards process was using these communications tools. 

How could we have proposed only standardizing the modulation and transport 
layers, if people did not understand what we were asking for? 

The DTV standards process started as a defensive measure to protect the 
"broadcast spectrum." It ended as a defensive measure to protect a misguided 
HDTV standard that Japan Inc. spent hundreds of millions to advance. 

> I'm afraid that your misconceptions lead you to erroneous conclusions.

No misconceptions.

No erroneous conclusions.

No regrets.

Everything we said would happen has happened, yet the full benefits cannot be 
realized because the oligopolies were allowed to protect their walled gardens, 
and continue to do so. Be thankful your TV has an HDMI input so you can bypass 
the useless crap and access the almighty Internet.

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