[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: Mon, 10 Feb 2014 09:08:50 -0500

On Feb 9, 2014, at 8:59 PM, "Manfredi, Albert E" <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx> 
> Craig Birkmaier wrote:
>> It is the rights holders who create the obstacles Bert, not the
>> MVPDs.
> ???? We were talking about obstacles to the FCC's idea of combined OTA and 
> cable receivers. You're saying that the reason why the MVPDs held on to their 
> business model of renting out proprietary STBs, instead of combined built-in 
> ATSC and cable receivers, is because the congloms were forcing them to? Show 
> me some proof.

Sorry, I must have misunderstood what you were talking about. With respect to 
STBs, the FCC was tasked in 1995 to open up this market as they had decades 
earlier for wireline phones. This still has not happened, and illustrates how 
government agencies can ignore Congressional mandates when they are too close 
to the industries they regulate.
> Okay, let's not go over and over on this, Craig. There are tradeoffs. The 
> supposed "modulation system" that achieves what you want is very expensive 
> for the broadcaster, UNLESS the broadcaster piggy-backs on someone else's 
> multipurpose infrastructure. (Did you discover how dense this LTE broadcast 
> net would have to be yet, if it were to support the same spectral efficiency 
> as ATSC, as it would have to do in broadcast mode?) But sharing a cellular 
> multipurpose infrastructure would be a valid approach, even if not quite the 
> same thing as FOTA TV of the past.

Yes we have been over and over this. You have provided no evidence to support 
your contention that LTE broadcast is too expensive for broadcasters to 
implement. I, on the other hand have provided actual examples of how it can be 
done, including the costs for co-location on existing tower infrastructure.

And it is obvious that the cellular approach offers a significant gain in 
spectral reuse over high powered big sticks.

>> OTA is not providing more competition,
> Of COURSE it is. ThisTV, AntennaTV, MeTV, Cozi, Movies!, Bounce, France 24, 
> Arirang, NHK, etc. etc. etc. etc., are certainly providing competition to 
> ABC/CBS/NBC/Fox, and CNN btw. Do I miss live CNN? Of course not. Those listed 
> networks are new networks that emerged after November of 1998, or they are 
> foreign networks previously unavailable, for lack of analog spectrum. And,

Show me the ratings Bert. Offering lots of channels that nobody watches is not 
competition. FOTA viewers are already a niche market (<20%), and most of the 
channels you list are a tiny niche of this market. This is not to say that 
these niches should not be served, if the station can sell enough ads to pay 
for the content, but please do not try to convince us that these channels 
compete with the broadcast networks, or satisfy the desire for content that is 
ONLY available via a MVPD service.
> Coupled with what my TV receives over the Internet, from local broadcasters 
> online sites, from congloms, from Hulu, Amazon, and a host of international 
> sites, there's an enormous difference from just 20 years ago. PLENTY more 
> competition for TV content now, in part because of ATSC, in part because of 
> the Internet. If there's absolutely nothing of interest from the US TV 
> networks, all I have to do is browse some Hulu movies.

You are correct, if you are comparing what is available FOTA now versus 20 
years ago. 

Does this add up to improved ratings for broadcasters...

Do the MVPDs offer more program choice than 20 years ago.
YES. Our cable system had less than 50 channels 20 years ago. Now there are 
hundreds we do not watch.

Has a significant amount of high quality content, especially sports, moved 
behind the pay walls?

>> Clearly just defining the transport layer works for the Internet,
> Bull! In the early days, it only "worked" if all you cared about was 7-bit 
> ASCII text files. After a few years and decades, it "works" because the IETF 
> graciously standardized many key services, playing much the same role as the 
> ATSC, and because the ungainly large number of competing applications got 
> whittled down to just a couple (e.g. MS Office, Acrobat). "Just carry the 
> bits" HARDLY provides an answer the average consumer can use, Craig. Get 
> real. It's a meaningless platitude.

No Bert. It is a meaningful reality. The IETF codifies standards for new 
applications when the marketplace demonstrates a need. You are your own worst 
enemy on this subject.

The IETF is developing the HTML5 standard, yet you persist in claiming that 
Flash, a proprietary technology that struggled for years before the web gave it 
some purpose, should be treated as a standard by manufacturers who are helping 
to develop HTML5.

>> The free Internet options provide a catch-up service that helps build
>> ratings, but does almost nothing to help you access the content behind
>> the walls.
> Hulu provides quite a bit of content that was previously only behind walled 
> gardens, Craig. Check it out. It may be delayed, but in some cases, by no 
> more than one day. When you're talking VOD, delay is not such a big deal.

Just looked at all of that content. Some has been delayed...for decades.

The stuff that is "currently airing" is almost all from the broadcast networks. 
The vast majority of what Hulu carries is programs that are in syndication, 
which are available to ANY service.
>> As for mandating a TV app for broadcasters, this only benefits the
>> owners of the IP behind the App.
> Have you seen how many Internet Drafts are written by Cisco employees? Why do 
> you think that is? Do you think Cisco is not getting compensated for their IP?

When I attended my first MPEG meeting I was amazed at the number of people in 
the room. Someone explained to me that the reason all of these companies (their 
engineers) were here was to try to get their IP into the standard.
> You bring up H.264. ATSC could very easily move to H.264, if they had the 
> same mindset as Apple. Just force people to buy new TVs, or at least new 
> STBs. Piece of cake. Oh yeah. Cable could move to H.264 too, btw. Why isn't 
> cable using H.264, Craig??

Cable is not facing a bandwidth crunch, and they have tens of millions of very 
profitable STBs on the books. I just replaced my HD DVR STB because the HDMI 
output did not work. It was NINE years old - how much money did they make off 
of that box at $10/mo.?

The cable industry has been dragging its feet on this for more than a decade to 
maximize the ROI on those boxes. They have not suffered much for this, having 
increased prices at a rate much higher than inflation. But they are seeing some 
competition in VOD, which in turn, as you pointed out, makes a DVR less 
important. My educated guess is that they will finally agree to a software 
based conditional access system, and we will see an explosion of new devices 
that support both cable and OTT services. 

It only took 20 years...

And what has Apple's mindset got to do with this? Virtually all computers, both 
fixed and mobile support h.264. It is a vastly improved standard relative to 
MPEG-2 and the royalties are a tiny fraction of those for MPEG-2.

A $35 Chromecast dongle that plugs into an HDMI port supports h.264. This is 
far cheaper than the government cheese ATSC STBs that were made available to 
support legacy NTSC sets. And almost all new TVs have everything needed for 
broadcasters to "upgrade" at NO additional cost.

You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways:

- Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at 

- By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word 
unsubscribe in the subject line.

Other related posts: