[opendtv] Re: OTA

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2012 09:10:25 -0500

At 3:40 PM -0500 3/12/12, Manfredi, Albert E wrote:
Craig Birkmaier wrote:

 > The point is that the mobile/portable devices people are using
 TODAY DO connect to WiFi, and in some cases 3G/4G. They DO NOT
 connect to ATSC or ATSC M/H and it is HIGHLY likely they never

So, build a box that converts ATSC from outdoors into WiFi for indoors. I kind of thought that was obvious enough that we didn't need to mention it explicitly, Craig. Or for that matter, if congloms put all of their content online, instead of just some of it, then you won't even need that converter box. As far as I can tell, the local broadcasters ALREADY have their own content online, that that part's done. None of this is earth shattering, Craig.

In principle, your idea has some merit. But there are several issues that would add to the complexity. And this does NOTHING to allow for reception when the mobile device is outside of the home.

The biggest issue is codec support. Today's mobile devices have moved beyond the first generation codecs used by ATSC - there is NO SUPPORT for MPEG-2. There are several reasons for this:

1. Licensing costs - several dollars per device versus a relatively low annual cap for h.264;

2. Codec efficiency - MPEG-2 is simply not efficient enough for mobile applications, especially over wireless broadband networks;

3. Hardware acceleration - again, licensing costs make it expensive to support MPEG-2.

We recently talked about the improving sales of outdoor antennas; this market is limited by the number of homes with ATSC capable TVs that WANT to receive OTA broadcasts. A device such as you propose that would receive ATSC broadcasts and put them onto a WiFi network would appear to have a much larger potential market - there are ALREADY more iPads in the U.S. than HDTVs with ATSC tuners.

But the device would ALSO need to have a "transcoder" that would convert ATSC MPEG-2 streams into h.264 streams. This would add significant expense to the device, but it is still possible it could sell for around $100 - $150.

By the way, I believe you are correct, that we are moving toward distribution over the wired Internet for fixed receivers in the home. This is the final nail in the traditional broadcast TV model and a huge threat to the MVPDs, who are likely to become wire line bandwidth providers in the near future.

If it *is* "highly unlikely" that cell phone makers incorporate ATSC/MH, Craig, it is only because they are in bed with Verizon, AT&T, et al. That's all. Why should Verizon "allow" the cell phone manufacturers to incorporate M/H, when they can sell Vcast instead? With your fixation that ATSC and M/H "have no future," you're simply advocating these cozy deals.

NO BERT. It is because ATSC does not work for mobile and ATSC M/H is too inefficient.

In case you had not noticed, the telcos no longer have the same control over devices they once had. And they have even LESS control over the services delivered over their wireless broadband networks. Apple or Samsung could easily build phones that support M/H, without risking the ire of the telcos. But they will not, because there is no market for such devices, and it would severely impact battery life.

It's not a question of "hope." It's a question of understanding the techniques you're advocating BEFORE you get stuck in something that's worse than what came before. The LTE spectrum being considered now, and for the true 4G to come in the future, requires very wide channels. These wide channels can be aggregated from smaller slices, but the individual channels are still at the very least 20 MHz wide, and migrating up quickly to 40, 80, and 100 MHz. So, there's no question that if the broadcasters want to go this way, they will have to create, or simply rent space from, a utility. That utility can be something that already exists, like Verizon or AT&T, or it can be a new creation just for TV broadcast.


The crucial point being, it's just another MVPD.

Nope. It's just a carriage utility. The broadcaster still controls the content of the bits they deliver to the utility.

At one time you could have said the same about the telcos - they controlled every application in their walled gardens. But that "trust" has been busted by Apple et al.

Going to LTE will create the opposite effect. All of the current OTA broadcasters would become only sources of local content, assuming that role survives. The congloms and other TV networks, like those I just mentioned, will be the main source of content. And the true "value added" of local broadcasters, i.e. to get content on the air, will be gone.

The true value add of local broadcasters has ALWAYS been in question. The ONLY franchise they have control over is local news; today they compete with other broadcasters for this audience, as well as local newspapers and independent source. Very few local broadcasters create other forms of content that draw a large enough audience to be profitable.

As I said before, local broadcasters began life in the carriage business for the networks. They will need to find a new business model to survive.

 Sorry Bert, but ATSC is not a viable approach moving forward.
 You do not need to beleive me. Take another look at what Mark
 Aitken posted.

I did read Mark Aitken's post, and I provided comments already. In essence, he is proposing that broadcasters come together and create this LTE utility. (In his plan, the utility would *not* be limited to TV broadcast only.)

Correct. To survive, broadcasters will need to offer new forms of content that can be delivered to (primarily) a mobile audience.

So I'm saying, perhaps the one or two broadcasters that take that utility role will win out, and the rest will have little value to add, other than their local news/weather. The congloms, ThisTV, Bounce, etc., would have no reason to deal with their previous affiliated station. They would deal with the new utility owner instead, just like another MVPD.

Quite possible. I suggested as much above.

But this is already happening. The networks are DEMANDING a big chunk of the retrans consent revenues from their local affiliates. And some of the best content franchises are beginning to move toward the distribution of their own content. There is nothing to stop the NFL or Major league Baseball from going direct to the consumer, rather than through a conglom.

The only excuse there is for MVPDS these days to deal with local broadcasters is that local broadcasters transmit the OTA signal in the market area. Why should local broadcasters remain involved in this retrans consent/must carry scheme, with the utility concept? No reason at all. It would be an anachronism. The one or two LTE utility providers are the winners in the market area, and all the other broadcasters are history.

Essentially nothing would change with the utility model, IF the congloms decided to stick with local broadcasters.



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