[opendtv] Re: OTA

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2012 09:51:34 -0400

At 3:28 PM -0500 3/15/12, Manfredi, Albert E wrote:
Well, for sure, if broadcasters develop a new scheme that is incompatible with ATSC 1.0, what they're calling ATSC 3.0 these days, no question that the compression algorithm should be changed. But in that case, since this won't happen for a few years still, I'd certainly aim beyond H.264!! If I were designing this ATSC 3.0 starting today, I'd be specifying H.265. By the time the standard is ratified, vendors will have gotten serious with hardware accelerators and all the rest. And the new standard may accelerate the process.

Well, we got you on the right track finally. I thought it was being called ATSC 2.0 but it really does not matter. What matters is that it is capable of delivering content to fixed and mobile screens in a manner that is compatible with emerging industry standards that are being used on the most popular devices.

I've already covered that, multiple times. Mark Aitken's plan is to make use of the multicast/broadcast optional feature of LTE (which has not yet been fully developed in LTE, last I saw on this), and also to provide some two-way service, over the medium. And I already pointed out several times that the local broadcasters are ALREADY providing on-demand access to THEIR OWN content, over the Internet. Nothing new to develop here. At most, local broadcasters can also use this new LTE infrastructure for that local on-demand content.

If they do nothing more than they are doing today broadcasting will die.

Clearly there is a need for local content, especially news and public affairs. The question is whether this is enough for broadcasters to survive.

You seem to think that the media conglomerates are going to stay with local broadcasters into the future; but then you say that the congloms can bypass local broadcasters via the Internet. Depending on the congloms for content is not something you want to base a new business model on. On the other hand, if broadcasters do build the infrastructure to reach mobile devices using LTE broadcast, they may find many customers.

The point I was trying to make is that the TV business is bifurcating. It is no longer necessary to schedule an appointment with your TV to watch most of what broadcasters deliver. The ONLY content that gets people to watch TV at a specific time today is live sporting events and a handful of live reality shows.

LTE broadcast of live sports has huge potential - the real issue is who will have the rights to deliver these bits. The congloms may still spend a small fortune for rights packages, but it is becomming very obvious that the rights for fixed screens and the rights for mobile devices will likely be negotiated as separate packages. IF the leagues can use LTE broadcast to reach the mobile market, they could keep broadcasting viable as a paid carriage service.

I've also pointed out that the congloms ALREADY provide on-demand access to most, unfortunately not quite all, of their FOTA content, over the Internet, bypassing the local broadcasters.

Yup... the congloms no longer need broadcasters - they just want the profits the broadcasters are making off of popular content.

So really, your ideas about this new on-demand TV are nothing new. When the wireless telcos deploy 4G, they do so specifically to facilitate the sending of streaming media to mobile devices. Honestly, what extra role a broadcaster-developed, separate LTE infrastructure would play, is, and has been, a bit of a mystery to me. The wireless telcos will be filling that function, unless broadcasters deliberately block them out (which would be a change from what's out there now).

Why is this a mystery?

Yes, some of the bits that will be delivered via 4G networks will be traditional TV content. But frankly, I doubt this is going to amount to a large percentage of what these networks are used for. If people want to watch program length TV shows and movies on a mobile screen like an iPAD, it is far more likely they will download the content to the device via "uncapped" wired/WiFi networks, than burning up expensive bits on their "capped" wireless contracts.

The major attraction for mobile TV usage will be to watch live events when you are not able to connect to the wired Internet. And here, demands on the spectrum provide a clear advantage to Broadcast LTE over traditional two-way data links.

So the only real issue here is whether broadcasters will build this infrastructure or let the telcos do it. OR, if they both do it and compete (I find this unlikely).

Yes, and you can also try to keep selling buggy whips, Craig. My main message is, if you go with this separate broadcaster-developed LTE utility, instead of retaining the current un-walled broadcaster model where multiple OTA broadcasters are on the air in each market, I have to question what role the vast majority of local broadcasters will have to play.

This is not about buggy whips Bert, unless you are talking about ATSC 1.0, which is going away.

Moving to a shared spectrum utility does not change the fundamentals of the broadcast business. A broadcast license is THE MOST valuable asset that a broadcasters has. In larger markets you are NOT going to see the top 4-5 broadcasters take the money and run. They understand the value of this (nearly free) spectrum and the advantage they have over the telcos, who are spending billions to get more spectrum. The challenge is to develop a business model for this spectrum that will be viable in the long haul.

And by the way, broadcasting is part of the largest WALL GARDEN in the world. The small percentage of homes that use the FOTA service represents only a trickle of the total economic value of broadcasting. And these laggards still count towards their ratings - actually them may make up a large percentage of the audience, as is the case for PBS stations. It is the "buck a month" from every MVPD subscriber that is keeping broadcasters viable today, although this business model is probably not sustainable in the future either.

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