[opendtv] Re: The Potential of OTA DTV

  • From: "John Shutt" <shuttj@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 18:08:21 -0400


I am a staff engineer for the PBS Affiliate in Lansing, Michigan.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <dgrimes@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

> Now for my thoughts of Over The Air digital signals.  I am spending good
> money to receive the OTA DTV.  I would not if DTV only offered the same
> service as the analog signal.

When analog television is turned off, you will be interested in DTV, or else 
you will become interested in subscribing to at least a basic level of cable 
or DBS service.  Remember that after analog cut off, DTV will no longer be 
competing with NTSC, it will be the only game in town.

So for those who are happy now with NTSC OTA service would have no reason 
not to be happy with a DTV service that did nothing but duplicate that model 
of a single SD program stream.  It would be a sad waste of DTV capabilities, 
but would not change the motives behind those that already receive their 
programming exclusively via OTA NTSC.

If there were no NTSC cutoff planned, and we would be in a perpetual state 
of simulcasting both NTSC and ATSC, then you would have a valid point.

> No, I want HDTV.  I am not willing to pay
> for cable or satellite HDTV because I cannot afford $75 a month to reach
> that tier.  But I do care about quality - that is why I am spending money
> on receiving and viewing OTA HDTV signals.  But I am not willing to pay a
> monthly charge to someone while having to sit and watch commercials that
> are paying for the programming.  I realize I am probably in a minority
> since 80 percent of our metropolitan area is receiving cable or satellite.

The size of the customer base who is willing to spend anywhere between 
$1,500 and $5,000 for a true high definition monitor that can actually 
display HD resolution, yet refuses to pay for either HD cable or DBS service 
to feed that monitor is a very small one and is shrinking rapidly compared 
to the early adoptor days. (Although a high percentage of this segment seems 
to reside on this list.)

If, on the other hand, you have invested only in a set top ATSC receiver to 
feed your current NTSC television, then you are not enjoying any benefit 
from that programming being delivered to you in HD that you would not 
receive if that program were delivered in SD.  In fact, you may enjoy a 4 
Mbps SD program much more than a 12 Mbps HD program on your NTSC set, simply 
because of fewer instinces of macroblocking seen in the programming.

> Another reason for OTA DTV is the quality.  The HDTV signals on satellite
> and cable are not nearly as good.  The statistical multiplexing does not
> work well enough.  The local digital SD pictures are even worse on cable
> and satellite.  So I will be watching OTA DTV for a better signal quality.
> I hope broadcasters do not try to do what the cable and satellite 
> providers
> are trying to do.

The quality can be greater than cable if the broadcaster allocates his 
entire bitrate to a single high definition program, but that would not 
increase interest in OTA television.  If a market's broadcasters as a whole 
started to offer 2, 3, or 4 times the programming now available OTA via 
NTSC, that might just reverse the trend of ever fewer OTA only households.

> But to me, there is great potential in OTA broadcasts.  I only wish I had 
> a
> DTV broadcast license so I could send our content to 100 percent of this
> area's population.  I could put programming on it that no one else can
> deliver.  Even better yet, I could deliver more digital content besides
> video than I could just programming one channel on a cable system.  And if
> my content is desirable enough, people will pay to have equipment receive
> it.  So I hope broadcasters realize what they have before they give it up.

If you have unique content, I'm sure the folks at KLVX-HD channel 11 in Las 
Vegas would be interested in airing it.  If you plan to multicast several 
programs at once with your wished-for DTV broadcast license, then you'd have 
to comit the same sin of lowering the quality of the HD signal that you 
lamented Cable and DBS for doing.  If you plan to deliver non-video digital 
content, there isn't anything that ATSC can deliver that the World Wide Web 
or cell phone operators can't deliver faster, cheaper, and more reliably to 
devices that already exist.

> Again, as a customer, I really want to see free high quality HDTV
> programming stick around!

As a broadcaster, I really want to deliver it to you.  I want to deliver the 
highest possible HD quality.  But I also want to deliver programming 
specifically for kids.  And programming specifically for adult learning. 
And I want to be sure that your second set in the kitchen that is served 
only by rabbit ears can receive all of that content.

How do I do all of that at the same time?  One possible way is to do what we 
do now with our NTSC signal.  Deliver the primary channel from our studio to 
the cable head end directly.  Doing this with our HD signal would allow us 
to send cable the highest possible quality, where the vast majority of true 
HD viewers get their content from anyway.  Then we can use our OTA digital 
channel to deliver more SD channels to OTA only homes, where the new found 
variety in programming would be most appreciated.

As for the set in the kitchen with rabbit ears, that may require a change in 


John Shutt 

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