[opendtv] Re: UHF reception

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 08:36:38 -0500

At 7:13 PM -0800 11/22/08, Dale Kelly wrote:
I agree with you but there are agendas within agendas.

You may recall that a number of years ago, on this forum, I suggested that
the major broadcast networks were preparing for the demise of OTA

* = At that time Craig was the major detractor of my analysis; what a
difference a day makes!


Can you save me the trouble of looking back through the archives to see where I disagreed with your position about the future of OTA broadcasting?

We have often disagreed about one thing or another, but I can't remember a time in recent history when I was not completely in agreement about the move by the conglomerates to devalue the OTA franchise and move to paid distribution.

Here's a bit of news...

I just wrote my last column for Broadcast Engineering. I was informed this week that my monthly column will be replaced by vendor supplied editorial...

Here's the last few paragraphs I submitted for my swan song - I would note that BE may not be willing to print this...


The Future of DTV: So Long and Thanks for All the Beer

For more than a decade I have been warning the broadcast industry of the pending obliteration of their franchise at the hands of a real world hyperspatial expressway, the Internet. In the U.S. about 10 billion videos are viewed monthly via the Internet. You Tube uploads 13 hours of content every minute. This has not been lost on the media conglomerates who provide the high value content that has allowed over-the-air broadcasting to remain viable in a world dominated by the multi-channel distribution oligopoly - cable and DBS. Virtually all prime time TV content can now be accessed online, on demand. What's more, the commercial load in the online versions is substantially lower than that in the broadcast versions, or you can buy commercial-free versions of these programs from iTunes or Amazon.

The real problem with over-the-air TV is that "appointment TV" is all but dead. Program adjacency, once the foundation of prime time scheduling is now meaningless in a world dominated by channel surfing and web surfing. Broadcasters can still pull in large audiences for live events, but some of the most important content franchises are beginning to abandon broadcast TV in favor of cable, which uses the revenue from monthly subscriber fees to outbid the broadcast networks for high value content. The College Football Bowl Championship series will move to ESPN in 2011.

Unfortunately, most broadcasters have done little to prepare themselves for the day that they move into third place in the content distribution chain behind the multi-channel services and the Internet. If it makes you feel better the multichannel services are not likely to survive the real DTV transition either.

On demand and downloaded content via the Internet is where the Future of DTV lies. Cable may remain in the game as a provider of broadband pipes, but they and the telcos, will face new competition in this area. Competition that may turn the TV white spaces into the next big digital broadcast medium.

The most important attribute of over-the-air broadcasting is that it is a wireless medium. In a world where wireless communications has all be eliminated the need for a wired telephones one can see a large opportunity for a modernized wireless digital content delivery infrastructure. The Mobile DTV standard, currently nearing finalization by the ATSC, offers a glimmer of hope to TV broadcasters. But there are many obstacles along this path to the future. First and foremost is access to content. Simulcasting of the primary programming of a station is not likely to grow the audience, and there are many unanswered questions about the rights to carry this content in a mobile service. Live sports could be a significant mobile TV franchise, but the economics may not work out for delivery of this content as an advertiser supported free-to-air service. Broadcasters could focus on the creation of local content; however, economic viability is tenuous here as well.

The most promising aspect of the transition to Internet-based DTV is the opportunity for the craft of content creation to flourish once again, just as the craft of brewing has been revitalized in recent years. YouTube relies heavily upon content created by independent producers - you could call it the mom and pop video business. As we shift to search engines to find content of interest, the playing field will be leveled a bit in favor of independent producers, who are now being squeezed out by the big media conglomerates. This is already happening with musicŠvideo can't be that far behind.

My 42 years around television has been an incredible experience. With 30 consecutive NAB conventions under my belt, it's time to try something new. But retirement is NOT an option. So I am embarking on a new career.

In January, The Swamphead Brewery will begin the production of high quality craft beers in Gainesville, Florida. As the Head Brewer I look forward to the challenges of building a new business creating beers filled with compelling content.

For those who want to be part of the future of digital television I suggest a similar path. To borrow a phrase from our mass media pop culture - It's the content stupid!


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