Saturday, 12 July 2008


More on the DTV transition

C.G. Hill links to a post by Doc Searls:

If you have an HDTV and live within sight of New York TV station transmitters on the Empire State Building, you can probably pick them up over an antenna on your set or your roof.   In fact, a loop or bowtie antenna will do.  So will length of wire about 5 inches long, attached to the center conductor of your coaxial connection on the back of your set.

But if you live farther away, good luck.  Your old VHF TV station not only won’t have the range it did on VHF, but will probably not have the same range as an old analog signal on the same UHF frequency. It certainly won’t have the same behavior.  The signals tend to be either there or not-there.  They don’t degrade gracefully with increasing “snow,” as analog signals did.  They break up into a plaid-like pattern, or disappear entirely.
Doc believes the advent of digital, and its associated reception problems, will have the unintended consequence of driving even more people away from broadcast television to other forms of delivery.  That concern is shared by people in the broadcast industry.
Speaking on the phone with RF Update..., [Barry] Goodstadt [vice president, Centris] said that... he was surprised by the massive scale of the potential OTA household decline.  Regardless of DTV’s better picture, elimination of multipath ghosting and higher resolution in the case of HD, the digital television transition will significantly decrease the number of OTA households, he said. - Broadcast Engineering: Will DTV Kill Over-the-Air Television?
And if nobody’s using the broadcasts, who needs the broadcasters?

Related (added 080717 22:00):


Posted by: Old Grouch in Linkage at 21:52:16 GMT | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 291 words, total size 4 kb.

1 Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the history of American broadcasting, no commercial VHF TV station has ever declared bankruptcy. That's what I've been told, anyway. That's an amazing record. A broadcast VHF-TV license is like a license to print money, and until the satellite Superstations and CNN came along, there were only three commercial stations in each market, with a few exceptions in the mega-markets. The NAB protects the bandwidth, signal coverage and the profitability of the OTA stations.

Posted by: Turk Turon at 07/12/08 22:49:05 (iTKty)

2 For all my life, Indianapolis has had at least 4 commercial stations and I wouldn't call it a mega-market (but then I'm not in the business).

So yeah, pixelation and broken sound is my every morning routine now since I got a decent converter box. I expect that to improve when I get the antenna on the tower hooked up, but until then, as the sun goes up, channels 13 and 20 start breaking up. If the weather is OK, in the evening reception is fine.

Posted by: Rob K at 07/13/08 00:41:15 (rCv05)

3 Turk, I believe Doc’s point is twofold: (1) As viewers move to alternate means of reception (cable, satellite, ultimately internet streaming), the value of a broadcast license decreases. (How many transmitters does ESPN own?) (2) The reception hassles associated with DTV will push more viewers to drop over-the-air in favor of alternate means, accelerating the process.

If– say– 90% of your market (or 90% or the demo you’re interested in... forget the hix in the stix) receives your program via cable or similar means, is reaching that last 10% worth the expense and hassle of maintaining a transmitter and license? Virtual stations don’t have to deal with RF-paranoid municipalities, enormous power bills, tower maintenance, “acertainment,” or getting fined any time someone says “f*ck.”

And if 90% of the market can be reached without a transmitter, do the networks really need their affiliates any more?

Believe me, these are questions the financial types are considering right now.

Posted by: Old Grouch at 07/14/08 16:18:16 (R2uPT)


Old Grouch,

You are right that when 90% of the audience gets their signal over cable, the tail will start to wag the dog. But the NAB is so powerful that they can soften that change, and delay some its effects for years if not decades. For example, cable operators and broadcasters frequently used to get into fights over fees ("You pay me!", "No, YOU pay ME!") for signal carriage. But Congress passed "Must Carry" legislation which deprived cable of the only leverage they had in negotiations with the stations, groups and networks. One could argue that it makes for a more level playing field, but I dunno ...

Posted by: Turk Turon at 07/14/08 18:21:16 (blNMI)

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