Straight Talk About the Digital TV Transition…
Much is made of reception problems marring the changeover from analog to digital TV in the US. Typically, these problems are laid on the backs of the TV engineering community. Before you jump too hard on the engineers, please consider that broadcasting is not a technology industry – it is an entertainment industry, pure and simple! In OTA TV, engineers don’t set the course, they just follow.
Few industries in this world are so hidebound as the entertainment industry. The broadcast industry has always used regulation to throttle new technology. TV and FM survived being beaten down at birth by entrenched AM interests. Both eventually did well, ironically, leaving many of their old AM antagonists hoisted on their own petard.
We are reprising that in DTV. The marching orders for it came out in an era of big network domination, and an arrogant disregard of the real destiny of TV (CATV, mobile, SFN’s, etc.). It was birthed without much top floor regard to or respect of the many disruptive digital technologies appearing on the horizon. The voices of the forward thinkers like Sinclair were tuned out.
As a result, OTA TV as we have known it is nearing extinction, and there is little but passing political interest in the few million (1% or so) viewers with OTA reception problems. There are much bigger problems to worry about.
For one, the present system is obsolete with respect to mobile TV, some form of which will surely dominate our viewing in coming years. ClearWire’s nationwide WiMax deployments, followed by the big cell carriers coming conversion to 4G, will finish the broadcasters mobile hopes off. There just is little call for 2000′ towers and megawatts in the mobile world – 250,000+ 100′ cell sites pretty well show that!
So, back to the TV industry being in the entertainment industry. As a product producer, the industry could care less about how they get the product to you – by CATV, FIOS, 4G, however. No industry cares to serve 100% of their market. So, in the end, it really wouldn’t have mattered if better choices had been made in the HDTV standard. Perhaps, a different technical standard would have delayed a bit the absorption of OTA TV into the broadband soup, but it will still disappear into history sooner or later.
Comments of Lawrence Behr, CEO of LBA, reflecting over 50 years in radio-TV broadcasting and wireless, representing engineering and business development consulting with hundreds of AM, FM and TV stations as well as broadband wireless enterprises. (Link to LBA Consulting Services)