Is OTA being forced into an early grave?

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by TeamPace, Mar 25, 2016.

  1. Mar 25, 2016 #1 of 118
    TeamPace

    TeamPace Active Member

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    OK, some random thoughts here that I've had for awhile. Is greed pushing OTA TV towards an early grave just as it should be on the rebound? Personally I've seen growing interest from people looking for cheaper options for TV with more people considering going OTA. Most people who discover what free OTA TV has to offer with a good setup (especially with a device like a TiVo) are pretty amazed. I've helped quite a few friends "cut the cord" and the interest only seems to be growing. So many people don't even realize what's available. If they know OTA TV at all they just think of a few snowy channels that come and go. There does seem to be published data showing something of a trend. Unfortunately though, that data seems to get skewed depending on the source and that source's motivation. So it's hard to know the true numbers and I think that is by design.

    So at the same time there is growing interest in free over the air TV, the FCC is selling off even more of the broadcast spectrum as quickly as possible, TiVo is struggling for survival, and competitive products, Tablo, Simple TV, and DVR plus seem to have trouble getting any real traction. It seems to me that those who have competing interests are doing their best to kill off OTA TV as quickly as possible before it really rebounds and gains too much traction to go away quietly.

    The FCC/federal government is making billions of dollars selling off the spectrum, pay TV providers want to maintain their virtual stranglehold on consumer choice and eliminate the competition, cell phone companies want to gobble up the maximum possible amount of spectrum etc. That is a tremendous amount of money and competing interests to make them want to at the very least marginalize free OTA TV.

    I do realize commercial supported TV is struggling but it is a model that has worked for many many decades and still has a large audience (even if t's smaller than it once was). I think it can remain viable if the offerings remain attractive enough to consumers. And as the commercially supported OTA TV audience expands, so does the ability for them to sell advertising and stay profitable.

    I have often felt that if the digital TV conversion had happened a decade earlier, prior to consumers becoming as entrenched to the cable/pay TV we would see a very different television market today. I think we would see more broadcast stations, and even more sports TV being broadcast via OTA. Could the likes of cable channels like ESPN have become a broadcast network? And if we had kept the full television spectrum we had before the digital conversion there would be tremendous capacity for additional stations and even UHD broadcasts. It's disheartening to see that opportunity being eroded. Yes, broadcast TV will likely always have some terrain issues but they can still reach the majority of the US population and innovation may have made more inroads to greater expansion of its reach.

    Just curious if anyone else has considered these questions?
     
  2. Mar 25, 2016 #2 of 118
    TonyD79

    TonyD79 Well-Known Member

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    It is sad what is happening as it costs the consumer in the end.

    I don't think that digital tv being earlier would have quelled cable, though. Cable took a strong hold long before the digital switchover. In fact, the switchover was probably assuaged by how big cable had penetrated. It meant less of an effort on most people's ends.

    The OTA rebound you are citing is more because of the rising cost of cable than the technology itself. If cable were half what it costs today, you'd see no OTA swell.
     
  3. Mar 25, 2016 #3 of 118
    TeamPace

    TeamPace Active Member

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    But don't you think if the digital conversion had happened enough earlier that most people would have been very satisfied with the level of entertainment provided for free and wouldn't have been willing to pay? Especially if the number of channels had increased as well as it likely would have? I know I would have never felt the need to pay for TV if that had been available. Certainly price is a big factor but part of the attraction of cable was more channels and no reception problems. Heck I find plenty to watch with 50 OTA channels, perfect reception, and a TiVo DVR.
     
  4. Mar 25, 2016 #4 of 118
    SomeRandomIdiot

    SomeRandomIdiot New Member

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    Nothing is free (or at least not for very long).

    The model that worked so well, as you called, has been on the decline for years with money paid directly to cable channels. OTA cannot continue to compete when cable channels have 2 revenue streams to OTA's 1.

    Furthermore, the only Revenue Stream for the OTA is being skipped by TiVo users and others.

    As a few people return to OTA only, without a dual revenue stream model, there will be nothing left to return to that they will want to view.
     
  5. Mar 25, 2016 #5 of 118
    TonyD79

    TonyD79 Well-Known Member

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    No I don't. We used to have free tv. And cable came in and took over well before it provided hundreds of channels. It was easy. Pre wired and all done. No need for antennas. I grew up in the area of the first cable systems. They didn't have cable channels. It was just network tv and channels from the bigger cities. It took over even then.

    Conscience and price made cable viable. What is making OTA desirable to a decent chunk of the population (still the minority) is price. Cable prices are climbing.

    Sure, the sub channels help but look at the 20+ million who have directv and the millions who have dish without sub channels. They aren't a big enough draw.
     
  6. Mar 25, 2016 #6 of 118
    foghorn2

    foghorn2 Well-Known Member

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    look up what the current leader of the FCC used to be and that will answer all your questions

    its really sad
     
  7. Mar 26, 2016 #7 of 118
    TeamPace

    TeamPace Active Member

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    I agree that cable would have still succeeded due to some of the reasons you note: convenience, reasonable price, and more channels. But had todays OTA technology been offered a decade earlier with crystal clear pictures & sound, DVR availability, and considerably more OTA channels available (which I suggest would have grown to even more than we have today), I think OTA would have retained a much larger percentage of the viewing audience and cable wouldn't have gained the strangle hold they have now. That larger audience would have meant more advertising dollars available as well. I am only satisfied with OTA now because of the larger availability of programming, a TiVo, and the quality of the picture/sound. If my choice was what it was a decade or more ago; a half dozen snowy channels, I would as I did then have moved on to pay options.

    I just feel OTA is being rail-roaded into an early grave just as it has taken on new appeal to many consumers. Certainly as with anything in free markets, price/value play an important part in those decisions. Many of the statistics that I see showing OTA still in decline are being done by entities that have some stake in its demise. You'll see widely varying estimates of OTA viewers depending on who did the study and how the questions are worded and asked.

    However you feel regarding this question the TV market is definitely changing. The monopoly pay services are beginning to get squeezed by the likes of Sling TV, Netflix, and Sony's new VUE TV. Yes those are small players at the moment but the cat is out of the bag and I think we will see great changes in the coming decade. The pay services won't go quietly and they are doing everything in their power to keep their monopoly power. I just want OTA TV to have a chance in that changing landscape and not be squeezed out just as it showing some signs of renewed traction. I recognize the argument that OTA has been around since the beginning, so it has had it's chance. But digital TV as we have it now has not been around very long. I find the majority of people I talk to don't even understand how good it can be.
     
  8. Mar 26, 2016 #8 of 118
    Series3Sub

    Series3Sub Well-Known Member

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    NAB is really pushing ATSC 3.0, but the problem is that it will not support nor is backward compatable with the current ATSC 1.0. So, one can imagine that will be a very big issue when the FCC comes to a point of holding hearings. Of course, NAB argues that if it is allowed this ONE time to kill an existing ATSC and all its products that depend upon it, ATSC 3.0 can change over the years with backward compatability.

    But all this ONLY occured AFTER the FCC auctioned off or will be auctioning off part of the broadcast TV spectrum that was PROMISED to first responders and wireless companies. So, NAB made its own bed by having a situation where keeping the current frequencies along with those to be sold still intact for backward compatability. The FCC is NOT at all at fault becase everything (except the mandated digital transition date) has proceeded as NAB wanted. Too late, now.
     
  9. Mar 26, 2016 #9 of 118
    wizwor

    wizwor Guest

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    I don't think so. Since Fox and CBS threatened to pull their broadcasts over Aereo, Fox's Movies! and CBS's Decades have been added to my OTA lineup. Escape, Comet, Laff, Heroes and Icons, Buzz, and GetTV are all newcomers to the broadcast scene. If anything, OTA is growing.

    The re-purposing of UHF frequencies is not going to kill off broadcast television. Technological advances allow more channels to be broadcast in a smaller spectrum. This 'repacking' will leave plenty of bandwidth for television while adding some to the growing mobile market.

    Most people that I know who have OTA do not own a DVR of any kind. Most do not own a streamer of any kind. Some do not have high speed internet. They put up an antenna, plug in their television, and watch. The main appeal of broadcast television is the cost. The value consumer is not interested in buying a $700 DVR or paying fees.

    That said, when I cut my cord in 2010, I purchased five DTVPals. The DTVPal was already out of production and I was concerned that there would be alternative to TiVi when the Pals reached end of life. Channel Master sold two DVRs after the DTVPal -- a clone of the Pal and a completely new CM7500. Funai made a bunch of 'digital DVRs'. Then came the Simple DVR Kickstarter. The single tuner was expensive and had a monthly fee. They made a poor two tuner model and were pushed aside by Tablo which, while still expensive, worked better. Channel Master's DVR+ is doing well enough that Funai is launching a new line of OTA DVRs in the fall.

    Everything you say here is true, but they are not related or some kind of conspiracy. Adding mobile spectrum is good for cell phone users and sellers -- it's worth billions to them. Marginal stations are making money selling off their bandwidth, but no one watches them anyway. In my market, there is a channel with the call letters WBIN. It was purchased by Carlisle Media One in 2011 which reserved spectrum for three low power repeater stations. The station is just powerful enough to be 'must carry' on cable and no construction permits have ever been pulled for the three repeaters. These nonexistent stations will be auctioned off and no one will notice. Same for the half dozen ION affiliates in my market. The other big players in the reverse auction will be low power religious/community stations and college supported PBS affiliates. In Boston, WGBX and WGBH are almost completely redundant. A lot of money will be made, but the repacking will not kill off broadcast television.

    You said commercially supported twice. The threat to commercial support is technology that skips commercials. Lack of success of DVRs in broadcast homes is probably very good for broadcast television. If ad supported television is going to survive, someone has to figure out how to make the commercials more impactful. Whether commercials become more entertaining or more relevant, people need to be willing to watch and patronize the sponsors. Some people watch the superbowl for the ads. Advertising products used to build a product or make a meal during a DIY show seems to work for PBS.

    I feel like you are very young. We were very much 'entrenched' in cable television TWENTY years before the digital transition. NESN launched in 1984 and ESPN first aired in 1979. There were more cable subscribers in 1990 than there are today! AND, there are more broadcast only homes today than there were in 1990!

    The fact is that the digital transition should have been the death of broadcast television. People had to install kludgy converters, the cable companies offered attractive discounts, and the media FUD machine was eulogizing OTA 24/7. Cable missed a golden opportunity.

    People talk about this stuff all the time. It's idle speculation as most of us do not even know how many Tablos have been sold or how many people use an antenna. The fact that channels keep popping up tells me those who know aren't losing sleep over the future of broadcast television. Someone is paying for ATSC 3, right?

    BTW, one of the drivers of broadcast television is nostalgia. The programming is inexpensive and plentiful. The cost to carry these stations for the cable companies is relatively high. The fact is that it is much less expensive to air repeats of NYPD Blue than a Cleveland vs Toronto MLB game and more people will watch NYPD Blue.
     
  10. Mar 26, 2016 #10 of 118
    wizwor

    wizwor Guest

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    I think ATSC 3.0 will coexist with ATSC 1.0 initially. I can envision a 'premium' converter which brings UHD and pay offerings to OTA. Probably something like Sling TV or Vue. We had something like this in the 70s...
    We trialed this, but reception was poor and content was not very good.

    ATSC 3.0 does not have to outlive existing TV panels, but the FCC cannot disrupt service again for those who do not use a set top box and broadcasters will not broadcast content that no one watches. So, ATSC 1.0 continues to dominate free tv and ATSC 3.0 carries premium content -- at least until someone devises an inexpensive box which can be given to owners of legacy sets. The fact that UHD sets shipped without ATSC 3.0 tuners says ATSC 1.0 is here for a LONG time.
     
  11. Mar 26, 2016 #11 of 118
    atmuscarella

    atmuscarella Well-Known Member

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    I am not too worried about the repacking/spectrum sale or ATSC 3.0. They both offer the potential for significant benefits to many people over time. Sure there is some down side to both but in the end I think the potential upside out ways the downside significantly.

    First lets start with the repacking/spectrum sale. Increasing wireless spectrum is a big deal and it is potentially a big deal for more than just mobile phone users. I know people who have no wired high speed Internet option and others like me with only DSL, increased mobile bandwidth and 5G could finally make at home wireless Internet access competitive to wired and significantly increase our Internet options. The bigger deal maybe connected cars which offers all of us unbelievable opportunities and benefits. In the coming decades the affect on over all transportation should be amazing, accidents and traffic deaths should decline substantially, the need for more roads should decline, and over all traffic issues should also declines substantially, all dependent on having enough bandwidth to make it all work. And I am sure there are other future products also all dependent on having enough wireless bandwidth so what's the down side? Some markets loose a bunch of junk channels broadcasting reruns or selling stuff. :rolleyes:

    Second lets talk about ATSC 3.0. The benefits are pretty clear, it provides more bandwidth that can either be used to provide more channels per frequency (negating the effects of repacking/spectrum sales) and/or allows for higher quality HD or UHD broadcasts. It also provides the ability for phones/tablets to receive OTA broadcasts and appears to be able to potentially provide better over all reception than current OTA broadcasts. The down side is we will all need new equipment, how big a deal that is depends on what replacement equipment costs.

    From my point of view there are only 6 OTA channels that matter (ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, & PBS) which are the ones that broadcast in HD and provide new content and I don't see the repacking/spectrum sale or ATSC 3.0 negatively impacting the continued OTA broadcast of any of these channels. All the rest are just providing repeats or are selling something and there will still be enough room for more than enough of these.
     
  12. Mar 26, 2016 #12 of 118
    ncted

    ncted A leaf on the wind

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    So, I am guessing my Roamio OTA isn't going to be able to receive ATSC 3.0 broadcasts...
     
  13. Mar 26, 2016 #13 of 118
    Wil

    Wil Unknown Member

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    I don't know how recently you bought it, but our resident Idiot here has been saying for awhile here that was a bad purchase decision.
     
  14. Mar 26, 2016 #14 of 118
    JoeKustra

    JoeKustra in the other Alabama TCF Club

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    Or your TV, so it's time to move to Canada before it gets crowded.:D
     
  15. Mar 26, 2016 #15 of 118
    atmuscarella

    atmuscarella Well-Known Member

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    Basically nothing being sold today has an ATSC 3.0 tuner in it. The finial spec isn't even 100% complete yet. My personal guess is that by the time it matters our Roamio's will be old and we will have more than gotten our moneys worth from them. We went around and around on this in another thread, bottom line no body knows when/if any stations are going to convert to ATSC 3.0 only broadcasts. In markets where lots of frequencies are being used up by junk broadcasts the repacking will likely force some of those channels off the air. I think there will be about 22 usable VHF/UHF frequencies left for OTA after the repacking. And of course a frequency can be used for more than one channel. Locally Ion has 1 720p & 5 480i channels on one frequency. The 720p channel looks fine the 480i ones not so much.
     
  16. Mar 26, 2016 #16 of 118
    SomeRandomIdiot

    SomeRandomIdiot New Member

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    Comical to read how many people have not read or grasp the full implications of (1) the selling of Spectrum (2) the repack, sign-offs and movement from UHF to VHF (3) the ATSC 3.0 implications and (4) the rollout.

    Also of note, all OTA Stations are required to do is Broadcast the Main Channel digitally - and not at any particular resolution or bitrate. The additional bitrate can be used for many other things than additional channels or resolution.

    Also of interest, ATSC 3.0 tests of SFN Transmission proof of concept started this past week in Baltimore and DC on Channel 42 which holds great promise WITH MULTIPLE TRANSMITTERS of the SAME PROGRAMMING on the SAME FREQUENCY with NO INTERFERENCE.

    http://www.tvtechnology.com/news/0002/one-media-conducts-atsc-30-concept-sfn-trials/278232

    http://www.tvtechnology.com/news/0002/-qa-mark-aitken-on-one-media-atsc-30-sfn-trials/278233
     
  17. Mar 26, 2016 #17 of 118
    wizwor

    wizwor Guest

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    So your contention is that broadcasters will embrace ATSC 3.0 regardless of the existence of hardware capable of receiving it and that they will move to VHF regardless of the existence of viewers with VHF antennas, and that broadcasters will broadcast at bitrates and resolutions people will not watch? That's kind of comical.
     
  18. Mar 26, 2016 #18 of 118
    atmuscarella

    atmuscarella Well-Known Member

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    Plenty of the markets are using VHF now. I have 2 channels broadcasting on VHF and I have less problem receiving them than the 4 channels that broadcast on UHF (all the towers are effectively in the same place).
     
  19. Mar 26, 2016 #19 of 118
    ncted

    ncted A leaf on the wind

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    I can bring in the one VHF station I have locally, but it is marginal. Technology should be able to solve this problem, but only if the people in charge make good decisions.
     
  20. Mar 26, 2016 #20 of 118
    wizwor

    wizwor Guest

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    That's true. I get a couple stations out of Portlant Maine. Most broadcasts are VHF there. I have helped people who were having no luck with OTA by simply educating them on VHF vs UHF and recommending a more suitable antenna.

    Most markets are UHF only at this stage of the game, though, and, for many, moving from UHF to VHF would be just like going off the air.

    BTW, some of my VHF stations are nearly seventy miles away and almost due north of me. Others are closer and west. I have coupled a y10-7-13 pointed north to a y5-7-13 pointed west to pull these in. I plan to replace the antennacraft antennas with Stellar Labs 30-2476s. I'm hoping extending one of these with a section or two of boom from another will provide more gain for that distant station (heroes and icons).

    My concern is that some of my due south stations will move from UHF to VHF during the repack. I do not expect this to happen, though, because most people have UHF only antennas.

    Time will tell. I am working on the assumption that these stations want to remain on the air and attract as many eyeballs as possible.
     

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