Tom Butts /
06.15.2012 09:54 AM
Broadcasters’ New ‘App’
Recent developments in standardization and service launches for over-the-air DTV on both sides of the pond illustrate how broadcasters are prepared to compete in television’s on-demand future.

The ATSC announced last month the approval of the ATSC NRT (Non-Real-Time) Content Delivery standard, a backwards-compatible enhancement to the DTV standard that could allow broadcasters to introduce a new range of services targeting mobile devices.

The new standard, known as A/103, allows broadcasters to deliver file-based content, including programs and clips, emergency alerts as well as enterprise services, for Mobile DTV. The standard will support terrestrial transmission to fixed and Mobile DTV receivers compatible with the standard.

The standard opens up a whole new world of on-demand services that could include push video-on-demand, anywhere from short-form video clips to feature length movies; and news, information and weather services, personalized TV channels, music distribution and reference information.

Digital signage, a technology not often associated with our industry, could take advantage of this new service, giving entrepreneurs the ability to wirelessly update any content, anytime, on any NRT-capable display.  If you’ve attended CES or the NAB Show over the past several years, you may have seen demonstrations of the technology in action. At CES, for example, Harris and Roundbox partnered in a NRT demonstration with Las Vegas’ KLAS that replicated a Mobile DTV service that has been in use  on city buses in Raleigh, N.C. for the past several years.

Mobile500, one of two broadcast groups launching Mobile DTV services this year, plans to use the NRT standard to deliver content that is then cached on NRT-capable mobile devices. NRT has also been used to deliver Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) signals to prototype Mobile DTV receivers and has even been shown in demonstrations of broadcast 3DTV, as a supplementary method of delivering stereoscopic content.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., a new service that combines the country’s successful Freeview over-the-air DTV service with on-demand content is undergoing trials, albeit on a fairly limited basis.

Approximately 350 households will test the service, called “YouView” which could feature such services as the BBC’s iPlayer IP-based TV and radio service and Amazon’s on-demand movie service, delivered to YouView-capable set top boxes. The service has been several years in development and involves some of the country’s largest media outlets, including the BBC, iTV, Channel 4, Channel Five and broadband providers TalkTalk, BT and Arqiva.

The rollout is not without its critics, however, who have warned that the service, which was scheduled to launch two years ago, could be too little, too late. “There is a big danger that it will miss the boat as other connected TV services flood the market,” Jonathan Doran, principle analyst at U.K. research firm Ovum, told the BBC. 

The set tops, which will retail for £200 (US$250), could be seen as a bit pricey, especially when considering competing on-demand services already being offered from Sky and Virgin Media. However, it is expected that some of that cost will be subsidized by some of the service partners.

While it may be too soon to predict the success or failure of these new services, they demonstrate how broadcasters are attempting to future-proof the industry in the wake of increasing competition from an on-demand media landscape. 

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Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 11-16-2012 05:05 AM Report Comment
Digital is coming. End of story. (Public comenmt and arguments regarding the best use of the spectrum are long over and the decision is past any possible chance of revocation.)The coupon program' was a non-starter from the beginning. Whether it is a case of simple poor design or intentional obfuscation is a moot argument today. It didn't work and can't be fixed.Solve the problem by quickly instituting a mail-in rebate' program. Buy a box, apply for a rebate. There are commercial firms in place which can administer the program (just as they do for hundreds of manufacturers). No new government agency needed.Given assurance that a rebate is in place there is no reason to delay the transition.Only new program' that would be needed is a data base disallowing double dipping' by using coupon and rebate. This is another simple data base exercise that private firms can easily handle.Will it leak' and some subvert the system? Of course. What man devises, man will subvert, but the costs will be far less than the delay would impose on the public. (Yes, we the public will be the ones paying for the costs to all the TV stations, cell phone companies and regulators who would pay' for the delay.)Think outside the box, solve the problem, get on with the transition and life. We have far bigger problems that need our and Congress' attention.

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