Hedging Our Bets

Tom Butts

I have a love-hate relationship with introspection. On the one hand, I like the idea of looking back at the past events of the year to evaluate where we’ve been and how it could affect our future; on the other, I’m not a fan of sentimentality and frankly, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels anyways.

Nevertheless, it is the end of another year and another opportunity to look back. But this year I decided to mine the archives of TV Technology over the past half dozen years to see what predictions and assessments were spot on and which were simply off the mark.

“Indecency continues to be a vexing issue for broadcasters as they attempt to strike a balance between competing against the permissiveness of paid content, honoring their public obligations, and dealing with opportunistic legislators.” I wrote that at the end of 2007 and while media watchdogs remain on alert for the slightest infraction, in hindsight, the issue seems a bit dated, especially in light of ensuing court decisions that loosened the FCC’s oversight.

At the end of 2009, I opined about the pending Comcast-NBC deal: “There could be enormous implications for how this transaction could influence the future of network-affiliate relations.” Barely two years after the merger was finalized, the jury is still out on how well the merger has gone. NBC’s operating loss was up in its latest quarter, but Comcast may be beginning to see results in its investments. The network saw record ratings for its Olympics coverage, and actually made a profit on the Games and is currently the number one network in the coveted 18- 49 demographic.

Two years ago I was cautiously optimistic about mobile DTV as I wrote that “all eyes are on 2011 as the first real market test of the format, where business and deployment plans will be put to the test.” Two years later, the industry is still looking to gain a foothold with the format as receivers slowly trickle onto the market and it’s not a stretch to think that the rollout will continue to be a slow one.

As you can tell by my past predictions, I’m not much for going out on a ledge, but if past history is any indication, I think I can make several safe bets for 2013: 3DTV will become even more irrelevant, few broadcasters will accept the commission’s invitation to auction their spectrum; and analysts will continue to demonstrate their cluelessness about our industry by predicting an Apple HDTV.

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.