The Last NAB Show Before Analog Shutoff

The NAB Show in April will be the last convention before the analog shutoff. When you attend this year, where should you pay attention?

“One would hope that a station has already made its DTV transition decisions before going to this year’s NAB show,” said Dave Donovan, president of Maximum Service Television (MSTV) in Washington, D.C., “but if not, this is your last chance to see in one place all of your equipment options as well as all of the options for antennas, transmission towers, towers construction crews, and transmission lines. This is the year that digital needs to get done.”

This same time constraint also applies to the BAS transition. “Stations need to make sure they will have the right wireless equipment in place for their ENG operations,” he said. “These are two top issues facing all U.S. stations at the 50,000-foot level,” Donovan said. “There are other technology issues closer to the ground, but every station needs to focus on these two areas.”

(click thumbnail)Mark RicherAmong the ground-level issues, said Mark Richer, president of the Advanced Televisions Systems Committee (ATSC) in Washington, D.C., “look for exhibitors and papers asking and answering the question on how to leverage digital terrestrial broadcasting with new service offerings.”

The NTIA in the Department of Commerce has authorized a coupon program to support the public in buying analog-to-digital converter boxes. Richer said, “and most of the 30 companies now manufacturing these boxes will be at the NAB Show.”

Federal regulations limit the features in the converter boxes covered by the coupon program, he said, “so manufacturers can’t put in storage devices like a DVR or add functionality for interactive TV services.” There may be some higher end set-top boxes being offered by manufacturers at the NAB Show, but coupons cannot be used to buy these advanced digital boxes.

“Even a basic converter box is going to deliver much better over-the-air reception for viewers,” he added, “and that’s impressive for an inexpensive little box.”

ATSC members also will be demonstrating products and presenting papers on digital standards and recommended practices for such concerns as audio loudness.

“Digital home viewers are experiencing the sound level going up or down when changing channels, and that needs to be addressed,” said Richer.

He expects broadcasting news in HD to be another key area. “You’re going to see a bigger emphasis on HD news production at the convention this year, not just for the DTV transition, but for the future.”

A significant future trend to be covered in papers presented will be broadcasting HD news and other digital content to handheld and mobile devices, he said. “We’re expecting to get standards for these devices done by the first quarter of next year, and that’s an aggressive time schedule.” The program carries the moniker of “ATSC-M/H.”

A related emphasis this year is the development of what Richer calls “ATSC 2.0,” a bundle of advanced digital services for delivering DTV in non-real time, such as HDTV video podcasting of news segments and other on-demand programming. The ‘DOTTV’ consortium of South Korean broadcasters and manufacturers will provide a demonstration of their concept of ATSC 2.0 in the “DTV Hot Spot” sponsored by ATSC, located outside the South Hall of the convention center.

To stay on top of the emerging trends and most recent developments in broadcast technology, the 62nd annual Broadcast Engineering Conference (BEC) will sustain the tradition of being what NAB calls “the industry’s elite training forum for digital media.” BEC registrants also enjoy access to all sessions in the Radio Management, Television Management, and Broadcast Regulatory & Legislative Conferences.