Low-power DTV might hurt broadcasters in the long term

When the FCC released order 01-330 allowing many broadcasters to begin DTV transmission with reduced power, but still maintain interference protection for their high power DTV facilities, broadcasters increased their demand for low-power gear to meet the new minimum requirements. But some wonder if this evolutionary path to DTV will hurt broadcasters in the long term. The economics for pursuing the low-power approach are compelling. High power transmission can cost the broadcaster $100,000 or more per year in just electricity bills. The cost to operate a low power DTV facility can be 1/20th of that.

If the DTV broadcaster only covers its city of license this will not allow enough viewers in the entire DMA to receive a usable signal, forcing even more viewers to turn to cable or satellite for their digital TV needs.

The plus side to this approach is that low-power transmitters used as the main DTV transmitter today, can probably be reused as DTV translators in the future, and that efficiencies of high-power transmitters are continually improving, especially with IOT technology. The longer the purchase of a high-power rig is put off, the more efficient a station’s transmitter may be. Many low-power transmitters can also be used as a driver for a future IOT final. Another benefit to initially going with the low-power approach: You can learn from your competitor’s “high-power” mistakes.

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